Now

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. 

IA Collaborative team experimenting with AR-enabled user research: Layering multiple hardware and software concepts in-context of an existing Tesla interior.

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 initiate@iacollaborative.com

IA Collaborative publishes book "Design for Health: The Beginning of a New Dialogue Between Design and Public Health"
Now

IA Collaborative + Harvard University: The Critical Role of Design in Public Health

IA Collaborative Founder and Chief Design Strategy Officer Kathleen Brandenburg was a visiting professor in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s “Design of Social Innovation” class, a first-of-its kind course aimed at exploring a new role for design and design thinking within public health.

Patrick Whitney, former Dean at the IIT Institute of Design, invited Brandenburg to guest lecture the course to explore human-centered design strategies with students and apply them in a public health context.

IA Collaborative recently published a book edited by Brandenburg, Design for Health: The Beginning of a New Dialogue Between Design and Public Health, which documents the course and describes how design methods, in collaboration with scientific methods, may provide a revolutionary opportunity to transform public health.

Taking this class set me off on a path of reimagining possibilities for innovation in healthcare and social impact.

  • Shalen De Silva, Harvard alumnus who is currently in the midst of launching a healthcare technology startup named Vincere

Throughout the semester, students explored how contextual design enhances research methods and design thinking illuminates systemic causes of complex problems. They also discussed the power of prototyping and how iterative research methods lead to faster solutions. In doing so, the class created a dialogue between science, design, and public health, empowering its students with new tools they could bring to the real world.

It’s now quite common for me to find myself in a room with clinical experts on one end, business/consulting types on the other, and me acting as a bridge between the two.

Brandenburg is continuing her involvement with the Harvard course in 2019, serving as a visiting professor and guest lecturer.

. . .

Special thanks to the IA Collaborative team members that made the publication of Design for Health: The Beginning of a New Dialogue Between Design and Public Health possible: 

Amy Wicks, Tori Wheeler, Alec Cerminaro, Kit Leitner, Lila Trickle, Rebecca Gimenez, Megan Pryce, and Derek Smith.