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It seems like we've been talking about AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) design as something in the future for a long time now. The reality is that that future is here, breaking through faster than we thought. Immersive technology needs skilled designers to jump in, get involved and start creating good products and experiences. 


What Does this Mean for a Product Designer? 

Product designers and UX designers are both involved with the design of a product. However, product designers have to see the big picture and consider all parts working together as one product (including UX). This means that they might be involved in far different decision-making. 

Like any design project, it’s essential to know and understand as much as possible about the platform: the target audience, and what the goals to achieve are. As a product designer, you may be involved with different stakeholders in defining specs, like what technology should be used, what tools and resources might be involved. 

In this post we are going to cover the basics at a high level, what AR and VR are, how they work, and what you should consider when starting your next immersive technology project. This is not an ultimate guide, but you can use it as a starting point on your next adventure in designing a product for “the future." 


What Is AR and VR? 

  • AR: Augmented reality 
  • VR: Virtual reality 


Augmented Reality 

AR is where the virtual and real world are merged together, it creates an immersive experience that integrates the user’s physical world with digital elements. It is interactive in real-time and registered in 3D. This experience happens often through the camera of a smartphone, and it may need to use a marker to activate reality augmentation. 


Virtual Reality 

VR is where reality is fully replaced by a virtual environment generated by a computer. It isolates the users from the real world around them, and emphasizes autonomy using the body as input like hands, fingers, or voice, providing a sense of being there using all our senses. This experience happens often when you put on a headset, as mentioned before, hands can be recognized, we are able to pick up objects and use gestures to navigate through our virtual world. 

A good VR experience can be also determined based on the “degrees of freedom” (3 DOF-6 DOF) that is what determine how you can move around the environment and interact with objects more realistically. 


Immerse Yourself before Designing 

I think it’s impossible to start designing something without getting first-hand experience as much as possible so you should immerse yourself and go experience VR and AR. 

AR apps can often be accessed from a smartphone, VR apps usually require a certain VR headset and require additional setup. But here are some examples on where you can start: 


Browser-Based AR Experience 

From your smartphone go to and enter penguin, scroll down and you will find an about section tap on view in 3D. 


App-Based AR Experience 

There is an increasing number of AR apps for mobile devices. Here are some examples: 

Instagram has tons of filters you can apply when you are taking pictures or videos to be uploaded to your stories.  

Pokémon GO gives you the possibility to try catching a Pokémon using AR. 


VR Devices 

Whether you have a friend who can let you use their gear, or you feel like giving it your all for the experience and have a little more money to throw around; here are a couple of devices you can look at: Sony's PSVR 2, which requires a PlayStation, the Meta Quest Pro, Meta Quest 2, HP Reverb G2. 


Clarifying the XR Landscape 

VR/AR is all about three dimensions, and the user interface is no longer limited to a flat screen. There are new unfamiliar input challenges, devices, platforms, applications, and tools so it’s important to understand how this impacts the experience and the project requirements. 

We've covered a few XR concepts above, however we need to bring all the concepts and technologies together to have a better understanding and visibility of what we are dealing with. Remember this is a high-level chart that will provide you with an overview that will aid your technology selection.  

While you look at it, it will be helpful if you have in mind the following: 


  • Displays: 

Think about the hardware like your smartphone or a headset like Meta Quest 2 

  • Applications: 

Is software that gives a user an XR experience. 

  • Platforms: 

Platforms are what enable applications, have in mind the devices’ compatibility with a specific platform an example of it is Steam VR. 

  • Tools: 

Like software, software development kits or libraries that allows designers or developers create applications, an example is Unity   

Based on Michael Nebeling, Intro to AR/VR/MR/XR: Technologies, Applications & Issues course  

*XR Technology Tree showing the main types of displays (hand-held, head-worn, monitor-based, spatial/projective, room-sized) and classes of tracking technologies (marker-based vs. marker-less, 3 DOF vs. 6 DOF, inside-out vs. outside-in, controllers, hand/eye tracking, object recognition) as well as software tools to create AR or VR applications.  


Plan Your Immersive Strategy 

I hope that by now you have a clearer idea about AR and VR technologies and you know what your next steps are. When the time comes, you'll need to plan an effective strategy that manages to provide the best user experience and that helps achieve business goals, 

It is important to be prepared, there are lots of considerations that go into decision-making. Being able to ask the right questions and answer them, will give you light in your next AR and VR project. 

This is a very small list of questions that you may find useful and encourage you to continue to define options and criteria for your next project: 

  • How are things going to be displayed? Is the content permanent or appearing? 
  • What kind of tracking technologies will suit best to your project? 
  • How will you allow your users to navigate or move through your solution? 
  • How will your users be able to manipulate things? 
  • Is it something that will allow different users to collaborate at the same time? 

Based on Michael Nebeling, Intro to AR/VR/MR/XR: Technologies, Applications & Issues course 



I hope this provided a good introduction to AR and VR technologies and how designing for VR and AR products differs from traditional digital products. These technologies can be intimidating, most users and designers are still unfamiliar with these matters, but it also gives us the opportunity to get involved, and explore all possibilities. Taking risks, failing and learning from our mistakes quickly is the only way to bring products to life, dominate the field and be part of the evolution of product design. 


About Encora 

Fast-growing tech companies partner with Encora to outsource product development and drive growth. Contact us to learn more about our software engineering capabilities. 


Related Content 

The difference between Marker based & Markerless Augmented Reality 

Best VR Headsets of 2022 

Whats New in VR 2022? Inside Out Tracking, Passthrough Rendering, Realtime Handtracking 


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