For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in emerging and future technology. When I started teaching myself to design for the web in 1997 it was still considered emerging, and had just started working its way up into the Plateau of Productivity on Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report.
As the web was climbing its way up into the tech bubble of the early 2000s, Virtual Reality disappeared into the Trough of Disillusionment since the processing power of the time wasn’t quite where it needed to be to support a comfortable VR experience.
Then many years later, it suddenly showed back up on the scene with the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign and the release of their DK1 package. Most people at the time saw it as a re-emergence of the VR fad of the 90s that would soon pass into obscurity once again. Many still believe this even now.
Sadly, I didn’t have the money to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, but I did see the value and potential of the modern advances in VR with the Oculus prototype and its ability to make you feel like you were somewhere else.
At this point I had been in a tech slump, feeling like I was stuck designing for the same technology platform I had been since 1997. But this new advancement reignited my emerging tech flame and I quickly realized I didn’t want to fall behind again. So like with the web in 1997, I began studying emerging and future tech again more seriously.
In my free time, I conducted extensive human-centered R&D in order to learn — or if they didn’t exist come up with my own — UX best practices for augmented and virtual reality and other emerging tech so that I would be able to transition into the space and more effectively advocate its early adoption.
Over the years, I shared experiments and research with coworkers in order to gain traction. Word eventually spread, and I joined a side project with fellow coworkers who were enthusiastic about proving the value of VR within the enterprise.
Eventually, an official team was stood up and I became the first official UX Designer in the emerging technology space within that company.
During that time I worked with an awesome team of people I’m unable to properly accredit. They know who they are, and I’d like to say they’re the best team I’ve worked with in my 22+ years in the workforce.
If you’re standing still, you’re already behind
Each year Gartner puts out a report that illustrates the market excitement, maturity, and benefit of more than 2000 technologies that have high levels of interest, and that Gartner believes has the potential for significant impact.
Back in the 2015 Hype Cycle report, Gartner had predicted that Augmented and Virtual Realities would take 5–10 years to reach the Plateau of Productivity. In 2017 they were still on track for that prediction. Then suddenly in 2019, they disappeared from the Hype Cycle report.
They had already passed the Slope of Enlightenment and made their way into the Plateau of Productivity. Gartner states at the end of their report that while AR and VR are still important, they have already become integral to business operations and are no longer considered “emerging.”
XR — which is the umbrella term for Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality — is now used in the travel, medical, military, manufacturing, retail, and film industries — and on and on.
Since companies have started using these technologies…
- Viewers are immersed into film in ways never before possible.
- Trainees and students have gained higher levels of retention.
- Situational awareness has increased.
- Injuries have been avoided.
- Lives have been saved.
- People have gained empathy for those around them.
- Behaviors have changed for the better.
This is not just a fad.
This is not just a game.
If you’re standing still, you’re already behind.
What this publication is
This is a culmination of research I’ve conducted over several years while collaborating with fellow Emerging Technologists. It is also combined with findings I’ve gained from studying the expertise of the emerging tech giants who have come before us.
My UX friends and fellow Emerging Technologists suggested that this research would more useful if shared with the world and not hidden away as private reference. So with that in mind I’ve created a publication to share my learnings, which have become the UX Best Practices that I use as a standard when designing and assessing these types of experiences.
Why it matters
The days of employees numbly accepting the antiquated systems used within most enterprises — especially the long-established enterprises — are over.
Humans expect their experiences with technology within the workplace to be more like they are out in everyday life. Consumers care more about the experience than they do a specific product.
“Future successes will be the direct result of exceptional experiences, not exceptional technology…Focusing on the experience is imperative to successful Virtual Reality design.”Jeremy Lasky, Experience Perception
Although AR and VR experiences have existed for many years, wide-scale adoption has only recently begun due to more accessible technology in the marketplace; essentially making it a new technology to the majority of users.
Studies show that if a user has a bad experience with a brand new technology, they are more likely to consider all technology within that category to be difficult or terrible and are less likely to adopt it or give it another chance in the future — even when the subsequent experiences are higher quality.
Therefore, it is imperative to the longer term success of new technology that the user experience be well-thought-out and well-executed.
Who should read this
It is important that anyone involved in a VR project have knowledge of these guidelines in order to help create the most meaningful experiences for users. So this is written with entire project teams in mind, including teams within companies as well as 3rd-party vendors creating solutions on their behalf.
“Everyone involved with a VR project should understand at least the basics of perception, VR sickness, interaction, content creation, and design. VR requires specialized experts in various disciplines to each contribute in their own unique way.”Jason Jerald, PhD, NextGen Interactions
Right now, the main focus is on head-mounted VR, with some applicability to head-mounted AR. It is my hope that the scope will increase, and more findings will be added as time goes by and we learn more about the space.
Out of scope
Although they are valuable, the following topics are out of scope..
- Mobile AR and Web AR — although still dealing with 3 dimensional space, these are limited to the 2 dimensional constraint of the phone screen and still use the gestures and inputs of the mobile device.
- CAVE best practices — this technology uses 3D images projected onto large screens, which are viewed through 3D glasses similar to those you would use when watching a 3D movie in a theater.
Don’t forget the platform-specific guidelines
In addition to these overall best practices, it is also important to reference the platform-specific guidelines in order to get the most out of the capabilities of the technology being used.
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I’m an Immersive Tech UX Design Professional with over 22 years of experience designing for kiosks, websites, mobile apps and desktop software for many well-known and not-so-well-known companies.
I’m not speaking on behalf of or representing any company. These are my personal thoughts, experiences and opinions.