|The MERLIN ICT Programme has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 780460.|
User Experience (UX) practice in product and service design is constantly evolving to provide optimal experiences for a variety of the end users. Numerous online and both low- and high-end technologies have been developed over time to support the UX practice. One of the current technologies which has gained a great deal of momentum is Augmented Reality (AR), providing the customers with a visual representation of information in order to make an activity or experience more meaningful, and the ability to ‘try before you buy’. AR allows for virtually rendered objects and images to be viewed in the real world using a smartphone or AR glasses, thus providing capacity to deliver more seamless and intuitive user experiences. It differs from its most known “relative”, Virtual Reality (VR), as it doesn’t detach users from reality and it puts information into user’s eyesight as fast as possible.
Early AR experiences, including Google Glass and Pokémon Go, kickstarted the augmented reality market. For example, online shopping experiences have already been enhanced to a certain extent by AR, where you can test new sunglasses, paint colours for your walls and ceilings or whether a certain piece of furniture will fit into your room and transform your living space. In some countries such as China, physical stores shopping has already been improved through visualised AR information. Specifically, a shopper walks into a physical shop to buy a new pair of trousers and their AR smartphone or glasses immediately direct them to the location where they can view trousers, with the ability to see customer reviews, available sizes, colours, styles without much searching.
Overall, the key areas where AR can contribute to superior user experience include:
- Healthcare, where AR can save lives through showing defibrillators nearby, help patients better describe their symptoms through simulations of a specific condition, help nurses find veins more easily, determine whether patients are fit for procedures or assist surgeons in the operating room. It Is estimated that by 2025, spending on AR in the healthcare industry will reach $5.1 billion (£3.8 billion).
- User Interface (UI) Design, where AR will enable designers to sit (virtually) inside their design, allowing them to visualise their design assumptions and prototypes in a much more life-like and meaningful way.
- Education, where AR is used as a cognitive tool for educational and training purposes across different subject areas, helping the users to visualise information for improved memorisation and learning.
- Marketing, where AR brings product advertising to life, enabling the user to more easily find, review the quality of and experience the product before a purchase.