Designing Perception: Why is Design Important for Augmented Reality?

This post is part one in the Designing Perception blog series. You can read part two here.

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The power of augmented reality has become so encompassing that it allows us to perceive our reality in an impossible way. It lets us suspend disbelief, if just for a moment, to be absorbed into an alternate world. With augmented reality tools, we are able to see characters from entirely different worlds right in front of us. But how are we so willing to believe the unbelievable?

Design makes us believe. It has the ability to affect our emotions and perception of experiences. A delightful moment can be found by simply using a pen that is pleasant to the touch. The only focus is on the creative juices that are flowing and productivity is at its peak. Similarly, a poorly crafted pen can trigger writer’s block. Focus moves from ideas toward the uncomfortable writing experience.

 
Lamy Safari, one of the top rated pens on Amazon.

Lamy Safari, one of the top rated pens on Amazon.

A multi-color retractable pen- typically low rated (and difficult to use).

A multi-color retractable pen- typically low rated (and difficult to use).

 

When we experience experiences, whether they are physical or via technology, we are drawn to focus less on the action being done and more on the emotional result of the experience. Design creates a lasting impact on the user, whether visual or physical. We remember our feelings at an art museum, or when using a hand mixer for the first time, or even the fond feeling of your favorite pen. However, this is only a small part of the bigger picture. The largest impact design has on augmented reality is the establishment of the experience.

Engineering brings augmented reality to life. Unfortunately, technology has limits. As humans, we continue to innovate and invent new solutions to fix problems we fuss over with our current tools. If technologies were perfect from their first iteration, we would still be driving Model T cars or using cassette tapes. But what happens when the tape gets chewed or we want to go above 40 miles per hour?

When technology holds us back in the past, design propels us into the future with improvements and developments to the products that we already know and love. Design solves for the limits of technology. Because of design, we are able to continue innovating and inventing new ways to solve problems.

 
An early version of Wikitude AR, an early attempt at augmented-reality wayfinding.

An early version of Wikitude AR, an early attempt at augmented-reality wayfinding.

 
Pokemon GO, a recent example of augmented reality technology.

Pokemon GO, a recent example of augmented reality technology.

 

Initially, a big weakness of augmented reality was that it did not focus on the experience of the user-- more on the exciting new technology. Of course, the software worked properly but users could not feel immersed in their changed world. It was unconvincing and proved the idea that bad design is noticeable, while good design is invisible and seamless. By using an integrated design approach, we are now able to create rich experiences that are both experientially and technically sound. Users follow a narrative that engages all of their senses. Thanks to this discovery, design has become the heart of augmented reality experiences.

 

So, how do we design experiences for augmented reality?

Stay tuned for the next post in the Designing Perception series: Augmenting Perspectives.

Anna KonsonComment