The Augmented Reality of Product Design: A Critical Look at AR’s Role and Its Hidden Bias
“The only way to predict the future is to build it.” — Alan Kay, computer scientist. June 16, 2023
As technology continues to revolutionize our lives, Augmented Reality (AR) stands at the forefront, particularly in the realm of industrial design. AR has transcended its roots as a novelty for tech enthusiasts and gamers to become a potential transformative force in our industry. The question is — will AR replace traditional prototyping in industrial design, and if so, at what cost?
AR and Industrial Design: A New Horizon
The landscape of industrial design continually evolves. Today, AR promises to ignite another paradigm shift, serving as a medium for designing, iterating, and presenting products, much like how 3D printing shook the conventions of foam core modeling years ago.
Recognizing the Power and Potential Biases of AR
AR holds considerable promise as an alternative to traditional prototyping, offering the ability to design and modify in a digital 3D space in real-time. However, the adoption of AR as the standard medium for design evaluation might introduce inherent biases. It’s crucial for us, as designers, to recognize and account for these potential biases to ensure objective and accurate design evaluations.
The Medium Matters: The Impact of AR on Product Evaluation
A recent study highlighted in the article “Can Augmented Reality Supplant Prototyping in Industrial Design?” reveals that the medium used for product presentation significantly influences user perception. This influence becomes particularly pronounced when dealing with products with complex geometrical shapes. The medium isn’t just a neutral tool but plays a crucial role in shaping user experience and perception. As immersive and impactful AR and VR are in presenting product attributes, they may also skew perceptions and decisions differently than physical prototypes.
Mitigating Bias: The Responsibility of Designers in the AR Era
These potential biases introduce an important consideration for the future of product design and evaluation. The rise of AR and VR technologies should not be seen as a threat but rather an exciting opportunity to revolutionize our field. As stewards of this evolving landscape, we have a responsibility to acknowledge these biases consciously and adopt careful strategies to counteract them.
Involving end-users early in the design process, fostering designer-user collaboration, and offering multiple design options for evaluation are just some ways to mitigate the potential biases of AR. The challenges presented by AR are not barriers but invitations to innovate and evolve our practices.
Embracing the Augmented Future: A Balanced Approach
While AR holds tremendous promise, it’s essential to strike a balance and not abandon traditional prototyping completely. The lack of haptic feedback in AR, the anxiety related to technology adoption, and user familiarity with AR interfaces are all important factors to consider. Our role is to act as mediators between the technology and users, taking a balanced approach to leverage the strengths of AR while also addressing its limitations.
Towards a Thoughtful, Bias-aware Future in Industrial Design
The future we envision is one where AR acts as a digital twin to the physical world of prototypes, reshaping our conception, development, and experience of products. It’s an exciting prospect, but one that requires us to act with awareness and thoughtfulness. As we move towards this future, it’s imperative to realize the potential risks and biases of technology.
At Speck Design, we continuously push the boundaries of what’s possible, always striving to deliver the best end products. Our commitment to innovation includes recognizing and managing the challenges presented by technologies like AR, ensuring a thoughtful, bias-aware approach to our work.
As we step into this exciting new era, let’s do so with eyes wide open, acknowledging both the immense opportunities and the important responsibilities it brings.
Product Design Agency
San Jose, CA
At Speck Design, our dedication lies in shaping the future through human-centric industrial design and engineering. Our 25-year journey has been driven by a commitment to bringing memorable experiences to life. In our continuous quest for innovation, we recognize the transformative power of technologies like AR, VR, XR, and MR, but also understand the potential risks and biases they could introduce. As we navigate this exciting journey, we are committed to thoughtfully integrating these technologies, ensuring they serve our ultimate goal — creating remarkable products that truly resonate with users. Let’s venture into this augmented future together, conscious of our shared responsibility to shape a future that is not only technologically advanced but also ethical and inclusive.
Palacios-Ibáñez, Almudena, et al. “On the Application of Extended Reality Technologies for the Evaluation of Product Characteristics During the Initial Stages of the Product Development Process.” Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Tecnología Centrada en el Ser Humano, Universitat Politècnica de València, Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación, vol. 23, no. 9, 2022, ScienceDirect, doi: 10.1016/S0166361522001762.
Aftab, M., & Rusli, H.A. (2017). Designing visceral, behavioural and reflective products. Chin. J. Mech. Eng. (Engl. Ed.), 30 (5), pp. 1058–1068. DOI: 10.1007/s10033–017–0161-x
Achiche, S., Maier, A., Milanova, K., & Vadean, A. (2014). Designing visceral, behavioural and reflective products. Chin. J. Mech. Eng. (Engl. Ed.), 11, pp. 1–10. DOI: 10.1115/IMECE2014–40443
Agost, M.-J., Vergara, M., & Bayarri, V. (2021). The use of new presentation technologies in electronic sales environments and their influence on product perception. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 12765, pp. 3–15. DOI: 10.1007/978–3–030–78321–1
Ant Ozok, A., & Komlodi, A. (2009). Better in 3D? An empirical investigation of user satisfaction and preferences concerning two-dimensional and three-dimensional product representations in business-to-consumer e-commerce. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Interact., 25 (4), pp. 243–281. DOI: 10.1080/10447310802546724
Arbeláez, J.C., & Osorio-Gómez, G. (2018). Crowdsourcing augmented reality environment (CARE) for aesthetic evaluation of products in conceptual stage. Comput. Ind., 99, pp. 241–252. DOI: 10.1016/j.compind.2018.03.028
Artacho-Ramírez, M.A., Diego-Mas, J.A., & Alcaide-Marzal, J. (2008). Influence of the mode of graphical representation on the perception of product aesthetic and emotional features: an exploratory study. Int. J. Ind. Ergon., 38 (11–12), pp. 942–952. DOI: 10.1016/j.ergon.2008.02.020