Augmented Reality Part 1: How AR could change web development
AR (Augmented Reality) has become more reachable and affordable, allowing more people to experience AR applications through desktops, tablets, and smartphones. And due to recent advances, AR is revealing both exciting opportunities and unique challenges for web designers. The best may be yet to come. Faster Internet speeds, new tools, and the compatibility of modern web browsers have all made developing Web AR experiences further reachable than ever before. There are new challenges, hazards, and patterns with these new mediums, that designers must adapt to create seamless and instinctive experiences. AR provides new ways for users to interact with physical products and objects in the comfort of their own home. It can also show off the unique features of these objects in interesting ways. AR has developed and progressed to a science-based reality and it has the potential and capability to alter and streamline different industries in the coming years.
In this blog, we will take a look at how AR can change web development over the next years.
What is AR?
In AR, fictional, fictious images are encrusted over reality and users can see the real world around them, for example, by using the camera function of a smartphone; but they can also see computer-generated images layered over the top of their actual surroundings. In crux, AR bridges the gap between reality and virtual reality.
While there are numerous applications of AR, in general, they have one thing in common - AR is about clouding the physical and digital boundary by overlaying or augmenting a non-digital reality with digital assets and insights.
AR can be used on smartphone apps, desktop sites, wearable technology and mobile sites from applying filters to images, to trying on clothes. For example, with the Snapchat filter the users hold the front-facing cameras in front of themselves to take a selfie and the app shows an added layered image on top, such as dog ears.
How AR can transform web development
Web developers need to have a better understanding of their audience before taking advantage of AR. At present, AR is still full of challenges for developers. A developer must keep in mind that AR is more dependent on customer experience and eventually AR is revolutionizing the web design industry and the best that is yet to come.
AR is beginning to optimize user experience on mobile and desktop. Web developers have been putting AR into action in recent years by making use of webcams or smartphone cameras to help customers pick their products. For example, in fashion retail, AR is used as a virtual dressing room. Customers can point their smartphone camera toward themselves and scroll through the outfit choices which are displayed on the screen. US-based JC Penney is already using this technology.
Engaging and seamless experience
With web experiences becoming more adopted now, prior to designing a Web AR experience, it's important to define what actions you would want the user to take. And, how this technology would help them reach these goals further creates engaging and seamless experiences.
AR provides new ways for users to interact with physical products and objects in the comfort of their own home. It can also show off the unique features of these objects in interesting ways. For example, Shopify's latest integration with 3D Warehouse allows users to view 3D renderings of products and place it in real spaces by means of an AR Kit. This use of AR is a smart way to give customers the confidence needed to make an informed purchase.
Blending many mediums
When designing for AR, developers must impeccably blend multiple forms of communication together in order to create a cohesive experience. Video, music, copywriting, and 3D modelling are a few of many different mediums that can inhabit an experience to make it truly immersive.
Pepsi created an immersive Web VR experience that integrated video, music, 3D models cars, and a poster of Cindy Crawford to show iconic moments in the brand's history for their 2018 Super Bowl campaign. This experience jumped between these different mediums in a way to tell the brand's history and cultural impact in an engaging way.
Mastering new tools
There are many tools and programs that designers can use to start creating their very first Web AR experiences. Mozilla created an open source framework called A-Frame that empowers designers to create Web AR experiences and they provided in-depth documentation and examples to help make this experience accessible to beginners.
Start-ups like Vectary are making it easier than for developers to create 3-dimensional models and export them to web-native file formats like .obj and .usdz (used for ARKit).
Developers must adopt new tools and practices and must learn the fundamentals of 3D design including the mechanics of lighting and materials on objects. Equipped with this knowledge, they can make fascinating objects that excite users.
Clear Hierarchy and Readability
Till today, design plays a vital role in helping users to understand the content. While UI elements can help convey how to navigate through the virtual experience, developers must use a combination of descriptive text, UI elements, arrows, and a clear map to help users understand how to navigate the environment. As AR is a new medium, it's important for developers to guide users in ways that encourage both exploration and interactivity and these design patterns must be consistent throughout the experience.
Most Web AR experiences can take a large amount of computing power to render 3D objects in a browser. To ensure that users are able to access these experiences wherever they are, it's important to optimize them when possible. When Google created a prototype of a 3D model to highlight the power of AR-enabled browsers, they noted a few ways to ensure that it stays smooth and seamless.
A limited number of light sources in the scene, low-poly count models, and a decreased shadow resolution will help your 3D objects feel smooth and natural to your users. Developers must optimize their Web AR experiences so that everyone can use them, even in low-bandwidth areas.
Technology available to Web Designers
AR for web design has come along in leaps and bounds with the start of compatible plug-ins such as WordPress VR, that allows developers to upload 360 videos in WordPress sites. With this technology easily available on mobile sites, AR can be used just as often on standard mobile devices as they can on headsets, providing users with an affordable choice that expands the browsing experience.
Web developers are using speech recognition technology to help users give verbal commands, and it has proven to be successful in several industries like gaming and e-commerce. While AR doesn’t essentially need commands to work successfully, it can certainly improve the experience when it comes to voice commands.
By implementing voice interaction into AR, UX designers can create a more humanised experience. With typing and clicking becoming ever more redundant thanks to virtual assistants and commands such as OK Google, voice interaction provides a much quicker result to users.
Effect of AR on User Experience
The major change we are seeing for web design is mobile. This is chiefly prominent in web design for AR as we move from static websites, in which information does not change, to dynamic websites, where information changes continuously. One of the benefits of AR is that it offers a completely 360 experience that desktop computers simply cannot match. Rather than scrolling and zooming, AR is using automation instinctively, while helping users restore their human interactions by allowing them to touch virtual objects.
Contextual computing makes use of resources like analytics to help AR better understand users. We see examples of our technology trying to understand us all the time, for example our Netflix favourites. Instead of responding to a set command, AR’s automation will gather contextual information from historical user data and the real-world environment to present the most useful content to the user at that moment in time.
Future for AR and Web Development
Right now, AR is full of challenges for web developers. As web design turns more towards mobile, the decision to invest in improving desktop AR is a complicated one. For example, while fashion retailers might be using desktop AR now, it’s likely they will move towards mobile in future.
In the short term, web designers need to gain a better understanding of their customers before they can make any huge advances in AR. AR is a lot more reliant on customer action. Developers must use big data and analytics to comprehend their customers’ wants and requirements.
AR is forecasted to be an industry worth $50 billion by 2024, it is certainly the time to start investing in AR. It’s time to start investing time into researching these technologies, together with a responsive and dynamic website design. From industries like medicine to manufacturing, AR is transforming the web design industry, with the best yet to come.
AR applications for web design have come a long way due to the development of compatible plug-ins like WordPress VR. This lets web designers upload 360-degree videos to their sites. With AR becoming readily available, designers will continue to leverage the technology in mobile UIs. The shift will provide users with an ever more reasonable option that boosts their browsing experience.
As AR is more prominent in websites, developers will have to create efficient ways to create branded and captivating experiences. UI and UX patterns will be standardized, visual systems will become more rampant, and users will become more habituated to this kind of content. There has never been a better time to start experimenting in this evolving technology and designing new experiences with it.