Wez Maynard examines how ARKit will affect the lives of UX designers – for better and worse
Wez Maynard examines how ARK it will affect the lives of UX designers
September’s Apple event promised much and, many would agree, delivered on the hype. Two new features rolling out in iOS 11 peaked my interest, both of which have the potential to push digital makers into the kind of gold rush we saw when Flappy Bird was pulled from the App Store.
Software platforms capable of algorithmic heavy lifting have been centre stage of late, and Apple’s Core ML brings machine learning in a format never before so easily deployed on iOS. Things like face tracking and language identification will make previously complex and industryleading app ideas accessible to all.
However, it’s with ARKit that Apple has given its development community something to get excited about. ARKit is AR (augmented reality) for the masses. AR apps have existed for a while but they’ve been hard to make. Developers have had to consider a multitude of complex requirements working in unison to achieve the desired results, things like computer vision, triangulation, sensor fusion, light estimation… the list goes on.
ARKit is a mobile AR platform for developing augmented reality apps for iOS. In Apple’s own words, “it’s a highlevel API with a simple interface to a powerful set of features”. In practice this means one line of code doing what used to take several days to hash out. The full feature package will be available to most devices supporting iOS 11.
a new experience
One of the most challenging things I’ve found with AR is considering the physical impact of the experience on the user. You have the ability to take your user out from behind their desk or off the sofa and into the world – a whole new ball game for app UX. Apple demoed a game called
The Machines during the iOS 11 launch. Several minutes in, the way the iPhone 8 operator was stooping and leaning to manipulate his troops had me rubbing my back in sympathy. New AR experiences like this need to ensure physical activity and length of activity suit the audiences.
With added movement comes further complications. Keeping your new AR app users in the loop when things don’t go quite to plan will be imperative. Bland, textureless environments or low light will also present issues. For connected apps, interruption of signal will be a constant threat. Notifications aren’t the only thing to consider either; the resolution of any single issue rests solely with the user and their ability to change circumstances in their physical environment. Instructions and the delivery of those instructions have to be succinct and easy to understand.
Extend the experience
There are already some brilliant examples of what can be done with ARKit. You can defeat wave after wave of zombies in your local park or turn your living room into a 3D puzzle where perspective is everything. UX designers who think beyond the initial ‘wow’ moment and can map an app’s experience to business needs will reap the benefits. For example, if you’ve created an app that accurately measures a room using just the camera, how will you present the outcome to your user? In what format? How can it be used?
UX is THE differentiator
When new tech explodes onto the scene, there’s always collateral damage. UX designers have a responsibility to make sure what they produce delivers on its goals. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things; embrace and challenge them. Keeping a dialogue open between your team and your users will ensure you’re always looking for continuous improvement and innovation. It’s an arms race - UX yourselves to the teeth.