“We See It On TV And In The Movies. A Lone Figure Spreading Her Arms Wide And Is Instantly Immersed In A Floating Web Of Information. “

We see it every day. It is re-imagined, constantly expanded upon, and baked into our collective imagination. It is a virtual world that is layered with information, beautiful in its structure, and is inherently unrealistic in most real world applications. That’s the problem with UX for Mixed Reality.

I once witnessed an argument between an Agency UX designer and a Film UI Designer over the practicality and usefulness of Sci-Fi styled interfaces in the real world. While one argued for form over function, arguing the need for beauty in design and the need for exploration and creativity in interaction, the other advocated for function and simplicity and reiterated the realities of usability and the need for consumers to understand and relate to the products that they use day to day.

While both participants in the argument had valid points, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

The UX Of Mixed Reality In The Real World

In the real world, users struggle between the need for both beauty and simplicity.  While immersive and imaginative environments intrigue them, what they really want is information that is presented in a simplistic way. Individuals don’t want to think about how they consume information. What they want instead is information that is simple, beautifully presented, and easy to use.

From bubbly desktop interfaces, to the sleek curves and subtle lines of the smartphones we use every day. Users are searching for beauty in the devices they interact with. But, while users inherently crave beautiful things. They also want simplicity and expect the function of the items they use to be immediately intuitive. Users don’t want to think about how they use interfaces, they just need them to work, and work well.

Mixed Reality And The Need To Rethink Usability

As UX professionals move forward into VR and AR design, they are discovering a need to rethink what usability actually means. The 2D conventions, previously used, are ill equipped to solve the new spatial problems they actively face. And, they are still searching for ways to solve the interaction problems they are beginning to face. The more they explore, they realize the “futuristic” UI they have imagined may lack the solutions they seek.

Physical limitations; such as tiring arms, a lack of touch, and a disconnection from the objects users meant to interact with. These are real concerns that designers must take into account. The problems faced by UX designers are expanding. And, the tools designers need to address these problems are still limited and not fully explored.

The Future

The next few years are going to be an exciting time to be a Designer, Technologist, or creative. As in the early days of graphical computing, the pioneers of AR and VR technologies will face multiple challenges. As they push forward, they will stumble, fail, and start over again multiple times. Eventually, they will discover the solutions that will carry us forward. They will help to define interactions for years to come.

In the future, will users step onto magical UI platforms? Will they have work displayed for them in a 360-degree explosion of graphics and information? Probably not. Whatever world they do experience though will be interesting and unique. And, in the end, I’m sure it will be nothing like what designers have imagined so far.


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