Albert Einstein once wrote “In art, and in the higher ranges of science, there’s a feeling of harmony which underlies all endeavor. There is no true greatness in art or science without that sense of harmony.” Augmented Reality is a live embodiment of Einstein’s belief. By marrying lights and sounds, art and science, humans and machines in unprecedented ways, holographic AR changes how people perceive and interact with their surroundings. Designing an immersive experience where real and virtual objects communicate in perfect harmony requires insights, patience, and lots of practices. After years of experiences developing AR solutions, Integem has learned a few things about design strategies and human behaviors that might be helpful to you as you embark on your own AR journeys. The following 10 points summarize Integem’s observations on what constitutes a memorable and practical design.
- Focus on the user
Anticipating an immersive experience, users expect three things at the start of a holographic AR program. First, they want to see themselves on the screen immediately. Longer than 3 seconds, they lose interests. No amount of thrilling adventures can bring back their initial enthusiasms. Second, they want to look good, especially when there’s an audience watching. How well users show up on the screen depend on three main factors: camera position, light, and on-screen props. For example, a camera shooting from high above can make users look smaller and weaker. A dark background can precipitate an overly bright portrait. Lastly, people like to take center stage, to lead and to be in control, so always make them the protagonists.
- Provide clear instructions
One mistake creators make is assuming the users know what to do. This is commonly referred to as the inventor’s bias because what an inventor, a person who has spent ample time working on a product, considers common sense may not be so apparent to first-time users. Hence, be generous with instructions, both visual and audio, and make them as straightforward and detailed as possible, without sacrificing the aesthetics and usability of the program.
- Take advantage of negative spaces
Creating a holographic AR program is like building a world where every detail matters. For example, when people walk into a store, it’s not just the merchandises that allure them, the paintings on the wall, the arrangement of the shelves, and the music being played all make an impact. When appropriately designed, negative spaces can enhance an AR experience in remarkable ways. A well-designed surrounding can evoke emotions more effectively. In the case of retail marketing, customers feel more comfortable and joyous when the store is tastefully decorated to align with the lifestyle it advocates.
- Utilize quality visual elements
Essential to every media product is image quality. Holographic AR is no exception. All images in the program should be of high resolution. Blurry photos make everything seem artificial, hence destroy the immersive nature of the experience. It’s helpful to establish a style guide in advance and ensure all visual elements including images, fonts, and colors all adhere to the desired theme. For example, a story that happens in the past should use vintage props throughout, and a program designed for young toddlers might benefit from a playful sans-serif font and more generous use of color.
- Make effective use of multimedia components
Similar to static visual elements, sounds, videos, and animations also carry significant weights. Employing appropriate multimedia components can transform a one-dimensional story into an explosion of the senses. Rarely do objects remain stationary in real life. The virtual world feels a lot more real with some moving clouds and blinking stars. Sounds and animations also act as feedback cues to let users know that their actions have been received. For instance, when the user hits a ball, acknowledge it by playing a sound and adding some motions to the ball.
- Pay attention to timing
Remember the folklore of a boy going on a short voyage to a kingdom under the sea and when he comes back to dry land, one hundred years have already passed? Well, that kind of resembles what happens in holographic AR. What people feel like 3 seconds in a holographic AR world can equal to 5 minutes in the real world. When you think you are just getting started when you hop onto the rocket ship, you’ve already been playing the game for quite some time. In another word, each second in real life is stretched out to several scenes in the AR world that make the one second appear much longer than it is. Therefore, iCreator is designed to count in 30-millisecond increment. People are highly sensitive to changes in the 30ms, so plan your program to accommodate this shift in perspective accordingly. For example, in a situation where many people are waiting in turn to play, you should aim to keep your program short as what the player considers a brief encounter can be a long wait for the spectators
- Appeal to the user emotionally
Besides storytelling techniques, what differentiates a great story from a mediocre one, a must-have product from a nice-to-have one is its ability to evoke strong and positive emotions. People resonate with stories that move and inspire them. Similar to the effect of staging in a real estate open house, holographic AR wants people to envisage living in the virtual universe. However, what touches one group of people might not work for others. A simple plot that attracts toddlers may bore the rebellious teens. Conduct thorough research before you start to compile your stories. Another strategy is to offer users some type of rewards. It could be spoken compliment, a point system to tally their accomplishments, or an opportunity to take their pictures and gift the photos to them as tokens of appreciations.
- Be flexible
A lot of times people, children, in particular, move according to their instincts. That is not necessary a bad thing except when subsequent events rely on their specific inputs. For example, when users see bubbles on the screen, they immediately want to pop them with their fingers, if your program only responds to the action of “hitting with your head,” the program might fail to progress. Allow for multiple user inputs to move the story along.
- Handle partial person or multiple people
When you only want to show the upper half of a person, for instance in a sitting scene, make sure the partial person blends seamlessly into the environment because no one wants to see his or her chopped body floating in thin air. An object, like a spaceship or a table, in front of the person can be used to “hide” his or her lower body. A similar principle applies to design for multiple people. In the scenario of rowing a boat, the boat needs to be wide enough to accommodate more than one person. Otherwise, people might go over the width of the boat and show up in water, which reduces the authenticity of the experience drastically.
- Contain surprises
In real life, surprises are not always welcomed, especially when they lead to negative consequences. But in an AR world, people love the unexpected. Well, mostly because there’s no negative consequence to speak of. A handy way to incorporate surprises in an AR program is to add randomly generated images or animate objects to move in unpredictable patterns. The key is to do it sparingly and effectively. Too many moving or randomized objects send the program into disruptive chaos. So use surprises to accessorize an experience, not to overwhelm it.
Crafting a successful holographic AR story takes artistic insights, technical expertise, and a deep understanding of human psychology. Most importantly, it takes practices. So consider this list of advice, go design your own, unique adventures and reap the rewards of your creativity. Have more insights? Share them on the iCreators community site. Want to learn more about iCreator, follow Integem to be notified of future educational opportunities.