This guest post is authored by Rae Steinbach

As development of augmented reality (AR) moves ahead in enhancing the way we communicate, learn new skills, and entertain ourselves, it also changes the way in which we interact with each other and the world. Since AR developers splashed across the public’s conscious with Pokémon Go and Snapchat’s photo filters, the impact of AR on user experience has evolved further. It continues to change user experiences and expectations in the following ways:

The Definition of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes real-time information from the existing world to deliver an experience combining both real-world and programmed data. AR is an enhancement of the real world that responds dynamically to changes.

It is different to virtual reality (VR), which creates a completely simulated environment that does not take into account the user’s actual environment. These days, digital designers are aiming to make user experiences seamless in a number of ways and this means moving from VR to AR.

Real-time Feedback with Augmented Reality

AR technology connects digital information and feedback with physical movement and gestures to offer users real-time responses on what they are doing. A great example of this is car parking-assistance systems. These programs calculate a vehicle’s distance from the obstacles surrounding it and, based on the position of the steering wheel, determine the vehicle’s trajectory.

The computer then augments the input to produce the feedback for the driver. This takes the form of an audible noise that changes volume or intensity as distance lessens. Another feedback method is by overlaying symbols for vehicle proximity and course onto the rear-vision mirror camera feed.

Reducing Cognitive Load and Interaction Cost

AR provides the opportunity to improve user experiences in a number of ways. Take for example the new owner of an Audi or Volkswagen. These car manufacturers are creating service manuals with AR (model-based definition) to simplify user assembly and help owners perform maintenance on their vehicles.

In this scenario, owners are able to view parts of their vehicles through an AR app which makes the interaction efficient and requires little user effort to understand each car part. The AR system is proactive and provides the appropriate information whenever the outside context requires it.

As the AR system displays automatically, the owner does not need to commit a part number to memory, spend effort to understand what needs to be done to replace it, or perform the required maintenance. As such, augmented reality user interfaces decrease a user’s working-memory load by negating the need to learn appropriate car maintenance methods. It allows users to move information smoothly from one context to another.

Changing User Experience and Brand Conversion Opportunities

For brands, customer loyalty is central to maintaining strong revenue. AR and VR are becoming “crucial points of differentiation for brands” according to Blippar’s Anna Wilmot.

AR is inherently social and shareable, and provides businesses with new ways to keep customers engaged while also attracting new ones. Talend found that 42% of consumers listed a lack of live/real-time customer service support as a reason for breaking up with a brand. Meanwhile, Capgemini states that eight out of ten consumers are willing to pay more for better customer experiences.

AR apps that implement a digital strategy efficiently can encourage customers to keep coming back to a brand by providing instant and real-time customer support, as long as the user experience is intelligently designed and responsive to their needs. The easy accessibility of augmented reality apps add value to user journeys wherever customers may be. It helps them to make purchasing decisions, increases the ‘fun factor’, and allows customers to learn more easily through personal experiences.

Changing Design Principles for User Experiences

As the user’s experience takes center stage in design terms, digital designers are learning the necessity of making their work both useful and enjoyable. The acceleration of AR has increased the need for developers to make themselves familiar with new terms, such as ‘modulated reality’ and ‘dead reckoning’, along with design aids such as Vuforia and Unity 3D.

Best practices are being established as AR develops. In time, global authorities and standardized concepts will come to the fore. UX developers must continue to develop in-depth understanding of users’ present and future expectations of technology which will inform new design efforts. This new ground calls for intensified learning as we all come to grips with the changes to reality that are ahead.

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