As a product designer, I’m always on the lookout for emerging technologies and educating myself about their potential. The three disruptive technologies that I’m paying attention to right now is Augmented Reality (AR), Chatbots, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In this article, I’ll be focusing on augmented reality — stay tuned for chatbots and IoT in the future.
My goal is to familiarize myself with the industries that these technologies will disrupt and understand how I can utilize them to improve the UX in products that I design in the future.
I would consider these three technologies to be in the early adopter’s phase. Companies and users are only beginning to understand how they work as well as the potential benefits that they offer.
By learning how these technologies operate, I hope to be ahead of the curve and avoid being displaced as a product designer when these technologies become more mainstream, and the skillsets are more sought after in the design industry.
Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality has a more immediate application because it requires no equipment beyond a smartphone. It also allows users to remain in the familiar landscape of their own reality. Augmented reality allows for virtually rendered objects and images to be viewed in the real world using a smartphone or AR glasses.
After the hype of Pokemon Go, augmented reality became more approachable from a user’s perspective. Pokemon Go also provided an intro to the possibilities of this technology since, for many users, this was one of their first interactions with AR.
Since Pokemon Go, users have become more familiar with AR through social media interactions like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger AR filters. However, dog filters and dancing hot dogs are just the preamble to the future of a digital world that will be dominated by AR experiences.
AR in retail
Retail has suffered tremendously these past few years, which begs the question — what can they do to innovate and improve shopping experiences?
AR provides customers the ability to ‘try before you buy’ which will result in a reduction in churn, one of the major pain points for retailers. 72% of AR users report that they made unplanned purchases because of the AR influence.
I purchased the Ray-Ban glasses that I’ve been wearing for the past 2+ years because I used the Virtual-Try-On feature from the Ray-Ban website.
I don’t think that AR is going to completely disrupt the existence of retail stores — not yet at least. These retailers will, however, need to innovate to stay alive. I believe AR is one of the solutions to the growing decline in shopping at physical stores.
In the foreseeable future, there are still products that will remain as in-person purchases. Cars and apparel, for example — with the exception of some, many customers like to test drive a car before they buy and try on clothes or shoes before purchasing them.
Whether stores will be able to survive in the long-term, I’m unsure — but the shopping experience in a physical store will be improved tremendously by AR soon.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve just walked into a Target store to buy a new pair of sneakers. If you’re wearing AR contacts, then you’ll be directed to the location where you can view shoes. You’ll then have the ability to see customer reviews, available sizes, colors, styles, etc.
AR doesn’t need to replace retail stores for those who enjoy the pleasure of shopping — it can simply enhance the experience by bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Or better yet, if you don’t need to look at physical products, then you can view products in the comfort of your own home with the help of AR experiences. AR can remove the barriers to shopping, which will result in a higher likelihood that customers shop more frequently. With an AR shopping experience customers no longer have to travel to a store, wait in long lines, search endless aisles looking for the one item they need or receive less information about a product than they would if they shopped online. AR can bring the online world to the physical world.
I can’t wait until I can view all the products I want to buy online using AR.
Hopefully, retailers will prepare for this better than they did for the advent of online shopping. There are plenty of retailers that have successfully implemented this technology already. Alibaba is ahead of the curve with their VR shopping, allowing shoppers in China to browse and buy all over the world.
IKEA’s newest app, IKEA Place, is an augmented reality app that will let people experience, experiment and share how good design transforms any space, such as a home, office, school or studio. Their app matches furniture to your space with 99% accuracy to ensure that it will fit in your place — it’s pretty impressive.
Home Depot’s Project Color app utilizes AR to allow customers to overcome a very frustrating pain point when painting a space — will this look good? Project Color holds the integrity of the room’s dimension and allows you to try different paint colors in their space. Project color paints around objects in the room and acknowledges shadows and lighting conditions in the place, so you get the most real-life visual of how the paint will look.
AR for utility
Outside of retail, there are endless use cases for implementing AR to improve UX.
I recently discovered AirMeasure, a measuring app that is not only a tape measure but a whole set of tools to let you measure almost anything. Imagine all the time that could be saved with something like this!
What if when you checked into an Airbnb, you were equipped with an AR map of the amenities and instructions on how to use them?
As I familiarize myself AR and how it works, there are tools that I’ve been messing with to learn the basics of AR.
Lens Studio — Lens studio allows you to create your own magical AR experiences, and share them on the most used augmented reality platform in the world — Snapchat. Using Maya, you can create 3D models and animations then add them to Lens Studio to be exported to Snapchat.
ARKit — Build unparalleled augmented reality experiences for hundreds of millions of users on iOS — the biggest AR platform in the world.
There are many advantages to AR, but it’s still important to remain focused on the journeys and interactions that matter to customers to see where emerging technologies like AR can be deployed to provide customers with the best experience. As a UX designer, I always stay customer-centric by putting myself in customers’ shoes, identifying ways to surprise and delight them and encourage them to engage more deeply.