As we approach a new age of technology, it is clear that the future of human-computer interaction goes beyond the flat surfaces of our screens. The excitement was tangible as Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 loomed, promising a grand unveiling of the latest innovations and technologies in fields like visual accessibility, spatial design, and animations. At the heart of this revolution lie spatial interfaces, which create immersive experiences that transport us into the realms of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). As we anticipate what the tech giant has in store for us, it is crucial to understand how these innovations benefit both users and businesses?
Innovating with responsibility for users and business outcomes
With great power comes great responsibility! Spatial interfaces represent a brave new world, where the lines between physical and virtual are blurred. Effectively designing these experiences requires a delicate balance between not overwhelming users with excessive visual information, while simultaneously engaging them with rich, immersive environments. By stripping away the unnecessary, businesses can create clean, user-focused experiences that guide and captivate.
But it's not just users who stand to benefit from these spatial design innovations - businesses do too. Beyond user enjoyment, such innovative designs have significant implications for businesses. As TechCrunch has predicted, Apple's AR headset could be a "game-changer for startups." It's a wake-up call for businesses across industries: to stay competitive, you need to embrace these emerging technologies. The opportunities are vast, and those who seize them can drive growth, foster customer loyalty, and secure a significant market edge.
Balancing familiarity and innovation at the core of spatial design principles
At WWDC 2023, Apple's session on spatial design principles highlighted the importance of crafting comfortable, human-centered experiences. The key elements? Familiarity, human-centricity, dimensionality for space leveraging and immersion, and authenticity.
Businesses need to strike a balance between familiar elements and new possibilities, ensuring users can accomplish their tasks with ease. When creating human-centered apps, it is important to consider the user's field of view and ergonomics, and to avoid anchoring content to their view. Utilizing depth and scale in these new realms can help to emphasize content, guide user focus, and provide clear ways into and out of immersive experiences. By leveraging device-specific features, businesses can create rich, immersive experiences that offer a unique competitive edge.
Translating screen knowledge into immersive spatial user interface design
Another pivotal session at WWDC 2023 focused on designing spatial user interfaces that are familiar, legible, and user-friendly. The challenge lies in translating existing screen-based knowledge into immersive experiences for Apple's visionOS.
Everything from app icons to typography receives a 3D makeover, with a focus on legibility, hierarchy, and user comfort. Typography has been specifically adapted for better legibility, while vibrancy is utilized to indicate hierarchy. In terms of content placement, physical comfort, and safety have been prioritized, with the incorporation of interactive elements, focus feedback, and new presentation styles (such as ornaments) to create a deeper, richer user environment. An example of this is how focus feedback helps users understand which parts of an interface are interactive, while ornaments add depth and enable quick actions related to content. It is important to note that various inputs are supported by the platform, and system components are made accessible, familiar, and intuitive for users.
Creating user-centric spatial input for comfort and accessibility in interfaces
In the exciting realm of spatial input, eyes and hands reign supreme as the primary tools for interaction. It's the responsibility of businesses to craft spatial experiences that are not only comfortable but also accessible. When it comes to handling eye data, privacy is a top priority, and direct touch should only be used when it's absolutely necessary to the core experience.
To deliver a seamless user experience that boosts satisfaction and engagement, feedback should be designed to compensate for missing tactile information. And let's not forget about eye-friendly apps! To achieve this, content placement within the field of view, meaningful use of depth, and dynamic scaling to maintain target area size are all crucial considerations. Meanwhile, hand gestures should be intuitive, conflict-free, and compatible with assistive technologies, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the magic of spatial interfaces.
How “IKEA Place” uses spatial design to enhance the shopping experience
The “IKEA Place” app is a shining example of spatial design in action. While many AR apps are designed for entertainment or gaming, this AR app allows users to place virtual IKEA furniture in their real-world space, creating an immersive, practical tool that enhances the shopping experience. By adhering to the principles of familiarity, dimensionality, immersion, authenticity, and human-centered design, IKEA Place offers a seamless and intuitive user experience. Here are some ways in which IKEA Place leverages spatial design:
- Familiarity: IKEA Place uses familiar furniture styles from their catalog, making it easy for users to recognize and understand the virtual objects.
- Dimensionality: The app creates a sense of three-dimensional space, allowing users to see how furniture fits in their real-world environment.
- Immersion: IKEA Place immerses users by placing virtual furniture in their real-world space for an accurate and realistic experience, helping them make informed purchase decisions.
- Authenticity: High-fidelity 3D models and textures make the virtual furniture look realistic and blend seamlessly with the user's environment.
- Human-centered design: Users can move around and view virtual furniture from different angles, considering ergonomics and field of view.
Promoting social connections with AR and VR
Spatial interfaces are not just about the individual user experience—they also have the potential to foster social connections and interaction. In addition to effective spatial UI design, several other characteristics can play a crucial role in creating AR and VR products that foster social connections and interactions, resulting in positive social experiences for users. These characteristics include:
- Affordances for easy interaction: Guiding users to interact effortlessly with virtual objects in spatial UIs through design features that suggest their use.
- Coordinated behavior with focal points: Utilizing visual cues to coordinate user behavior and guide users towards specific tasks or activities in AR and VR environments.
- Sense of intimacy and safety: Creating a positive user experience by considering psychological distance, personal space, and the appropriate level of intimacy in relation to the specific AR or VR application. This can vary depending on factors such as the target audience, the type of application, and the overall goals of the experience.
- Right user expectations: Ensuring users understand the interface capabilities and what they can expect from the virtual environment in AR and VR interfaces.
- Optimizing social tasks and awareness of others: Considering viewpoints to enable meaningful social interactions, tasks, and activities in social AR and VR environments. Users' perspective of the virtual environment can affect how they perceive and interact with other users.
- Encouraging social behavior: Designing interfaces that promote social interactions and provide opportunities for users to engage in social activities, enhancing the overall user experience in AR and VR environments.
Innovation is an iterative process that requires continuous refinement and improvement. By testing and refining new design approaches, businesses can identify areas for improvement and create not just innovative, but also effective products that enhance the customer experience. Embracing spatial interfaces and integrating them into business strategies can lead to increased customer engagement, competitiveness, and overall business success.