Phillip here, bringing you a special article just in time for Valentine's day. It should really be my co-Managing Partner Iain Valentine (aka Mr Valentine) writing this topical piece today, but hey, I got in there first with a better title! Plus, I couldn't miss the opportunity to write about something we've been getting pretty passionate about at Whitespace over the last few months: Augmented Reality.
 

AR isn't new. As a concept, it has been around since the 1960s; the term 'Augmented Reality' was coined by a former Boeing researcher back in 1990. There are some amazing applications of AR as an industrial tool, particularly in specialised manufacturing. For more on this, read this excellent set of articles in the Harvard Business Review from November 17
 

Where we get excited here at Whitespace, as you might expect, is when we're challenged to create immersive experiences for our clients using AR. Creating more love for our client's brands.
 

We were lucky enough to create an in-store AR app in 2017 for one of the 10 biggest brands in the world. We'd love to tell you the story in person, but we're not allowed to share the case study publicly... so mum's the word. We're proud of what we created, but already, it has been superseded by even more powerful technology. 
 

In the middle of 2017, Google announced the launch of their ARCore tool, with Apple announcing their ARKit for iOS tool not long afterwards. These tools added powerful native AR functionality to mobile devices running newer versions of the operating systems. The potential this has created is awesome, and we've been having lots of fun creating prototypes. 
 

Along the way, we've learnt tonnes. So this Valentine's Day, we wanted to share the L-O-V-E. Here are our 4 top tips for developing an AR app:
 

Location


Don't forget that you are adding (augmenting) something to the real world (reality). As such, you need to fully consider when and where users will use your app. 

  • How much space will they have when using the app? 
  • What surfaces will come into play? 
  • Can users move around? 
  • Will there be other people around? 
  • Will they have good internet connectivity and sound?

Then, consider how your app fits into this location and context. What user benefit will it bring? Be really specific about the best use cases and design for those. Working brilliantly in a limited number of locations is better than never working very well!
 

Obvious


Don't assume that just anyone will know how to use your app. AR is pretty new to most consumers - that makes it exciting, innovative and impactful. But, it also means that you need to make how to use your app blindingly obvious. Test it, have your fears of nobody knowing what to do validated, then go back and make it even more obvious!
 

Variety


If your app is focussed on building love for your brand, it is probably more experiential than functional/utilitarian. In that case, content will be vital. In AR, you should consider what format your content should take in order to maximise the potential of the platform. Our experience, for example, is that 3D imagery has more impact than 2D video. 
 

Experiment


If I asked you where on a website to find the main navigation, or the site search, you'd know where to start looking. With AR apps built on the new Apple and Google platforms, there aren't any user interface norms yet. This makes it really exciting, but also really hard. Try your best to follow design best practice, but you can't simply lift what you know from web, print or product design. Experiment, then test. Don't ever design too much without building it and testing out how it feels. This process needs to be very collaborative, and a continuous test and learn approach can go a long way. 
 

I hope these four top tips help you as you explore how AR could work for your brand. Do get in touch and let me know how you get on. This Valentine's Day, if you're looking for the perfect partner to take your ideas forward, you know where we are!