By 2022 the market for AR, VR, and MR is expected to hit 209.2 billion dollars.

VR is no longer a game, it is a new medium. As these technologies move into the mainstream, it is essential to understand what they are, how they will affect UX, and how to best design for them.

Augmented Reality (AR)

A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

A typical example of AR is Snapchat or Pokemon Go.

Virtual Reality (VR)

The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Virtual Reality is associated with the headset you put on to interact with the new environment.

Mixed Reality (MR)

The merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

A great example of this is the way Skype is used on the HoloLens.

Why are companies investing?

Facebook has Oculus, Microsoft has HoloLens, HTC has Vive, the list goes on. 

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Amazon all have implemented AR into their app experiences.

Companies are investing more and more into AR, VR, and MR because of how the technology can enhance the customer experience. This technology can delight users or give them useful information. 

By using AR, VR, and MR, we can start to solve some complex problems and provide more value to users. 

UX and AR, VR, and MR

With the implementation of these new technologies, some challenges we face as UX designers is how to design the best experiences for users. 

How UX will be transformed

Beyond the 2D interface 

With the introduction of these new realities, our interfaces will grow and expand from the 2D interfaces we use today. With this expansion designers will no longer be confined by screen size; instead, they can place things wherever they please. 

Interaction

In this new territory, we will need to define how users interact with the environment. With this change, we can pull upon how people interact in the physical world.

Context 

We can now gain information from the environment our users are in. Not only does this give us access to more user data, but we can also design things to be responsive to the environment and situation users are in.

UX Challenges & Best Practices

Hardware – With the introduction of different headgear, controllers, etc. UX designers need to think about the physical factors of the experience.  

Safety – since the users will be brought into a new “reality” it is important to consider their safety when in the environment. 

Prioritize – As we do with designing for mobile UX designers need to be selective about what makes it in the environment. Users won’t want a lot going on at once, so be intentional.

Ease of On-Boarding – Since this technology is so new it will take longer for users to understand the environment. Don’t overload them with too much information in the beginning. 

Make it Familiar – We like things that are familiar to use, whether that be images or interactions. Pull from past UX principles when designing interactions and gestures so it is recognizable to users. 

Google and Apple both have resources on how to best design for these technologies

Current Applications of AR, VR, and MR

Amazon – I’ve recently been looking at furniture and other products on Amazon, now when ordering these things online, it is sometimes hard to know how it will look and fit in your apartment. To combat this Amazon introduced an augmented reality feature to their app that enables you to see the product in your home. 

Snapchat, Instagram & Facebook– Another way we’ve seen these technologies infiltrate our everyday lives is its implementation into various social media channels. As you can see above, I had a ferocious T-Rex on my desk and I can share it with my friends!

Thanksgiving Turkey– if you, like me, have never carved a Turkey, the Washington Post is here to help! For Thanksgiving on their app, they introduced an AR experience to help guide users through the process of carving a turkey.

Travel the Cosmos– SPHERESis a VR experience through Oculus that allows users to take a journey through the stars, almost literally.