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What I Learned Designing My First AR App




This winter, I designed my first app in augmented reality (AR) to help my company, Lextech, understand Apple’s ARKit’s capabilities. In my experience as a UX designer at Northwestern’s Knight Lab , I was aware of emerging best practices in AR, but had never designed in it myself.

Designing for AR has radically different requirements than typical mobile app design, and in my case, it was up to me to find the right tools and questions to shape the experience effectively. As the developer on my team explored object recognition with ARKit, I explored popular AR apps and tools to design in AR. In one day, I downloaded over 10 new apps to test. I explored how Pokemon Go utilized AR and played with 4 tools to design in AR.

Taking a video to mimic the in app experience

Discussing what the developer would need to build our app in ARKit guided my direction for this project. Many tools out there help designers build functioning AR experiences on their own, but that was not going to be the best use of my time. Instead of building a full working prototype on my own, I’d be more effective if I focused on explaining the general direction and creating 3D assets he could use. Had my project goals been different, a tool like WiARframe or Torch might have been effective, but those tools are more focused on building out the interactions than providing complex 3D assets.

Prototyping for AR – WWDC 2018 – Videos – Apple Developer

Low Fi Prototyping for AR

With the new goal in mind, I started with my camera and paper. Inspired by the video above, I had a friend film as I moved paper to imitate buttons. This helped me answer basic questions such as “What buttons would I expect to see in this experience?” and “What do they do when I move my phone?” Paper was extremely helpful in understanding how 2D elements would move in a 3D space, so having a second set of hands rotate paper buttons towards the camera as it moves was critical.

When I didn’t have another person to hold paper, I used Keynote to quickly overlay objects over a video. I would make buttons and animate them to move as the video moved to test different interactions. Throughout my process, I routinely came back to both pen and paper and Keynote to test design changes before building the assets in Figma.

A screen shot from a video I made in Keynote while exploring the app’s basic functionality.

In addition to using tools differently for low-fidelity prototypes, I found myself asking different questions. A user’s surroundings became even more important because they not only created the context for using the app, but would appear on screen. How a person might hold their phone or tablet, what they might be aiming it at, and how they might move it while using the app were things I paid particular attention to.

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Learning How to Edit 3D Models

The interactions in our demo were fairly simple — we needed to expand pieces of a 3D model and rotate them. Instead of focusing on designing stellar interactions, I prioritized finding and editing a detailed model of phone hardware to highlight the potential of AR to see what’s under the hood of a machine. Since none of the 3D prototyping tools had an existing model of phone hardware, I searched sites like CGTrader to purchase a 3D model.

After testing the model in the app, it was clear the model needed editing. Some parts had colors or textures that weren’t visible in ARKit. In addition, I had to group the parts to allow users to select different pieces of the model. There are many options for editing 3D models, including Autodesk 3DS and SketchUp. I used Autodesk Maya, mostly because I had the easiest time opening my files in Maya.

Maya is traditionally used for making and animating 3D models. It provided a lot of flexibility, despite being complicated to learn. Relying on Autodesk YouTube videos, figuring out how to edit an object in Maya was by far the most difficult part of the process for me. Between the unfamiliar software and foreign file types, it took a lot of back and forth with my developer to understand the best ways to utilize Maya. There were times when I thought I had fixed a problem, only to realize I saved it incorrectly or moved a part to make the whole model completely unusable in ARKit.

A screenshot in Maya with annotations for the features I used frequently: selecting an object, grouping objects, rotating objects, and changing their color and texture.

As with any design project, communication was the most important part of the project. The top 3 conversations my team discussed to keep the project progressing smoothly from the design side were:

  1. What happens once I move my phone? Just as with any design project, most of my focus was making sure my team had good communication about what we envisioned in the product. The biggest way these conversations differed from most projects was ensuring we were all on the same page about what happened when things moved in 3D space. Here’s where pen and paper and Keynote went a long way with aligning my team.
  2. What assets do you need? Where are you at now? These questions were another way of getting on the same page as my developer and allowed me to understand what the biggest gaps were that I needed to fill in. These questions made me realize that focusing on an accurate, usable model would be more helpful than building out every interaction in an AR prototyping tool.
  3. What file types can you use? Are you able to open this new file? This question was a lifesaver when it came to figuring out what problems I ran into when learning Maya. Making sure the new file worked well was also critical, because it would often alert me of a new issue in the file I wasn’t aware of before. Because the developer and I were working with the models in different software, I had to ensure that whatever he was seeing matched what I saw.

These questions allowed me to continue making progress as he figured out to recognize an object in AR Kit, which also was not an easy task.

In mobile design, you have to understand a person’s surroundings to create a great experience. This is so much more true for AR experiences, where the surrounding becomes a part of the app. AR has the potential to truly push boundaries of how apps can take advantage of their contexts and keep users focused on their surroundings.

However, to get to that point, new skill sets must be added to the field of experience design. Low fidelity prototype will include a whole new set of methods to learn about 3D space. 3D modeling will start showing up on some UX job descriptions. And I’m excited to see where these skill sets take the world of experience design in AR.

Screen shot of our 3D model in app

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What I Learned Designing My First AR App was originally published in AR/VR Journey: Augmented & Virtual Reality Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



I Disagree With Armostrong: Ripple CEO on Coinbase Apolitical Policy



Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse is the latest popular individual to criticize the apolitical approach recently taken by the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. Just the opposite, Ripple has offered employees paid time off to vote and volunteer in the upcoming US Presidential elections.

Ripple CEO Disagrees With Coinbase CEO

Brian Armstrong, the Chief Executive Officer of the veteran US-based digital asset platform Coinbase, raised lots of controversies recently after a blog post. He argued that his company should remain laser-focused on its mission to ascend as a cryptocurrency exchange and its employees need to avert from any political discussions or endeavors.

This so-called “apolitical” approach received reactions from people within and outside of the cryptocurrency space. Most, such as Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, criticized Armstrong’s actions.

The latest to join the “I don’t agree with Armstrong bandwagon” is Brad Garlinghouse – the CEO of the payment protocol Ripple. He asserted that technology companies have the “obligation” to assist with solving social issues.

“We think about our mission as enabling an internet of value, but we seek positive outcomes for society. I think tech companies have an opportunity – but actually an obligation – to lean into being part of the solution.”

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse. Source: Fortune
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse. Source: Fortune

He called some of these social problems “exacerbated” by the tech sectors. As such, Ripple has decided to take the precisely opposite approach. The Silicon Valley-based company will offer its employees paid time off to volunteer and vote in the upcoming US Presidential elections.

It’s worth noting that Coinbase has seen at least 5% of its staff leaving following Armstrong’s apolitical urge. The exchange offered “generous exit packages” to all that disagreed with its politics.

Garlinghouse On The Ongoing YouTube Legal Battle

As CryptoPotato reported in April, Ripple filed a lawsuit against the most widely used video-sharing platform – YouTube. Ripple claimed that the Google-owned giant hadn’t done enough to fight the growing number of fake giveaways impersonating company executives and duping thousands and thousands of dollars from victims.

During the CNBC interview, Garlinghouse used the opportunity to criticize YouTube and its lack of appropriate actions once more. He doubled-down that Ripple doesn’t do such giveaways, and people need to be extremely cautious when they see one, even if it’s on a trusted platform.

“We didn’t need to do that [giveaways]; it doesn’t help Ripple. But what it highlights is that platforms need to take ownership of the problems they are contributing to.”

Featured Image Courtesy of VOX


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The PayPal Effect: Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya And Libra’s Chief Believe Banks Will Support Bitcoin



PayPal’s decision to enable its users to interact with cryptocurrencies directly on its platform continues to attract popular individuals’ attention. The latest to acknowledge the significance of this move were the Head of Facebook Financial, David Marcus, and Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya.

Banks Will Follow PayPal, Says Marcus

Arguably the most significant piece of news recently came last week when the giant online payment processor PayPal announced it will soon enable its US-based customer to purchase, sell, and store several cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. Clients based outside the US will have this option available next year.

Apart from the immediate price reaction the news had on the cryptocurrency market, the community also accepted the announcement as a significantly bullish development.

In fact, most believe that this is just the beginning, and more centralized and trusted establishments, such as banks, will follow suit. Co-creator and board member of Facebook’s future cryptocurrency Libra, David Marcus, also weighed in on the news.

He asserted that the cryptocurrency industry is “turning a corner” as banks will pursue Bitcoin and stablecoins support.

Bitcoin Is No Longer Optional

Another famous individual to comment on the PayPal developments was the Social Capital CEO and former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya.

Being also a vocal supporter of Bitcoin, Palihapitiya, similarly to Marcus, highlighted that “every major bank is having a meeting about how to support Bitcoin. It’s no longer optional…”

Palihapitiya recently said that his first BTC purchase came at the start of the previous decade. He bought one million bitcoins for $80. Later on, he outlined the primary cryptocurrency as his best investment bet.

Social Capital’s CEO has also urged the public numerous times to allocate at least 1% of their investment portfolio in Bitcoin. He said that having such allocation helps him sleep “soundly at night.”

He also advised that people should avert from short-term price actions. Instead, he focuses on the long-term, knowing that Bitcoin’s fundamentally different attributes will protect him against the falling current financial infrastructure.


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BTC Price Analysis: Bitcoin Weakens As Wall Street In Deep Red, Is $14K Target Intact?



Bitcoin’s price remains stuck under the key 0.618 Fibonacci level at $13,360 going into this week after little bullish momentum arrived during the opening of the US traditional markets. Wall Street, meanwhile, is painted in red.

Over shorter timeframes, it’s clear that the general sentiment is still bullish as the leading asset continues to print higher lows. However, trading volumes are beginning to decline, and there’s a growing divergence between the RSI and price action, which suggests things may turn bearish soon.

Since the Paypal news broke on October 21, over $33 billion has flooded back into the crypto space and helped the leading asset’s market dominance break back over 61% for the first time since August 2, 2020.

Price Levels to Watch in the Short-term

On the weekly BTC/USD chart, we can see that the main resistance area (red shaded zone) standing in the way of Bitcoin right now is the aforementioned Fibonacci level and the June 24, 2019 high at $13,950.

This top price point also overlaps with the upper resistance of the broadening wedge pattern (yellow lines) that BTC has been tracking inside of since April 27, which makes it a particularly strong level for bulls to overcome.

If momentum picks up again, however, and bulls manage to set a new 490+-day high, then the next likely areas of resistance will probably lie somewhere around the psychological $14K mark, the $14,400 level, and $14,600.

If the strong bearish divergence on the 4-hour timeframe plays out (light blue lines), we should expect the first area of support at the 50 EMA at $12,600, followed by the first major support zone (green shaded area) between $12,300 and $11,950. Under that, we also have the 0.5 Fibonacci level at $11,400 and the support line of the broadening wedge pattern approximately around $11K to catch any dips if prices decline further.

Total market capital: $401 billion
Bitcoin market capital: $243 billion
Bitcoin dominance: 60.5%

*Data by Coingecko.

Bitstamp BTC/USD Weekly Chart

bitcoin trading
BTC/USD chart via Tradingview.

Bitstamp BTC/USD 4-Hour Chart

Bitcoin trading BTC
BTC/USD chart via Tradingview.

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Disclaimer: Information found on CryptoPotato is those of writers quoted. It does not represent the opinions of CryptoPotato on whether to buy, sell, or hold any investments. You are advised to conduct your own research before making any investment decisions. Use provided information at your own risk. See Disclaimer for more information.

Cryptocurrency charts by TradingView.


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