How to attract the user’s attention in an AR environment

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How to attract the user’s attention in an AR environment

How to attract the user’s attention in an AR environment 1920 1149 Use Design

Attracting the user’s attention is crucial for any experience, however, in 3D environments and mostly in AR, this raises several challenges.

A moving Frame
In traditional 2D applications, framing is a core concept that designers can rely upon to grab the users’ attention on a specific element of interest. However, in AR, designers can not rely on this concept, since it is the user who is holding the camera frame, making it harder for off-screen elements to be noticed.

A user in motion
Currently, with the AR devices available on the market, the user views the Augmented World through a small windowpane, he can move around a 3D space and look anywhere from different angles, making it difficult for designers to attract the attention of a constantly moving user.

A distracting environment
Designers have no control over the end-users environment. This can either yield security issues (say if the users bump into a real object ) causing an unwanted injury. Also, the environment may present some distractions that may prevent him from being fully focused on the app and ruin the virtual illusion.

In all, attracting the user’s attention is a challenging task in any 3D environment and mostly in AR applications. So in today’s article, we will be covering some quick inspirational ideas on how to attract the user’s attention in an AR environment.


Animate it

In detective AR they have used an animated wave field acting as a visual cue to highlight an element of interest.


Hints on the edges of the screen

We could use a visual cue on the appropriate edge of the screen to indicate the existence of an important off-screen item by pointing towards it.


Highlights and overlays

In “Crime Scene AR”,  the X-ray mode and the lab scene have a dark overlay that hides the background scene acting as a veil over the real environment. This veil enhances the immersive feeling of the application, by hiding any distracting element from the real physical environment. Also, thanks to the X-ray mode the important elements are highlighted by using a glowy material that makes the important elements stand out.

Another way to draw attention to an element located behind a 3D object is to use a specific outline that is displayed on top of the foreground element.



In “Crime Scene AR”  the brush acts as reticle and provides a hint as to what is expected from the user, enabling him to actively search for the appropriate element to interact with.



In the “Crime Scene AR” lab scene, the DNA pieces are isolated and floating in the air.
Displaying extraneous elements to entice the user’s curiosity in an uncluttered view, greatly improves their visibility and encourages the user to interact in a more exploratory fashion.


Contextual display

We can use the position of the user in the 3D space to display contextual elements either by adding invisible triggers in the 3D virtual scene or by using GPS coordinates in a world scale AR application, such as in an AR treasure hunts or Pokemon Go.


Key Takeaways :

Mobile AR presents greater constraints and challenges than traditional mediums.

Indeed the user is mobile, located in different physical environments, subject to greater real-world distractions and the camera is in his control. All of this leads to the fact that attracting the users’ attention is a challenging task. However, it can be overcome by applying specific techniques. 

So to attract and maintain the users’ attention we could :

  • animate objects to draw attention to particular elements of interest;
  • use on-screen hints, to point toward the direction of an off-screen element;
  • hide the real physical environment by adding a background overlay to increase the immersion and remove any background distractions;
  • play with the transparency or the shaders materials to highlight elements located within or behind 3D objects;
  • use the shape of the reticle to provide greater affordance to guide the user toward the type of actions and/or elements that he needs to pay attention to;
  • remove any non-essential elements and provide a distinct style to entice the users’ curiosity;
  • use the physical location of the user to display contextual elements or new virtual scenery.

So how about you, did you come up with other solutions?

Sarra Mamlouk Sanchez — UX/VR Designer  @Use Design, une agence de design à Paris qui donne vie à des stratégies, des produits digitaux et des services innovants.

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