Why Every UX Designer Should Learn AR
Every day, we use dozens of websites, apps, and technologies.
Although we don’t usually realize it, our experiences of those products are meticulously constructed by UX (user experience) designers.
Without a doubt, UX design is an integral part of many of the products that we use on a daily basis. But it’s about to make a major leap into uncharted territory.
Augmented reality (AR) is on the come up. So far, very few UX designers have applied their skills to this new and exciting technology. But as immersive technologies, like AR, become more and more popular, UX design will start to tread a fine line between sculpting our experiences of technology and sculpting our experiences of reality itself.
That means two things.
First off, UX design will be more important than ever before. If AR tech deeply integrates itself with our daily experiences, then AR UX designers will have the ultimately important task of shaping our experience of the future.
Second, if AR becomes as commonplace as current trends predict, then there will be a whole lot of jobs available for UX designers who can work in AR environments.
No matter which way you look at it, whether from an economic or a futurist perspective, learning to design user experiences for AR is perhaps the best move a UX designer can make right now.
It Future-Proofs Your Career
In life, we say, “the early bird gets the worm.”
In tech, we can say, “the early adopter gets the payoff.”
AR is an emerging technology. While it’s currently still in somewhat of an “early” stage, with most apps only allowing users to interact slightly with simple virtual objects, its potential is huge, and the world is just starting to take notice.
This gives shrewd UX designers the opportunity to be one step ahead of the
current tech so that when AR hits the mainstream, they’ll already be the
Already, two of the world’s most influential tech companies are hard at work on releasing AR wearables.
Apple’s AR glasses are rumored to be hitting the market sometime in 2023 at earliest, according to Bloomberg. Facebook is also developing its own AR headset, which is slated to release in 2021.
As you can imagine, once the big players step into the ring, smaller ones will follow. And that means lots of job opportunities.
Facebook already has over 400 job postings for VR and AR. Apple has even more, with 600+ postings for AR UX designers. These numbers will likely increase as the tech is further adopted. In fact, it’s predicted that the AR market will reach a value of $198 million by 2025.
Technology Distribution Precipitates a Massive Demand
Although AR is still in its infancy, the current offerings have already made a serious impact.
Pokémon Go, a mobile AR game in which players collect and battle Pokemon, was a mass cultural sensation in 2016. Practically every media outlet covered it, and it was difficult to find anyone who wasn’t playing the game.
In total, Pokémon Go had a total of 232 million users in 2016, and it still retained an estimated 166 million in 2020.
Source - Pokemon Go wasn't not only heavily downloaded but had a relatively long daily use time compared to other established mobile apps.
Consumer wearable AR offerings are scant, with Snap Spectacles, nReal Light, and nReal Nebula leading the pack. However, if the success of mobile AR is any indication, it’s a critical step in the right direction, and once the tech is ready, consumer adoption will follow.
But it’s important to keep in mind that hardware is only the starting point. Once consumers begin integrating AR hardware into their lives, those products will become a vehicle for new software applications. At that point, we should see a massive increase in the use of AR apps.
Of course, someone will need to develop the UX for the countless software experiences that will proliferate once AR enters the mainstream. And that means lots of opportunity for UX designers who know how to work with AR.
From Mobile AR to Business/Enterprise-Ready AR Devices
Even though affordable, mainstream AR wearables are still over the horizon, aspiring AR UX designers can start experimenting with the AR device that pretty much everyone has: their phone.
While a smartphone may not provide immersive AR experiences (for now), it’s a great environment to begin testing out your skills and developing projects. Between ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android, developers have everything they need to get started with AR mobile apps.
If you want to expand a bit further, you can use either the Unity or Unreal game engine, both of which are free to use. Even better: both platforms provide emulators for enterprise headsets, like the Microsoft HoloLens 2 and the Magic Leap 1, so you can start building a portfolio even if you don’t have an HMD.
What Can You Do to Prepare for the XR Design Demand?
The best thing you can do is to start building AR apps, beefing up your portfolio, and taking courses to polish up your skills.
At Circuit Stream, we have lots of free workshops on XR Design best practices, hints and tips, accessibility, and even solid job advice from a traditional designer who made a (very successful) transition into an XR field.
Here are the ones we'd recommend checking out first:
- Design Secrets to Refine Your XR Experiences -
- From One XR Designer to Another - Personal advice from a Aleatha Singleton on how to transition from traditional design to XR design career.
- XR Design Best Practices - How to think about XR design when transitioning into the new medium.
- AR for Everyone - How to maximize your audience and design applications for people with disabilities.
If you submit the form on the page, you will get an access link to watch the video replay!
If you want to get started with AR, Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR from Circuit Stream will prepare you for the job market. When you finish the 10-week course, you'll have 2 portfolio-ready projects (along with your own) and an industry-recognized certification to boot.
Download Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR Syllabus