Augmented Reality & The Future Of Mobile App Development

by borne . October 12, 2017

If you have been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that way back in April, we cited augmented reality as one of the trends to hit the mainstream in 2017 – reshaping the world of mobile app development.

Now this prediction looks set to become a reality, as augmented reality apps gain popularity thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore.

Although the world’s ears pricked at the launch of Pokémon GO back in July 2016, the hype died down almost as quickly as it began and augmented reality was quickly seen once again as something that’s fun for a while. but like virtual reality, unaccessible for the vast majority of people.

That’s until now. The public are beginning to embrace AR technologies, it’s becoming a more prominent feature in mobile apps and is more accessible than the often-expensive VR experience.

With popularity comes demand, so app development companies are going to need to embrace the latest technologies and expand their practises to ensure they stay up to date. But to successfully deliver an immersive, high quality and engaging experience for users? Well, it’s no easy feat.

AR vs Mobile

The past has seen visual content confined to whichever device we are using – whether that’s television, smartphones or tablets. Whatever happens, happens within the confines of this screen and it’s easy as developers to let this become second nature.

Augmented reality is arguably the first medium in which what we consume has no boundaries – creating issues for both developers and designers alike.

Developers must, as TechCrunch advises, ‘think outside the phone’ and remember that their AR apps must take into account the real world. With AR, our smartphones don’t take us away from reality, they put us back into it – adding an extra digital dimension to our reality.

Developers and designers must adapt and learn new practises to suit what will soon become a huge demand for AR apps – and they must learn fast. The standard layout of a mobile app is no longer applicable. The weather and lighting conditions must be considered. The location of the user. In order to create a quality user experience, it is important that augmented reality apps are not designed with a mobile phone screen in mind.

Apple’s Guidelines

If regular app development is rarely smooth sailing then we can guarantee augmented reality app development will bring about its own set of challenges.

In Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for augmented reality, the company urges app agencies to work with the user in mind; staying mindful of safety, comfort and the lack of familiarity. Standard mobile apps have been around long enough now for gestures and interactions to become intuitive, we swipe or scroll in the same way we know how to pick up a pen. But now, new gestures must be learned, and it’s essential this learning process is as smooth and engaging as possible for the user.

Augmented reality has opened up a whole new world for budding entrepreneurs who were late to the game with their dating apps or social media platforms. Standing out from the competition on the App or Play Stores is getting harder than ever, and providing a high quality experience for the user has never been more important. That’s not to say that the age of apps is over however, some fantastic apps are hitting the App and Play Stores. One thing can be certain however, the app itself is no longer novel.

Augmented reality on the other hand is still a relatively new phenomenon for most of the general public, meaning doors are opening for designers to really create something exciting. Of course, with a lot of options comes the overwhelming temptation to get carried away with an idea. However, the concept of the MVP still stands. Interactions must remain simple, the design clean and developers must remain mindful of the fact that most users will be new to this experience.

Using Physical Prototypes

If you’re going to be creating 3D objects with in a physical space, then your initial prototype should be physical. Using a typical prototype will tell you very little – user testing results will be inaccurate and you won’t have learned anything about how your app actually works.

It’s also important to remember that augmented reality apps should provide something more than their 3D equivalent would. If your idea would work just as well in a standard app, then perhaps it’s best kept that way.

The Future

AR has seen huge success recently and we can’t wait to see how it continues to grow. As designers and developers, we cannot get left behind. Learning how to create seamless and rich interactions with the physical world is no easy feat! Visit Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines here.

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