Designing for Augmented Reality

Usability is the critical ingredient that will dictate AR’s mainstream adoption. Mobile’s constantly maturing simple interface have made the web and mobile apps into something easy and friendly to use. Now AR is a new frontier that requires a whole new set of tools. The patterns and components we use to make mobile apps easy to use will require a significant paradigm shift in our approach. The world through our eyes will get a dynamic digital makeover and its our job to make that easy to use and pleasurable for the world.

The Infancy of ARUX

Take a look at this demo from Magic Leap’s Project North Star. He’s hanging this digital screen card in physical space. Its kind of like a sticky note with essentially no limit to where it can be placed; it doesn’t need a wall or a hard surface; it behaves like physical material; and yet it has the added benefit of being connected to an API and real time data. You can see it in your physical environment and interact with it like a web app, that’s usually confined to a screen.

Sticky Notes

I am more aware of physical things that populates my environment. My task list is a huge cheap poster board in front of me. It’s cheap. It’s simple.  I can move things around, scrap ideas, move tasks, cross things out, add notes. It’s not confined and I do not have to signup to anything. I come into my office and I can see the whole plan and what my priorities are today.


The soul and dream of AR are essentially this: to embrace our digital life and give us the freedom to be in the world. It’s a utopian ideal that will not happen so easily. But to make that a reality, human-centric designer, who care about people’s well being have to step forward and begin paving the way for a healthy and easy to use AR-balanced life.

ARUX Designers must exercise restraint before crowding our AR field of view with bouncy animations and Iron Man-like HUDs.  Physical life is much more unobtrusive. When you spin your glance towards the door handle in front of you,  it does not start glowing and pulsating, desperately begging to be noticed. ARUX Designers will craft the AR experience with elegance.

A Matured Web & Mobile Experience

We are intuitively familiar with the web and mobile. We naturally look to the top right of our browser to find account settings and profile management of many popular web apps like Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox. We intuitively know what’s a clickable link, how to use search bars and share links. But what about AR?

Take a look at this micro interaction: the AR component is proximity aware and has been designed to detect an approaching hand. It subtly informs the user that there is AR functionality here without overwhelming the user.

The component reacts to the approaching hand just enough to say “I’m here if you need me” with out being loud and obtrusive. The user might have been reaching for a cup of coffee and can then filter out the subtle visual cue. The subtle visual cue can help orient, guide, and inform the person in an AR world, without overwhelming their visual space.

As our ARUX vocabulary grows and develops, we will create balanced and nuanced choreographies of many AR components that will result in something we want to use everyday.