A Use Case for an Augmented Reality Headset

A couple of summers ago I made an onsite visit to a client in the healthcare and education space. Having viewed the site's facilities and training hardware, it suddenly hit me how beneficial AR could be for the institution in terms of training new staff and upskilling existing ones.

I started to think of how augmented reality could help a person in a domestic context and I wanted to focus on something specific. In a passing conversation to a friend who had a bike puncture, I thought that this would be a good project to begin with. People that commute by bike often pick up flat tires and it can be quite inconvenient to have one fixed by a bike mechanic.

flat tire on bike

A repetitive problem a lot of cyclists face.

The following study assumes that consumer augmented reality headsets are readily available on the market, and that voice recognition is at a very high level.

1. Research

In order to get a better understanding of bike repair specifics, I went on to YouTube and looked at some popular videos on how to replace the tube of a wheel. From urban gardening to car repair, YouTube is well known for having a community of users that post DIY video tutorials on a wide variety of subjects. With that in mind, it felt like a good place to start. I viewed a number of bike puncture repair tutorials and jotted down the various steps involved with fixing a puncture.

In addition to this I contacted a family member who has repaired his own bike on a handful of occasions. He came to mind as I recall him hiring a bike repair specialist to do a workshop with his employees on how to fix a punctured tube.

I then compiled my findings and created some user flows.

user flow diagram

This is the high level user flow for fixing a bike tube. It made sense to break up the flow into more digestable chunks as there were a lot more granular steps within each one.

2. Low Fidelity Sketches

Design for AR is still very much in its infancy - there are no well defined prototyping tools, UI patterns etc. to go by so its still a bit of a guessing game. VR is a little bit ahead of AR in this respect and a lot of the same spacial design issues apply. I therefore used a VR paper prototyping template I found online in order to sketch out some typical flows in low fidelity.

Admittedly I don't think these templates really helped in a significant way but they at least kept you thinking about spacial design throughout. Similar to designing for mobile/web however, these paper sketches enabled me to quickly iterate through potential interfaces and interactions in advance of producing more high fidelity concepts.

Below is an example of the "Replace" task that the user must do as part of repairing the puncture.

low fidelity sketches

A rough sketch of how the user would is instructed to safely insert the new valve through a combination of voice prompts, 3D illustrations and warning messages. Augmented Reality offers huge potential in terms of time savings in training and education in general.

3. High Fidelity Concepts

I picked out some of the key concepts from the low fidelity prototypes and created some high fidelity views. I made the concepts using a tool called Blender.

low fidelity sketches

Part B of the "Identify and Prepare" stage. The user is prompted to flip the bike upside down.

low fidelity sketches

The user is then prompted to push the quick release lever as part of taking the wheel off the bike.

low fidelity sketches

AR has the capacity to provide visual cues as to what type of instrument a user may require to complete a task. In this example we see the AR application prompt the user to remove the bolt using a spanner.

low fidelity sketches

In a later stage, the user is directed on how to insert the new tube, ensuring that the attached valve is fitted in to the right place.

Learnings

  • The virtual and augmented reality community is very small. Unlike web/mobile where there's a ton of online resources and forums etc. to help you along the way, the VR/AR community is still a small one.
  • No deep industry standards exist. This makes it enjoyable and challenging in equal measure.
  • It's only a matter of time before AR/VR impacts every industry as its possibilites are endless.