Designing the Future Faster: Using Augmented Reality for User Research
How can we capitalize on leading technologies to design smarter user research experiences?
At IA Collaborative, we believe research is creative. We constantly invent new ways to get closer to the user and contextualize yet-to-exist concepts. Lately, this has included the potential intersection of AR and user research.
Augmented Reality enables us to 1.) overlay future-state features on physical prototypes and 2.) place future-state concepts into existing physical environments.
This “augmented research” unlocks new ways to get in-context insight and iterate designs faster. The result is more confident business decisions today on concepts with months or even years of development ahead.
Helping Business Get to the Future, Faster
By using AR to test new-to-market ideas, concepts become contextualized without the boundaries of producing physical products or technological capabilities.
There is a tension in researching and iterating future concepts: we often want experiences to feel as real as possible, but prototypes-from-the-future can require out-sized time and investment. Add to this that prototypes might leverage emerging or unproven technology, and you see why iterating with AR could accelerate the creation of new offerings.
We’re starting to leverage AR to overlay the future-state in design research. Some applications we anticipate include:
- A medical innovator like Stryker can have surgeons scrub in, put on AR goggles, and interact with 20 interface concepts for pediatric heart monitor; making real a regulated product years before it’s on the market.
- A housewares innovation company like Muji or Ikea can layer an entire range of yet-to-be manufactured products in living rooms across 5 countries without shipping a single prototype.
- A fast-moving transportation disruptor like Tesla can run through hundreds of new interactions and information displays while owners test-drive their latest vehicle.
- Global events like Coachella can bring fans to their sites months in advance to prototype a range of on-stage and at-event experiences.
By embedding AR technology into the research strategy, features with market risk can be experienced early and iteration can happen at a fraction of the cost.
Enabling Designers to Rapidly Prototype and Design for Impact
As a research tool, AR enables designers to test for extremes, unlock moments of inspiration, and design the ideal user experience.
Designers can use AR to:
Explore an extreme variety of concepts
Augmented visual and audio cues applied to existing products have the potential to fuel broad design experimentation without incurring extreme production costs. Features can be designed and tested along a wide spectrum of use cases and iterated in great detail. Concepts that may seem too “out-of-the-box” can be plausibly tested, inspiring surprising and valuable insights.
Pinpoint an optimized experience
Just like a/b testing is used to understand how to design the best digital interaction, AR helps designers pressure-test features in context. Elements can be reacted to holistically or independently, enabling designers to pinpoint an optimized systemic experience.
Gain highly contextual, real-time design inspiration
Using AR gives designers the unique ability to design 3D objects in a 3D environment, rather than on a screen. Previously unseen insights can be uncovered, and new user needs can be surfaced.
We find that iterating in context leads to quicker, human-centered moments of inspiration. Insights are captured, new ideas emerge, experiences can quickly evolve, and learning can be contextualized, all resulting in stronger human-centered design choices.
Accelerating Growth through AR + Design Research
To keep up with the rapid pace of innovation, organizations should explore the use of creative technology like AR to help them move faster. As AR technology advances, research experiences will no doubt become even more sophisticated. Graphics will progress. Hardware will improve. The opportunities to experiment with user expectations, features, environments, and products will evolve, enabling new ways to uncover user insights and unlock business value.
Today, we believe AR delivers unique opportunities in design research, because it enables rapid user testing and real-time design exploration. By implementing AR in design research, companies can de-risk investments, create more user-centered offerings, and accelerate the launch of products, services, and solutions to their most important audiences.
Interested in learning more about how immersive research can help you make informed, strategic business decisions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.