In the last year we saw augmented reality making a solid entry into the mainstream; in the year 2018, we can expect it to cement its position, because of the huge impact it has on user experience. AR may well be able to resolve problems like low engagement, the high cost of interaction - which troubled UX designers for long.
What AR is and how it works
Augmented reality refers to the application of computer-generated information, with the aid of devices with sensors in the real world. It is technology that takes inputs from the real world, and gets the programmed elements to interact with the input, and as the inputs change, so does the interaction with the programmed elements; that is, it takes your perspective of the actual world, and adds a digital layer with data, to provide you with a sharper outlook and dynamic experience. It's different from Virtual reality, as it does not take you into a make-believe world. Pokemon Go and Snapchat are the most popular examples of AR. There are several sensors on a device - say a Smartphone - like the camera, compass, GPS and so on, collect inputs and feed them to the app installed on it. The interface makes sensory improvements to these inputs, and responds independently; here the interface both acts and reacts without a specific user giving commands: a non-command interface. So to make this work, you need an AR friendly Smartphone, AR software and a trigger from the real world to combine appropriately.
Benefits and advantages of AR for UX
1) Real-time user feedback: As it combines digital and physical data, it gives the user real-time feedback on the actions they perform - without looking at the information; this will help users know if they are right on track or off it, as well as provide detailed information about their searches. With IoT joining the bandwagon, AR is increasingly being used for real-time models. AR can also help in reducing the necessity for shifting focus between actual objects and guidelines.
2) Customer loyalty: customers who engage with a brand more frequently and actively are the ones likely to remain loyal to the brand. A study revealed that when they are involved with a brand, customers are likely to buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more in each transaction and are x5 more likely to stay with the brand. Apart from providing excellent products and services, you need to provide excellent user experience to the customer - only then will they stick with you. This is why UX design companies in India are increasingly turning to augmented reality to provide a superlative user experience. AR apps can help users to make purchase decisions, make the whole process a lot more exciting, and guide them to get the most out of their purchases - on the whole, it's a far more customized experience than the conventional way.
3) Helps understand Design better: AR can be pretty useful in making the work process flow smoother and quicker, and as a learning tool. For example, car makers Audi and Volkswagen are already in the process of AR-based service manuals - so that a non-mechanically inclined driver will also be able to perform minor repairs on their cars. It is also expected that in the near future, AR will be included in organizations' training programs, especially for grooming new hires. By instructing the newbies on the right protocol to follow in specific situations, they can educate them about possible scenarios that could arise in the real world. By equipping new employees thus, businesses can boost productivity, save time and money, ensure greater safety at the workplace, and avoid misunderstandings, and promote greater teamwork and camaraderie among employees - all in all leading to smoother business processes and enhanced revenues.
What it means for UX designers & mobile app developers
Since AR is able to radically transform the way we engage with our devices, the implications of AR for User Experience are tremendous, and we can expect mind-boggling changes to UX design. This means that UX designers and mobile app developers will have to equip themselves to be ready for the prospects and tests posed by this development.
Opportunities of augmented reality for UX designers & mobile app developers in India
AR has already transformed the way users perceive and experience digital platforms and brands. Snapchat and Pokemon Go were both immensely successful: 65 million people all over the world played the game, and when Snapchat went public, it was valued at $24 billion! This bears testimony to the fact that if you provide users with unique, personalized experiences, you can't lose.
The reasons are many: it cuts down the cognitive load of users, reduces the cost of interaction, merges numerous information sources, and brings down attention swerving drastically - everything you truly want in UX. The mobile app development India industry is already a booming one and the value addition that AR is going to bring into this space would make it huge.
Should it surprise us then, that AR is spreading beyond gaming and social media? Obviously not! Innovative marketers are already leveraging this technology to engage and excite target audiences, and boost brand recognition. Converting visitors to customers is an area where Swedish company IKEA has done very well. Their app allows users to point their Smartphone at a spot in their house to render an augmented view of the same spot but with say, a table, that they were interested in buying. This helps them know exactly how that piece of furniture will look in that particular space.
It is so much better than just checking pictures online, or seeing physical pieces in a store. It is no longer helping to visualize what it may look like, but helping to actually see how exactly it will look - that's a huge change. Apart from furniture, AR apps are also increasingly becoming popular in the fashion and cosmetics industry and vehicle industry. While in the former, it helps users see how a dress or say a shade of lipstick will look on them, the latter can help a user to see exactly how to say, clean a particular car fluid. By enabling the user to see the object in the proper context, the major hurdle of conversion is cleared, and it's a win-win situation.
We can expect to see even more mind-blowing user experiences very soon.
Of course, there will be numerous challenges for the designers; but the potential is simply too great for any serious business to ignore it. Get in touch with any leading UX design agencies in India to find out how you can include augmented reality in your apps.
Rithesh Raghavan is the Co-Founder and Director at Acodez IT Solutions Pvt Ltd, a multiple international award-winning Digital Agency in India. Having a rich experience of 15+ years in Digital Marketing, Rithesh loves to write up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development.