Augmented Reality – an excellent opportunity for UX designers. A quick overview of AR.

What is Augmented Reality, and how does it work, which frameworks are on the market with a quick look at Google ARCore and Apple ARKit. Which opportunities AR offers for UX designers and how the future will look regarding the growing AR business.

These days, AR it is accessible for everyone on their smartphone. Just think about Pokémon Go in July 2016, this was the first time AR was used by a wide mass and has brought the first real mainstream adoption of an AR product for smartphone users. Now you can find AR integrations in many apps e.g., Ikea, here you can place your virtual furniture in your room to see if it fits the rest of your room. One of the most popular apps maybe is Snapchat, where you can use face tracking to manipulate your face to a kitty or a unicorn photo filters.

On the other hand is VR, which still requires expensive hardware e.g., Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR to run, AR can be implemented easily across mobile devices, so there are a lot of different ways we can use the technology. Unlike VR, there are legitimate real-world use cases for adopting AR, whereas VR is still looking for its “killer app.”


How does AR work – different technologies
AR alters the surroundings by adding 3D objects, sounds, videos, graphics to it. AR technology can be used in three different ways:

SLAM – Simultaneous Localization and Mapping
To know its 3D position in the environment, the software calculates distances between objects and itself, and sets multiple key-points on objects. For this approach, the user needs to move the smartphone around the room to analyze it.

Recognition/marker based
This AR technology uses the camera to identify visual markers such as a QR/2D code. The AR object only appears by pointing with the camera on the marker. Position an orientation can be detected.

The location-based AR technology is based on GPS, digital compass, velocity meter, or accelerometer to detect your exact location. I can be used for navigation and is also used in the previous mentioned Pokémon Go.


Opportunities for UX designers in AR
With the introduction of ARKit from Apple and ARCore from Google, it opens new opportunities for the developer to relatively easy implement AR technology, developing web services and apps, and lowering the cost of entry.

Designing an UX experience that does not distract or hinder the user from performing their primary task, to interact with presented experience is one of the biggest UX challenges for AR e.g., placing a menu, buttons or 3D AR element in the screen without taking too much space of the screen but still rich enough to provide a excellent user experience.

AR should always be a fun, exciting, and realistic way to explore and interact between the virtual and the real world. But it should also be well-integrated in the real world, realistic light and shadows are a must-have.

If you, as a designer, want to immerse yourself in the AR world, it is essential to know what is feasible in AR in concern of technology and also the given budget. Therefore it is essential to get in touch with your developers to know the technical boundaries. Another approach is to look at all the AR apps and games out there and play around to see what is possible and what not.


What are ARCore and ARKit
Let us have a look at the most powerful platforms/frameworks out there for building an AR experience.

Google’s ARCore software development kit was released in 2018 and set a new standard immediately. Google provides everything if you need to start to develop your own AR application on their developer site. ARCore also supports Apple starting from iOS 11.

Apple also has its own platform for iOS developer named ARKit released in 2017. It is similar to Google’s ARCore. ARKit supports all iPhone starting from 2015 or with iOS 11 and higher. This brings huge support through the whole iPhone models.

Whereas Googles ARCore still lacking in supporting its android smartphones because the minimal requirements for ARCore are a device with a back-facing camera, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope with a large portion of low-end Android devices many of them missing the gyroscope.

If you don’t want to work with one of these platforms there are tonnes of alternative for AR developers out there:


Apple design guidelines for ARKit applications
For designer and developer, it is worth to have a look at Apple’s guidelines for “Creating an Engaging, Comfortable Experience”. Thes guidelines will help designers and developer understand where to place the AR controles and what you need to take in to consideration designing with ARKit.


Where is AR heading?
Augmented Reality has come a long way as a future science-fiction idea. Designing for AR was a substantial cost, and something designers could only dream about working on projects whith AR technology in the past. At the present time, it becomes much more affordable and accessible through the previous mentioned AR frameworks from Apple and Google and the possibility of using it with most smartphones out there.

To use AR efficiently and more intelligently, it should go hand in hand whit artificial intelligence to enhance the user experience.


AR technology is a fast-growing business
The Augmented Reality (AR) market volume of $ 659.7 million in 2015 is expected to reach $ 80.8 billion by 2022. The market ranges from $659.7 million in 2015 to $2.6 billion in 2016, a surprisingly fast growth for a market that is not well defined yet. It is expected that the increasing scope in various industries, such as manufacturing, medicine, retail, games, and automotive, all industries, will raise demand to an unprecedented level in the forecast period that will soon reach into the trillion-dollar market areas, AR technology is experiencing enormous growth potential. It has attracted significant investments that contribute to industry growth.


So this year is packed with many surprises, waiting to showcase the latest quality, efficiency, and productivity of any object through the use of AR technology. There is a broad, exciting, and fast-developing field for UX designers to design and develop for an immersing user experience. Get ready to experience the growth of AR technology alone or in combination with virtual Reality and artificial intelligence.