Augmented Reality for IxDA 2019 Conference App


This project was a Team Project in which we worked on a proposal of ideas to be included on a Conference application for the International Interactive Design Association's (IxDA) yearly conference. IxDA is a global community from many backgrounds who share an interest in interaction design. The conference is a week long event for it's 1500 members and each year they pick a city to have their event and this year Seattle will be the host city.

We met with a representative of IxDA and he gave us a briefing about the event and provided us with the following goals that they have for this application:  

1. To provide engagement before, during, and after the conference.

2. To create Interactive Experiences to have a "wow" factor for the conference.

3. The theme for this event is "Design in the Wild" and they would like the app to tie into theme.

4. Have a balance of innovation and functionality.


The Process:

In our next team meeting we did some workshopping and came up with the following guiding statement:

To apply an intuitive approach to navigating the core elements of a conference experience, including schedule making and location exploraion within the application.

We then decided that we should each work on individual elements of the application. I decided to go with augmented reality as one of the elements I was working on and which I will be focusing on for the duration of this case study. 

For the ideation phase of the project I began on paper with pencil to explore some options that could take advantage of image recognition tools for Augmented Reality as well as some memorable experiences for conference goers. 

My group then spent the next few days conducting user research with people who have used an application developed for a conference. From this data I took the common headaches and then applied an approach with Augmented Reality to it:

- Popular Events (Overcrowding) and not being able to get in. A simple Augmented Reality solution is an occupancy hud on the door that displays through the AR portion of the app when pointed at the poster for the event.  

- Wayfinding is always a rough one. One idea would be to push a small compass map to ones smart watch that would point to their next event. User could also set to activate a few other guides to show up on the compass (such as bathrooms, exits). 

- Registration / Badge Acquiring. No matter what one does, there will always be a line to stand in at a conference. Posters could be placed in the queueing area for registration, people can use the AR portion of the app to interact with 360 photo spheres of the Majesty of the Pacific Northwest.

Since Augmented Reality was just one portion of our presentation and consideration of their production budget; I narrowed down the AR Experiences down to 4 options to eventually narrow down to one to feature in our prototype. 

4 Augmented Reality Experiences:

1. Sponsor Booth Information Exchange: This would provide a quick and painless way for Attendees to exchange contact information with the Sponsor. For the Sponsor, this would free them from having to input thousands of business cards worth of information into a database as well as provide up to the minute marketing information as the database becomes propagated with data.

2. Portals into the Wilderness: The conference managers can place IxDA Enhanced posters in areas that have long queues to provide a little escape from waiting. 

3. Workshop/Conference Trailers: In front of each conference room, an IxDA Enhanced poster would activate a quick trailer for the upcoming conference to help people decide if they would like to attend or not. 

4. Scavenger Hunt Clues: One social feature in our app is a Scavenger Hunt. One neat and low cost way to provide clues and draw people to areas of the conference center would be to place IxDA enhanced clues around the center for people to discover. One specific idea would be a virtual campfire, and the scavenger hunt task would be to join a group of people around a campfire and share a photo to social media. 

To help better present my ideas I have found that storyboarding was a very useful tool when doing the initial planning of Augmented Reality. This would allow me to tell the story of the interaction without spending much needed resources on development on ideas this early on in the application stage.

Having Computer Vision doing most of the heavy lifting makes creating Augmented Reality Interactions easy as the user pointing the camera at the poster and experiencing a digital event. To make sure developing computer visions was going to work the way I was expecting, I did a quick target map to a business card.

With a workflow established on how to create AR Experiences, I then started to map out the user flow of how the Application would work in the Prototype for our presentation. I chose the scenario of using this AR feature for Sponsor Booths, with the hope to remove the burden of Sponsors having to collect hundreds of business cards, taking them back to the office, and entering all their info into a database. This could be a fun interactive experience to get attendees used to looking for the IxDA Enhanced logo for other experiences as well.

click image to see larger version.

Finally I created a prototype of this feature with Principle that I would then merge in with the rest of my group created for our presentation to IxDA representatives. In the end I only had about one minute of presentation time to cover the Augmented Reality Portion of the Application so I created a scenario from the provided personas and we did a live demo of the prototype for visuals as the scenario was performed. 

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The IxDA representatives seemed interested with the idea, but did show concern with development cost and how this would work with their Content Management System. I informed them that Vuforia is pretty affordable (would be free to develop and then $99 month that the features would be active in the application). Vuforia also would do a lot of heavy lifting for data for Computer Vision so their CMS wouldn't have to do much (beyond being an active database for information exchange). 

IxDA recorded our presentation and sent the video to their chair for review and told us that if they have any questions that we would be contacted. The conference is in still early stages of planning (it is set for February 2019) so it could be a little while until they have he conference planned and move to the peripherals such as the application for the conference. 

Next Steps:

I would like to conduct some testing to find the average time a person would expect to interact with an AR experience (fatigue of holding phone, attention span) and will be setting up a small User Study to see if I can find a sweet spot for how long an Augmented Reality feature should be. I will do this testing in two phases, phase one will be a general online survey sent to various Augmented Reality User Groups and phase two would be real life testing of different lengths of AR applications. 

To help visualize some earlier concepts I started to explore the phone application pushing information to smart watches.  


Finally I will explore the concept of always on Computer Vision tools that could help with accessibility issues for people with disabilities. Initial ideas would be as simple as a book full of mapped images that would activate functions of a smart home or as complex as stickers (targets) that they could access a manageable interface by just a gaze.