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How do we build an augmented and virtual reality business plan?

Augmented and virtual reality is cutting edge, but that shouldn't be your sole reason to deploy it. IEEE member Todd Richmond outlines three principles for design in AR/VR planning.

Augmented reality, to a certain extent, and virtual reality, to a greater extent, provide embodiment to a user and remove the boundaries of a screen.

For any task that requires a human experience -- which is nearly everything to some degree -- the ability for a human to be in the space rather than viewing it third person can offer some advantages -- though there isn't a lot of data on better outcomes using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for training, sales and so forth.

Perhaps the most important step when building an augmented and virtual reality business plan is to figure out exactly what you're trying to accomplish. While this should go without saying, people often start AR/VR planning by writing code and building environments without first doing a deep dive into their goals and affordances.

I usually start with three considerations as a set of first principles for design. When creating an experience for a human, you need to contemplate the following:

  1. Agency. What can the user do? What can't they do? How do you make this evident -- i.e., train them to navigate/interact? Why are you giving them this agency -- or why are you not giving them this agency?
  2. Attention. What does the user need to see/hear/feel? When do they need to experience it? How will it be presented, and why are you using that mode of getting their attention? Often, people build their augmented and virtual reality business plan, design an immersive environment, and then use tricks to lead the users where they want them to go. This can be problematic, as AR/VR is typically supposed to offer agency -- see No. 1. So why are you leading them around by the nose -- or ear? If you want them to experience things in some order or particular manner, maybe a traditional flat screen-based, linear experience is a better choice. At this point, many AR/VR experiences are done in AR/VR just because it is viewed as cool and cutting edge rather than effective.
  3. Affiliation. Who is the user? What is their relationship to the environment? How is that relationship made obvious? Can the user influence what is happening or are they a voyeur? Why should they care about what is happening around them? Are you trying to sell them something, train them or entertain them?

If you haven't asked and answered these questions, odds are you will not be able to create a compelling augmented and virtual reality business plan. And note that none of this work requires a single line of code.

I always paper prototype any experience, be it virtual, physical or combined, before I write any code. Never underestimate how much you can learn from 3x5 cards, cardboard and other analog tools when prototyping human experiences.

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