Is There an Appetite for Augmented Reality Applications?

April 26, 2019 11:47 am

Is There an Appetite for Augmented Reality Applications?

In 2019 there is certainly a demand to try out augmented reality applications, but I wanted to find out is if it’s something people would want to continue using after that initial buzz and what aspects were important to keep them coming back to your app or leave it to gather dust. I discovered that although people are excited to try these types of apps, they often uncover several small annoyances with AR technology that will drive the users away from using the application again.

the path you want to avoid

I got people hands on with AR, using the Currys point and place app.  I chose this application because it had an extensive catalogue of 3D models, it was updated a month ago, and has good reviews.

That’s enough about what I did, let’s talk about what I have learned

Gestures – annoyance 1

On an application where you place a 3D model of an object to be able to visualize it in your own home, it’s very important to be able to adjust the position of the product to ensure that is in the exact place that you want it to be. So, users need to know how to do this. They know some gestures from their devices but probably need some extra guidance for this new experience. Many AR applications fail to offer this adequately.

For example, on the Currys point and place application users were shown instructions on how to use gestures at two points in their journey.
The first time a user was shown the instructions, was in the time that the application took to load up. This would last approximately 1 second. Users were frustrated when they did not have time to read the information the app was giving them.

Loading screen instructions

The second time users would be introduced to the applications gestures were as soon as they had chosen a product, but before they had the chance to try and place it – ‘Tips for better use’.

But they didn’t want to read them:

Tips for better use? Well that’s a bit annoying because I thought I was doing fine… (User clicks off instructions).”    

‘Tips for better use’ instructions

Currys had tried to introduce their gestures when the users didn’t have sufficient time to digest the information, or that they forced it upon the user when they actually just wanted to have a go at placing products. Users need to be shown instructions at appropriate times and when the users had exited the instructions pop-up as they were so excited to see their product, they had troubles adjusting the model, and realized they needed some help.

However, the only way to bring up the instructions again was to completely restart the app, and users didn’t want to lose the product they had worked so hard to find. This caused plenty of problems as more time was spent trying to work out the app’s controls than trying out the products in their environment.

One might argue that if the application had intuitive controls in the first place then these problems would never have occurred but the gestures themselves don’t have to be perfect. Users just need a way to easily learn about these gestures, whatever point of the journey they are in, without having to go to Google or using trial and error for 10 minutes.

Users get bored and frustrated very quickly and will decide that the app is too hard to use and abandon it before working out how to use it properly.

Sizing & Positioning – annoyance 2

Want to know just how that stylish TV will look on your wall? Or that tasty coffee machine on your worktop?… Then you’ll love Point & Place from Currys PC World.’

App store description

Sounds great right? But the technology isn’t quite there to deliver the experience it promises users!

The problem that users encountered when using the application was that it really struggled to detect surfaces such as white walls. If you tried to adjust the positioning of a TV on a wall, for example, it would drift off into the abyss that is the white wall, becoming smaller and smaller. See the images below:

The application did not detect the white wall
TV moves beyond the wall!

Users could also be observed checking behind the television to see if it had actually set against the surface of the wall, which it often hadn’t.

The virtual TV was not on the wall

Problems such as these are damaging to the user experience. Users became confused by this problem as there were limited instructions on how to set products effectively, and lost confidence in the proportions of the 3D models and trustworthiness of the app.

Users needed instructions to guide them on where they should be stood when setting an object, the distance they should be from the area they want to see the object, and how to hold the phone. This kind of guidance would make the first-time user experience less of a guessing game and reassure users that they are using the application in the correct way.

For expensive products such as Televisions, users commented that they would actually still have to go in-store to be make sure it was the right size. It’s small annoyances like these that lead users to think that the application is a nice “novelty”, but not useful.

Model appropriateness – annoyance 3

The last annoyance that I will be writing about today is the appropriateness of the 3D models within the application.

Users felt that the 3D models on the Currys app were not realistic enough and felt “cartoony”. This might be a result of constraints of technology. However, users became frustrated as they had spent a long time searching for a product, to find it was not shown to them in a realistic way.

Users told me they would use the AR apps to shop aesthetically. However, they often told me that they were not confident that the application fully conveys how their product would realistically look in their home. This resulted in users commenting that they would still have to go in-store to get an idea of this.

“For an expensive item such as a television, you would have to go in store to test the audio quality, and this is something that you could not get out of the application.”

Comparisons can be drawn from this to the world of online clothes shopping, where users will struggle to get a sense of the texture of fabrics. This is not a new issue to UX and considering the way that 3D models are implemented in your app could vastly improve the user experience for understanding key information about products that they want to buy online.

Closing remarks

There is certainly an appetite for AR apps. Users are really enthusiastic about using AR apps in online shopping and become animated when using them.

However, small issues that users face during their short experience on these applications mean that they can’t trust the application to inform a purchase decision and will still have to go in-store to browse and buy products.

If you want to revolutionize the way that we shop online through utilizing AR, then the technology needs to improve. Not only this, but more user research will help designers of AR apps identify user needs and expectations in order to discover more ways to take AR to the next level.