Creativity

Designing Virtual Experiences for the Real World

Tips for how to design AR experiences that maximize user comfort with space and distance

By: Spark AR Team
December 6, 2019
Creativity

Designing Virtual Experiences for the Real World

Tips for how to design AR experiences that maximize user comfort with space and distance

By: Spark AR Team
December 6, 2019

As we continue our series on AR design, today we’re focusing on how to design virtual experiences for the real world — because designing for 3D experiences is very different than designing for 2D experiences, like a mobile app or website. In fact, designing for AR is similar to designing for real-world space, and therefore understanding how architects design buildings or public spaces is useful for us to understand.

Designing Spatially
Distances are critical to people’s perception of how they can interact with objects in an AR scene. When designing scenes and interactions, think about how space and distance affects how people interact with objects and other people in the scene. It’s important to note that the level of comfort may differ across different cultures. Comfort in spaces can be broken down into four areas:

The intimate space is the space closest to the user's camera. Objects in this space may be difficult to interact with due to their close proximity, and may interfere with on-screen controls. The user is likely to collide with objects here, so it should be avoided for placement.

The personal space is a space in which users can clearly see the object and can also interact with it with few limitations. Objects at the center of focus of an AR experience should be placed in this zone. The space is more comfortable for the user alone, so asking another person to enter this space will cause social discomfort.

The social space is in an area which users are likely to feel comfortable to explore as it requires little movement. This space is also interpersonal — it works well for AR experiences with others, and is where users feel comfortable to interact with images/real objects in the world.

The public space is the space furthest away from the user that’s still visible. Interacting with and viewing objects in this space is more limited and therefore the items that exist here must be simple, clear, and easy to understand.

Diagram of users comfort with interacting with objects and with other people varies across spaces.

Users comfort with interacting with objects and with other people varies across spaces.

Here are some additional tips for designing virtual experiences for the real world:

People's comfort will change as they move between spaces.
Let people know when they are moving between the personal and social space. Naturally, the experience will become less private when another person is introduced.

Scale information in the scene as the user moves closer.
For example, if the objects are further away in the scene than the information associated with the object should be “glanceable” (i.e. reduced or minimized) whereas information can become more detailed and readable if it’s closer to the viewer.

User interacting with objects in space.

Set a maximum and minimum object placement distance in your experience.
This will help objects to be placed in an area that is comfortable for the user to manipulate, and will reduce the likelihood of objects becoming lost in the distance.

A device's position impacts the detectable depth.
The perceived depth of a scene will change depending on the angle at which the user is holding their phone. Encourage users to change the angle of their phone if your AR experience requires more space or depth in the scene.

Take advantage of the depth of the experience.
Encourage people to carefully move forward into the scene in order to interact with objects that are further away. For instance, during way-finding experiences, present arrows in the distance to nudge people deeper into the scene.

That’s all for this week’s post. Hopefully it’s inspired you to try some new things. In our next post we’ll be talking about designing AR experiences in dynamic environments. If you can’t wait until then, you can get the Spark AR Design Guidelines right now.

Spark AR Design Guidelines. How to create an engaging AR experience using Spark AR.

Or you can continue reading more posts from our AR design series:
Introducing the AR Design Guidelines
Designing AR Experiences for Everyone
Helping People Control Their AR Experiences

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