Virtual reality has helped me realize my favourite concept - Designing for senses
A quick touch base: Virtual Reality or VR is a computer-simulated environment created to provide users with an immersive experience. Unlike traditional user experiences, VR places a user inside a 100% simulated environment and allows them to interact with it. It transports a user into the virtual environment and tricks their brain into accepting it as a reality by simulating multiple senses such as vision, touch, and hearing.
According to a recently released report By Research and Markets, the total revenue generated from Virtual and Augmented Reality is expected to rise to 55.01 billion USD by 2021. The growing popularity of the technology has opened up an altogether new and exciting avenue for UX designers across the world. VR gives UX designers an independence to bring their imagination to life and share it with the world.
User experience is defined as the overall experience of a person when they interact with a product, system, or service which is defined in terms of its ease of use, effectiveness, and performance. No matter the kind of application being developed, it is the user interface and experience that forms the core of the designing process. Unlike mobile applications, virtual reality brings a whole new and unique experience for users, to life. The experience created by designers is what becomes the unique selling point of a VR application.
UX designing involves the creation of a digital world that a user can interact with. An application is adjudged a success by users based on how intuitive, personalised, and immersive their experience was. All these factors make user experience paramount in case of virtual reality applications.
User experience design in VR varies greatly from designing UX for a normal application. With VR, designers need to consider two aspects while designing an application. The first aspect is the virtual environment or the digital world while the second aspect is user interfaces such as VR gloves, holographic keyboards, and VR shoes that the user will use to interact with the virtual world.
But before you delve into the intricacies of user experience design for VR, you need to keep the following principles in mind:
The three-dimensional world created using virtual reality gear can only forge an illusion of the real world if it is interactive and reactive. The simplest way to do so is to design the software in a way that it tracks the user's head and eye movements and modifies the view in the digital world accordingly. In order to do so, you need to anticipate the user's movements and dictate their actions by drawing their focus to certain directions or objects using sound or imagery.
The most important aspect of user experience design, especially in case of VR, is user comfort and ease of use. Motion sickness or virtual sickness was one of the major hindrances that was encountered while developing virtual reality. Abrupt changes in velocity or brightness can cause motion sickness in people using VR headsets. Designers can cushion users from motion sickness by restricting movement in the periphery.
Furthermore, users should be given the freedom to be in control of their own experience. To ensure this, designers should develop virtual reality in a way that it becomes easy for users to adapt to. Everything from menus, user controls, and other design features should be incorporated in the application in a way that it does not confuse or frustrate users.
Images and text play a major role in creating an illusion of the real world in virtual reality. All the visuals and text should be clear and detailed. Furthermore, user experience designers should ensure that the detailing of an image changes when a user moves closer to or farther from it. The change in the detailing of the image is the key to creating realistic depth perception of a visual.
When it comes to text in the virtual world, most users pay attention to large, bold, and colourful text. While maintaining these standards, designers are to ensure that it does not strain the users' eyes. Increased straining of eyes could easily prove detrimental to the success of a VR application.
High-quality sound effects are a great tool that aid in forcing the human brain to perceive virtual as real. Positional and 3D audio effects should be used to identify the origin of sounds in a three-dimensional environment, to create an immersive experience. Sound effects should also be used when interacting with components in the virtual world. For example, the user should hear the rustling of leaves while walking over them in the virtual reality. The audio feedback provided when interacting with such components in the virtual space create a more realistic impression.
The human body tends to move in arcs rather than straight lines. User experience design in VR should take the natural motion of the human body in consideration and design physical interfaces that allow this natural motion and do not cause any strain in the body. Furthermore, the design should also consider this motion when portraying the movement in the virtual space to create an immersive experience.
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Vaishnavi Reddy, is the Founder of OriginUX a UI UX Design Agency in Bangalore. A graduate from NIFT, she has worked with over 400 brands globally to propel their Digital initiatives.
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