A Speculative Guide for Future Augmented Reality App Design

Eli Hong
Eli Hong
Apr 22 · 4 min read

This is a guide for augmented reality designer to find a better way to avoid space conflict and maintain public etiquette when people using their private AR system in public. As designers try to bring augmented reality to our daily life, the external spatial influence of AR in public space should be taken into consideration. Categorizing and visualizing how other people recognize our space usage in public through body movements allow us to design augmented reality content that matches our public conventions.

Check the full project — Implicit Space

Respond to context, not just the physical environment. The same physical environment may have different contexts. The physical environment limits people’s movements and contexts affect them because of the social norm and conventions. When designing for AR, responding to context helps to avoid awkwardness and offensiveness for both users and others.

Use minimum space at the beginning, expand space as people move. It may be difficult for the user to see or interact with virtual objects/information when your system places them at an improper place because of the lack of user’s context information. You can always expand the space for virtual objects after understanding the context from user’s movements later.

Consider how people behave when they interact with virtual object. Unlike traditional screen-based design, AR requires and affects user’s body movements. It’s important to not only think about how virtual objects move but also be mindful of how users should react and make sure the reaction doesn’t make users uncomfortable.

Consider designing from the third-person view. People care about how others think of them when they use your system. People also don’t want to disturb others when they are immersed in their private AR content. For a Designer, designing from third-person view can help find the external influence of your system.

In general, let people interact with virtual objects relatively near. Touch and use are inherent interaction processes in the physical world. Although in AR we don’t have touch feedback, following this process can help users learn faster. In so doing, others can be less confused about what a user is doing and what a user will do.

Consider reorganizing virtual objects/information if people change their behavior. People’s arm and hand movements show how people want and can use the current environment. Consider displaying and orienting virtual objects to be responsive to those behaviors. For example, a button can move from next to the user’s hand to the front when a user gets out of a crowded subway.

Introduce spatial notifications that are less interruptive in people’s movement. Any popup notification, especially in AR, can draw a lot of attention and interrupt a user’s movement. Be respectful of the priorities of the real world. Most notifications should be shown when users approach them. Unless the notifications are designed to guide the user.

Be mindful of the common usage of space in the real world. Putting a virtual object that needs users to stop and interact in a busy corridor can be dangerous. Consider ways of displaying your virtual objects safely to operate in different kinds of usage, like on the move or at rest.

Favor temporary world-lock content if people stay for a while. People can temporarily leave and come back to where they already have stayed for a while, like in a coffee shop. Keeping virtual objects around the place, like world-lock content, prevents interrupted experience and also meets common social expectations, like temporary ownership based on time.

Feel free to break all of these guides when designing for user’s own space. The previous guides try to help you design a better system for people to operate their private AR system in public and use common understandings about how people use movements to negotiate space in public. When designing for users’ own space, other people understand the ownership of the space in other ways, like signs, doors or border lines. Social norms and conventions are looser in a user’s own space.

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