5 tips for more successful augmented reality projects
Augmented reality technology is meeting more and more users, visitors, customers and employees in apps, exhibitions, showrooms and stores. The appeal of this technology mainly comes from its innovative character. For a more successful application of AR in digital marketing, it is worth paying special attention to five aspects! 5 tips from our specialists in the field of augmented reality: Yves Reitmann and Khoa Nguyen.
1. Take advantage of the surroundings
The name is program: Augmented Reality applications only really make sense if they interact in some way with reality – the environment. How much the environment can be integrated depends on the type of application.
The sensors of an AR device can be used to measure an environment constantly during the runtime of the application. It is possible to use this continuous incoming data to obtain information about horizontal and vertical surfaces (i.e. floors, walls and, for example, table surfaces) and to incorporate them into an AR concept. 3D elements can be automatically placed in the room based on this information. While this interaction with the environment is powerful for the software, it allows some adaptation of the app to local changes.
This aspect is particularly obvious when you think of a furniture app or an application for a trade fair stand or an exhibition space. Because the more the existing space is integrated into the concept of the application, the more exciting and intuitive it will be for the user.
2. Know your device
When designing AR applications, it is important to know the specifics of the hardware of the target device being used. Most smartphones, but also devices specially developed for AR, such as a Microsoft HoloLens, can scan the environment and so also display stable holograms in space. However, the different target devices have certain display limitations. Specifically, each device has an optimal and a potential display area. These display areas can vary depending on the device, but are usually between 0.5 and 5 meters away.
What every device has in common is that the section of the environment they can map cannot keep up with the human eye. This is why space-filling holograms tend to be impractical, as they are only ever displayed in a cut-away manner. This severely affects the user's immersion and can cause confusion.
Kill your darlings
AR applications typically run at 60 frames-per-second (FPS). This means that the device must be able to calculate an image 60 times a second and output it to the monitor. This while simultaneously scanning the environment, running sound, responding to user input and loading any application data.
As mobile devices are unfortunately not equipped with the same computing power as a desktop computer or comparable devices, we must therefore make certain compromises in app development. Adherence to the 60 FPS is particularly fundamental in the case of AR glasses, as interrupting the image flow is strongly perceived as disturbing. In return, the 3D models are often less so that they can integrate them in a compatible size. This is why photorealistic implementations or an approximation thereof, as we see in things like modern computer games, are unfortunately not yet possible or only possible to a very limited extent with the computing power in today's hardware.
If we still want to show more details in the models, the app can be programmed so that only a partial area of the whole data is loaded at a time – i.e., only what the user currently has in view. However, this requires a concept which gives permission for not everything to always be visible.
4. Know your users
As is usual in software development, we need to think about the user and specifically about the user guidance. As many users are not yet familiar with AR, it is particularly important that we make sure that the application is user-friendly.
The application should therefore be intuitive to use and the interaction possibilities should be explained during the application runtime. When designing an application tailored to the location, it also helps if we consider the size of the users. For example, it makes little sense to place the holograms at a height of more than one meter in an application aimed at children, as would be standard practice in the case of an application for adults.
Many AR-enabled devices allow gestures and/or voice control. This can greatly simplify user interaction. If the application will be used in public places, however, such control could also be making the user feel exposed. It is important to critically question whether there are alternative interaction options (such as triggering an action by focusing on a specific point).
5. Use the potential
Augmented reality enriches a user’s environment with holograms that in an ideal world would integrate perfectly into the environment. If the user is supposed to perceive these holograms as "perfectly integrated", they must not only be placed in a meaningful place in space (see above), but they themselves should also have their own spatial depth.
Content is therefore preferably displayed as three-dimensional objects in an AR app. The full potential of the medium is wasted if only images, integrated films or even texts are used to communicate. If two-dimensional elements like this still occur, it makes sense to embed them in 3D objects. For example, you could include a film in a three-dimensional TV screen. In the best case, content occurring in the film can additionally be displayed in the periphery of the screen as 3D objects and supplement or support the content being communicated. This approach is used, for example, in Six's virtual showroom.