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How AR is Changing UX As We Know It!

Xugar Blog
Sagar Sethi Entrepreneur
Sagar Sethi


With the technological advancements developed every single day, the way we interact and design the User Experience is going to evolve! Augmented Reality, or AR, and Virtual Reality, also known as VR, are going to determine this.

Virtual Reality is visiting and experiencing another world. You put these goggles on and you experience a whole other reality where anything is possible. You can be floating through space, repairing a satellite all in the comfort of your own home.

While VR systems are quite costly, many manufacturers have released accessories that convert your smartphone to VR goggles.

Augmented Reality, on the other hand, is like wearing glasses that adds a virtual layer onto the world we live in; Microsoft has additionally referred to this as ‘Mixed Reality. This is somewhat more complex as it involves environmental scanning and rendering. While some manufacturers have tried to release consumer products, like the Google Glass prototype in 2014, they have not fully hit the mainstream yet.

Due to the nature of their technology, AR and VR currently have different target audiences. VR is pitched more as an entertainment system, in the consumer market used mostly for Video Games, while AR is more targeted to manufacturers and healthcare workers, encouraging hands-free work. While both systems are quite costly, the environmental scanning makes these devices quite costly and therefore aimed toward giants of the industry!

Even though VR replaces your vision while AR adds to it, they determine the future of UX in the same way; AR just makes it a little more real and tangible.

Ultimately, they will upgrade Accessibility, and customisation and will merge the lines between Analog and Digital!

Google has recently rolled out to select users the addition of AR Map Navigation. This means that when you are walking down the street, you raise your phone, and navigation graphics are overlaid on the street, including directional arrows and signage. For some users which get confused in high rise city-scapes, they will have their own personal guide through the lens of their smartphone.

Due to safety concerns, Google does encourage users to lower their devices; once you have the phone raised for an extended period of time, an animation is displayed asking you to lower your device to experience the world and not be entirely dependent on this feature.

This gives us a glimpse of how Augmented Reality and UI overlays can assist our User Experience. Although due to the technology, restricted within the frame of your smartphone.

In popular culture, holographic displays are the most common method of interaction. Instead of clicking and holding, you can simply reach out and grab what is depicted right in front of you; every surface, anything and everything has the possibility to become interactive! TVs may become a thing of the past you can theoretically ‘project’ anything onto a blank wall.

Virtual watches, a Heads-Up Display, or HUD, overlayed on our everyday vision; we could very much see the time and current weather on the top left of our vision 24/7, this interface in itself with the possibility to be fully customisable! Think of these navigational graphics overlaid onto the entire world and not limited to the screen size of your phone.

And as futuristic as this may sound, we are already on our way there!

Let me take you back to when Harry Potter was first released in 2001. They have these magical moving and animating newspapers; or what is commonly referred to these days as an iPad. We can read and even watch the news, something which was unimaginable nearly 20 years ago. Even with iPads alone, think about how much that piece of technology has evolved!

Back, even more, The Jetsons with their robotic maid, something which was merely a fantasy in the 80s. And now we can ask Siri through our smartwatch to get the Roomba to clean our living room on the other side of the city while we are busy at work, which in itself, can all be automated on a schedule.

We have quickly developed a dependency on a digital reality, and with the development of AR, it may come sooner than we expect! Where UX is evolving is a place where this line between Analogue and Digital is non-existent. We have already begun to see it with the development of SmartWatches, and it is coming with AR!

Microsoft announced a few years back HoloLens, their AR headset as a consumer product. They depicted walking into your living area, seeing a to-do list on the fridge, recipes waiting for you on your pantry doors, and 3d animations displaying the weather all digitally projected through the lens of their headset. And within the 3 years that it has been revealed to the world, the hardware has become more advanced, smaller and lighter. The concept of putting on a headset to experience this world may very much become the norm in the world. I mean, look how dependent we have all become on our smartphones, and technology may evolve to the point that all you have to do is wear a contact lens, 24/7/365.

This in itself can be quite dangerous. To quickly note on the Netflix series Black Mirror, which explores this concept to a T, creating fictional situations in a modern world with technology that has evolved to these levels; the anthology series explores ‘techno-paranoia’. There is one episode where a social media platform rating determines your actual social status! If we become so immersed in this technology, and therefore culture, technology may very well begin to control the user…

Once this physical barrier is so blurred and has practically disappeared, it will indicate that UX design has fully evolved and is more important than ever! As a designer, we will have the responsibility to design the world as we know it, without restrictions to screen sizes, and most importantly, depth with a Z-axis!

What I find so intriguing about Google’s design guidelines, Material Design is their use of depth. The system was developed by experimenting with paper prototypes and light, evolving into a full design system focusing on elevation; placing specific menu items within a Z-axis and complex and detailed shadow systems.

Whatever your level of UX design may be, use your skills and design your life! Refine your everyday tasks. Shuffle your deck around. Make sure you are being the most efficient you can be to effectively achieve your tasks.

This is where the development of AR is taking us! An entirely new level of Accessibility and customisation. The more that designers learn about the user, the more that they can know how to effectively customise the user experience and therefore, create the ultimate design system, which one day, maybe life as we know it.

Update from 2024
Looking back from 2024, Apple's entry into the mixed reality headset market was as anticipated as it was disruptive. Their launch of the Apple Vision Pro truly lived up to the hype. This premium device boasts ultra-high-resolution displays, seamless switching between AR and VR modalities, and advanced hand and eye-tracking for intuitive control.

The Vision Pro marked a significant step forward for Apple, signaling their commitment to shaping the future of personal computing with immersive spatial experiences. While the initial price point positioned it as a device for early adopters and developers, it paved the way for more streamlined and accessible iterations we see today. Early reviews praised the headset's visual fidelity, comfort, and potential, even with initial limitations like bulkiness and battery life.


Besides gaming, what are other practical uses of VR?

VR offers training simulations (medicine, aviation), virtual therapy, and immersive tourism experiences.

What industries are using AR right now, and how?

AR aids manufacturing (assembly help), retail (virtual try-ons), and education (interactive 3D learning).

What are the challenges of designing experiences in AR/VR compared to traditional screens?

Designers must consider motion sickness, blending AR with the real world, and developing intuitive gesture-based interactions.

I'm concerned about the safety aspects of AR. What should users keep in mind?

Stay aware of your surroundings and avoid using AR for prolonged navigation to prevent distractions.

Could AR/VR lead to even more social isolation? How can it be used to connect people instead?

AR/VR has the potential for shared virtual workspaces, multiplayer games, and remote social experiences.

How might AR/VR shape the future of work and collaboration?

AR/VR can enable remote expert assistance, collaborative design in 3D, and immersive skill training.


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