How might we use augmented reality to encourage more meaningful social interactions? Spark is a mobile app that pairs with smart glasses to reveal information about the people around you. It's designed to work at conferences, where there are tons of new people to meet, but few ways to initiate meaningful connections off of limited information, like a name tag or appearance.
We were challenged to select an emerging technology and design a product form and behavior that delivers values to a particular audience in the form of a pitch video. Our team chose to find an application of augmented reality (AR) that would enhance person to person interaction in a social context. In response, we created Spark, a mobile application that pairs with AR glasses. Spark helps conference attendees make relevant connections at conferences and in turn, provides conference organizers with data about attendees' interests and location data.
While most UX projects follow a user-centered design process starting with people, sometimes companies create or discover a new technology that they want to exploit. To avoid creating a product with powerful technical capabilities that no one wants to use, we used a matchmaking approach: finding the best fitting intersection of the capabilities of the new technology and the right audience. We were interested in social contexts such as college campuses (new student orientation for college or graduate programs), bars or nightlife, and conferences. We decided to design for the conference context because it's one in which people are explicitly hoping to make connections within a crowd of often hundreds of people and this will improve adoption of this emerging technology.
Painpoints of the Conference Experience
Through our guerilla research, we heard that the sheer number of people at conferences can be overwhelming. What if you want to find and talk to a speaker or connect with alumni from your undergrad? While some people make serendipitous connections, there currently isn't a way to make meaning out of the crowds and this can be especially tough for those who are not comfortable with networking. We witnessed this in action at the IXDA Conference 2017. Many people tended to stick with those they already knew. The conference organizers also created these physical signs to broadcast interests and form groups, but they weren't used and left on the table.
3 week long project
Interaction Design Studio | Fall 2016
Instructors John Zimmerman and Skip Shelley
(Won the pitch competition for the AR category)
Finding an audience for a new technology,
using video as a UX prototyping tool, & rapid prototyping
Concept generation, storyboarding, UI design, & video scriptwriting/directing
Using Scenarios and Narrative
We explored different ways AR could improve the conference experience through writing scenarios and storyboarding. After some feedback we focused on two features for this pitch: 1) giving attendees the power to share a layer of information about themselves and 2) forming discussion groups on the spot. Both of these approaches use AR to share additional information that can then be used to better facilitate in-person interactions.