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How to Overcome AR Challenges: A Guide for Product Managers

Ernesto Rodriguez headshot

Author: Ernesto Rodriguez

November 28, 2023 - 10 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 10 min read

Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as a powerful tool in the realm of product management and development. However, it presents unique challenges that Product Managers need to address to fully leverage its potential. In 2023, two of the most significant challenges are the lack of standardization and privacy concerns. In this blog article, you’ll discover three powerful strategies to overcome these AR challenges as well as a real-world example from the gaming sector.

There’s a lot to cover so let’s dive straight in! 

The challenges of leveraging AR

Like any technology, AR brings incredible benefits as well its challenges. For Product Managers seeking to fully leverage its potential, they need to overcome the following challenges:

Lack of Standardization: AR's potential is vast, but the absence of unified standards complicates product development. This lack of standardization means each project could require a unique approach, leading to increased development time and costs. It also hinders the compatibility and interoperability of AR applications across different platforms and devices.

Privacy Concerns: AR often involves the collection and processing of personal data, including location and visual recordings. This raises significant privacy issues, as misuse of such data can lead to serious privacy violations. Ensuring robust privacy protection while maintaining the functionality of AR applications is a delicate balance, crucial for user trust and legal compliance.

Strategies to overcome AR Challenges:

Innovative Product Design 

Innovative product design stands at the forefront of addressing AR challenges. Product managers, by crafting intuitive and user-friendly designs, can significantly lessen the hurdles posed by a lack of standardization. This approach is not just about aesthetics but also about functionality and user experience.

User-Centric Design: Focusing on user needs and preferences is crucial. This involves understanding the target audience, their behaviors, and how they interact with AR technology.

Simplicity and Accessibility: Making AR experiences simple and accessible is vital. This means avoiding overly complex interfaces and ensuring that the AR experience is easily navigable and understandable by a diverse user base.

Responsive Design: Given the varying capabilities of devices, AR applications should be responsive. They need to adapt to different screen sizes, processing powers, and sensor accuracies.

Design Guidelines: Staying informed with the latest design guidelines is imperative for consistency and best practices. For instance:

  • Apple VisionOS Guidelines: These guidelines (Apple Human Interface Guidelines) offer insights into designing for Apple's AR platform, focusing on creating a natural and immersive user experience.

  • Google AR Design Guidelines:: Google's guidelines (Google AR Design) provide principles for creating engaging and realistic AR experiences, particularly on Android devices.

  • Meta Spark Guidelines : Meta's resources (Meta Spark) guide creators in building AR experiences that integrate seamlessly with social media platforms.

Iterative Design Process: Employing an iterative design process enables continuous improvement based on user feedback. This approach helps in refining the AR experience to meet user expectations effectively.

By leveraging these aspects of innovative product design, product managers can create AR applications that not only overcome the challenges of standardization but also set a benchmark in user experience, thereby driving the technology's wider adoption and success.

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Cross-functional collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration is another solid strategy to consider. Understanding the total cost of ownership is crucial when integrating AR into business operations. A cross-functional team, with its diverse expertise, can provide a comprehensive analysis of the financial and time investments required for AR initiatives. This detailed evaluation is the foundation of a solid business case for AR, helping prioritize initiatives for maximum impact or quick wins that generate momentum.

To ensure successful AR integration, effective change management is key. Cross-functional teams can guide a gradual rollout, beginning with pilot solutions in select employee groups, and establishing dedicated support teams. This phased approach, supported by continuous KPI monitoring and clear communication of successes, ensures a smooth transition and maximizes stakeholder buy-in.

Moreover, cross-functional collaboration is essential to identify and understand operational pain points that AR can alleviate. Teams comprising various experts can collectively map key workflows and pinpoint high-risk activities, targeting AR solutions that yield significant returns on investment.

Such teams are also uniquely equipped to assess alternatives to AR. By considering the benefits and constraints of existing technologies against AR's potential, they ensure that the chosen technology is perfectly aligned with the company's challenges and goals.

Developing the right success metrics is a collaborative effort that requires input from various domains. Cross-functional teams can identify concrete goals and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that best reflect AR's impact, including both direct benefits and secondary gains like improved employee retention. This comprehensive approach ensures that all benefits identified in the business case are measured once AR is operational.

Adherence to emerging industry standards

Adherence to emerging industry standards is becoming increasingly important. By staying updated with the latest developments in the AR field, product managers can ensure that their products are compatible with other systems and meet the necessary privacy standards.

AR devices collect a wide range of personal data, such as location information, device usage data, and biometric data. This data can be used to track users, monitor their activities, and target them with advertising.

Here are some of the key privacy concerns associated with AR:

  • Data collection: AR devices collect a wide range of personal data, such as location information, device usage data, and biometric data. This data can be used to create detailed profiles of users and their activities.

  • Data sharing: AR companies often share user data with third-party companies, such as advertisers and data brokers. This data can be used for targeted advertising, or it could be sold to other companies.

  • Data security: AR devices are often connected to the internet, which makes them vulnerable to hacking and data breaches. If an AR device is hacked, attackers could gain access to sensitive user data.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that AR companies can take to address these privacy concerns.

  • Transparency: AR companies should be transparent about the data they collect and how they use it. They should also provide users with clear choices about how their data is shared.

  • Consent: AR companies should obtain user consent before collecting and using their data. This consent should be informed and voluntary.

  • Security: AR companies should implement strong security measures to protect user data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

  • Data minimization: AR companies should only collect the data that is necessary for the operation of their devices and services. They should also delete data that is no longer needed.

  • Data anonymization: AR companies should anonymize user data whenever possible. This will help to protect user privacy and reduce the risk of data breaches.

In addition to these steps, AR companies can also work with organizations to develop comprehensive privacy standards for AR. These standards should address the specific privacy concerns associated with AR technology.

The Metaverse Standards Forum is an organization that aims to foster interoperability standards for the metaverse, which is an expansive network of real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations. 

Given that the metaverse encompasses a broad spectrum of technologies, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), the forum's work is highly relevant to AR.

In the context of AR, the Metaverse Standards Forum focuses on ensuring that AR technologies can seamlessly integrate and operate within the broader metaverse ecosystem. This includes standardizing aspects like AR interfaces, 3D content creation, user interactions, and data privacy, which are essential for creating a unified and interoperable metaverse experience.

Real-world example: How Pokémon GO overcame AR Challenges

In product management, addressing hardware constraints is crucial for AR applications to deliver a smooth and realistic experience without causing user discomfort. High-quality hardware that supports complex processing and rendering tasks is essential. However, device capabilities vary, with some having limited battery life, memory, or sensors. 

Product managers can mitigate these issues by optimizing AR content for different platforms using engines like Unity or Unreal. Furthermore, leveraging cloud-based services or edge computing can offload computational tasks, enhancing device performance. 

Niantic's approach with "Pokémon GO" illustrates this strategy, optimizing content for diverse devices and utilizing cloud services for computational efficiency.

Pokemon Go

User Interaction: One of the key challenges in AR games is designing user interfaces and interactions that are intuitive, engaging, and accessible. In the case of Pokémon Go, the game overcame this challenge by introducing simple, intuitive controls. Users could catch Pokémon by simply pointing their smartphone camera at the Pokémon on the screen. The game also provided clear feedback to the user, such as visual and audio cues, to enhance the gaming experience.  

Crafting user interfaces and interactions for AR applications that are intuitive and engaging is crucial. Some AR apps require users to use gestures or voice commands that feel unnatural, potentially leading to discomfort or confusion. To address this, product managers can adopt established AR design principles like employing familiar symbols, ensuring clarity in user interactions, preventing visual obstruction, and facilitating multiple forms of input. Additionally, iterative testing with actual users, gathering their feedback, and analyzing data can significantly enhance the design and user experience.

Performance Optimization: AR games like Pokémon Go are often resource-intensive and demanding, as they need to process complex computer vision, graphics, and audio algorithms in real time. Pokémon Go overcame this challenge by optimizing its performance for different devices and platforms. The game ensured that it ran smoothly and efficiently on a variety of devices, from high-end smartphones to lower-end tablets.

For "Pokémon GO," Niantic used some of the core technologies that eventually evolved into Lightship, optimizing the game’s performance on both iOS and Android devices. This optimization was crucial in handling the game’s extensive AR features and maintaining a smooth user experience across various smartphone models and operating systems. However, Lightship as it is known today was not directly used in "Pokémon GO," as it was launched after the game's release. Instead, "Pokémon GO" utilized earlier iterations of the technology that would eventually become part of the Lightship ARDK.

Niantic Lightship is Niantic’s AR Developer Kit (ARDK), which provides developers with the tools and capabilities to build augmented reality experiences. Lightship includes features like real-world understanding, multiplayer experiences, and more.

The future of AR for Product Managers 

Overcoming these challenges is not just about improving the quality of AR products. It also opens new doors for AR applications. As the technology becomes more standardized and privacy concerns are addressed, we can expect to see a rise in the use of AR in various industries.

For product managers, this means that they will have more opportunities to innovate and create products that can have a significant impact. By staying ahead of the curve and continuously learning, they can ensure that their teams are equipped to tackle future challenges.

The recent launches of Meta's Quest 3 and Apple's Vision Pro are more than just product releases; they're a testament to the impending ubiquity of AR technology. For product managers and those in training, these devices represent tangible progress in addressing AR's current challenges. As these industry leaders advance AR capabilities, they set the stage for easier resolution of technical and usability hurdles. This progress is a clarion call for product managers to harness these innovations, ensuring they're at the vanguard of leveraging AR's full potential in the products of tomorrow.

In conclusion, while AR product management presents unique challenges, they can be overcome through innovative product design, cross-functional collaboration, adherence to industry standards, and embracing recent investments in the technology by major players. By doing so, product managers can ensure that they are creating products that are not only user-friendly and secure but also future-proof.

Updated: January 24, 2024

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