Sustainable Ux in VR Needs Prototyping Tools

I’ve recently been asked to create Ux mockups/prototypes which incorporate aspects of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), lumped as Mixed Reality (MR) or everything (XR). The problem?

The world of Ux is not connected to the world of 3D authoring, modeling, game programming. The current XR world mostly ignores Ux.

In turn, the VR industry seems content to use authoring tools, interfaces, and design strategies foreign to the Ux model, and has a culture that is intimidating to the average Uxer. Do you really expect someone who’s spent years training with Sketch or Xd to spend a few more years learning Maya? Comeon. This means Ux thinking is lacking in the industy.

Finally, Ux tools like Sketch have utterly ignored 3D models. The lame support for 3D in Sketch reminds me of the (equally lame) 3D support in Adobe Flash. These are REALLY “flat” tools. They’ve kept Uxers from thinking in 3D.

The result? We get VR content which is endless retreads of either zombie shooters (gamer design paradigm) or Second Life (MMOG social paradigm). Predictably, most people aren’t interested, and there is no mass market for XR. We are totally missing the functional, practical, customer-centric model that is imparted by Ux in this space – and Ux is what makes the mobile and desktop web incredibly useful and functional relative to VR and AR.

So, how do we get more Ux into VR? In my opinion, there needs to be tools for creating XR that allow the existing Ux community to migrate into XR without a massive learning curve or cultural hostility. Yes, I said that. It’s a rare Uxer  that wouldn’t feel intimidated by the current VR/AR design and development world.

  1. Gamer/animator culture using 3D authoring tools intimidates Uxers
  2. Massive learning curve for 3D tools (keep out the rifraff)
  3. An anti-Ux mindset, focusing on “features” or “gameplay”
  4. Workflow encourages artist-centric, top-down design instead of the user-centric design
  5. Workflow is also completely different from Ux workflow, and can’t be integrated except by force

Cultural Clash

 UXer Life
Uxer VR Beast

In my opinion, this is NOT something forced by going to 3D. It’s culture, and it is reducing sustainability of Ux and the emerging XR world as we move into new interfaces.

Recently, I discovered a tool, Protopie ( that shows some promise for bridging the gap.

Image result for protopie

Protopie is an unusual prototyping tool in that it supports smartphone sensors. That is, you author your mockup in a visual IDE that can include Adobe Xd or Sketch, but the resulting prototype isn’t just a “click-through” prototype – it supports smartphone compass, tilt sensors, sound sensors, 3D touch, phone-phone messaging, and more.

However, Protopie works just like other Ux tools (with a better IDE), so it won’t scare Uxers off like 3D tools do.

A quick experiment with a low-resolution mockup for an app I’m developing convinced me that AR “lookaround” mockups aren’t that hard.

And, if a future version Prototpie adds a “camera” container showing the camera stream as a background, AR mockups will be downright easy.

The potential here is obvious. If you go to a big Ux meeting and begin talking about VR and AR, everyone is interested. But very few are brave enough to even try existing 3D development systems, much less fight to inject Ux values into 3D app design against “gameplay” models. But they’ll be happy to try Protopie.

WebVR (now WebXR) is the obvious way to develop Ux prototypes for the XR world, since Ux tools typically output a web-based version.

I’ve made a deck describing Ux in VR analysis with Protopie you can check here

Here’s my earlier “Sustainable Ux in VR” deck

Finally, why we need Ux… we need to develop “casual” VR and AR models, instead of the (largely failed) “immersive” VR and AR model. That model will restrict the XR world to the hardcore gamer and MMOG fanatic forever. The upcoming Ready Player One movie will only make the disappointment even greater.

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