Most of us are used to designing on a 2D screen, but if you apply the same principles to Augmented Reality your app is guaranteed to fail. This article presents design principles for AR, as well as concrete hacks a programmer shouldn’t miss out on. Enjoy!
Expect a first-timer
Usually, UI/UX-designers can rely on mental models users have learned over the years on how to navigate an app. In many ways, we don’t have that luxury when it comes to designing in AR. Even though millions of people have AR-capable devices in their pockets, many of them have never even tried it once.
This is why I would recommend designing every feature with a first-timer in mind. You would be surprised by how people use your application. Most people are not used to walking around objects they see on their screen — so they just stand still and watch. Encourage your users to walk around and explore. Provide clear feedback and instructions.
Consider the Environment
Augmented Reality doesn’t just take place on the screen. It takes place inside the world, too. The physical environment of your user matters. Therefore, you should define the scale of your experience. Does it take place on a table, on the floor or even on a field?
But I strongly believe it doesn’t end there. With the power of Machine Learning, you can gather a lot of information about the space the user is in. Many Frameworks have some classification build in, which can differentiate between different planes like Table, Floor, Wall or Ceiling.
But if you decide to use a custom model, you can go as far as classifying single objects in the real world and let these objects change the experience. In my opinion, the use of Machine Learning to understand the real world will be the biggest game-changer for Augmented Reality in the coming years.
You don’t have to create your own App
If you are about to create a simple AR experience, consider not creating your own app for it. Facebook/Instagram and Snapchat have created their own Framework for creating AR experiences, namely Spark AR Studio and Lens Studio. Of course, the things you create there are made for use on their platforms. But depending on your use-case, this curse can be a blessing, because sharing is easy.
I would recommend to try both of these platforms out for a day. It is easy to underestimate how powerful they are. You won’t do any Machine Learning, Cloud Anchor or Body Tracking magic, but most apps don’t anyway.
If you are looking for simple and fast ways to create an AR-App, I would also recommend checking out Apple’s Reality Composer.
It’s all about Scale
This section is not just about scale, it is about when to use AR. The reality is, that most of the time AR is not the right tool but some of the time it really is. One example where AR really shines is when you want to demonstrate the scale of objects. A Dinosaur is just scarier when it’s 10 feet high instead of a couple of inches.
Other examples of AR use-cases are:
- Displaying context-sensitive information in the real world. Examples include: Trying out tattoos or seeing a new watch on your wrist.
- Immersion: AR has the ability to pull you into worlds. Imagine playing your favorite card game and the monsters appear on your table. It really doesn’t affect the gameplay but damn, it’s cool.
- Perspective: When your experience changes depending on the viewpoint it makes for a great AR experience. Your user could discover new information or line up a shoot depending on their position and angle.
- Whatever you see fit: Remember these are just examples. There are many use-cases out there no one has ever thought of.
There many important aspects of your 3D models that make them look real like its texture, ambient occlusion, or the normal map. But in my opinion, great shadows are the biggest contributor. Every asset should come with shadow plane geometry and baked shadow textures, if possible — make this your new default.
This is it for now. My name is Sebastian from Ditached, a digital agency.
We are specialized in designing and developing AR/VR applications and more. If you have any questions or inquiries just send me a mail: firstname.lastname@example.org