Ten principles for businesses designing a metaverse – Metaverse

When organisations are envisioning their own metaverse, there are 10 principles they should have in mind, according to Forrester.

David Truog, VP principal analyst at Forrester breaks down the 10 principles for extended reality (XR) design organisations should focus on now when imagining human-centered design experiences for their customers in the metaverse.

The principles are as follows:

  1. Designing virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality experiences spans a continuum.
  2. 3D experience design can target many devices, from smartphones to headsets.
  3. Not all XR experiences should be immersive; many should be ambient instead.
  4. XR design requires expanding from two degrees of user movement to six.
  5. XR requires architecting how users will traverse from place to place.
  6. Designing XR UIs requires complex decisions about mechanics still in flux.
  7. XR design requires graduating from users as cursors to users as avatars.
  8. Access control for private spaces is essential to XR experience design.
  9. XR lets designers equip users with virtual superpowers.
  10. Designing XR experiences requires experiencing XR.

Fusion

Virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) trick the human brain into fusing stimuli from the physical environment with stimuli that are artificially generated. Truog said when designers are creating metaverses this needs to be in the back of their mind to have the right mix of VR, AR and MR experiences.

Depth

Truog explained that designing XR experiences requires mastering perspective and occlusion for 3D visuals. The same applies to the auditory aspects of the experience, which can also be spatialised.

He uses an example, “If a user listens to a presenter facing them at an event in AltspaceVR but then turns their head to the left, the presenter’s voice will instantly seem to be coming from their right instead of in front of them.”

Attention

When planning a metaverse or XR, designers should be intentional about how much attention users want or need to devote to what they are designing — don’t assume it should be immersive.

Truog said, “Unfortunately, many vendors of XR technology and services use the words “immersion” and “immersive” indiscriminately, as though every XR experience should involve a feeling of being completely absorbed in the virtual — despite the many counterexamples.”

Freedom

XR experiences give users six degrees of freedom: both along three axes (left/right, forward/backward, and up/down) and around those axes (changing the orientation of their gaze). Truog said XR experiences require designing spaces and objects that factor in the ways users virtually move and gaze.

Locomotion

XR experiences also let users move instantly from one place to another, such as when a Spatial user goes from their “home space” to one of the platform’s many art gallery spaces (like when you click a link on a web page to go to another page).

Truog said, “In XR lingo, this is called portaling. Designers’ information architecture expertise helps them decide where and how to create portals, but they also need to borrow design principles from physical architecture for gradual locomotion.

“Currently, no XR experience lets you do this between spaces created by separate organisations (like when you’re on a website and you click a link to a page in a different domain). In XR lingo, this is called metatraversal — and there will be no metaverse until metatraversal is possible.”

Interaction

XR experiences, navigating spaces and manipulating objects require new behaviors like gliding, raycasting, gazing and dwelling, pinching to select, and using wrist rotation to summon a menu, these are unfamiliar to users and furthermore can differ depending on the XR experience.

Truog said eventually one of the major XR platform providers will exercise industry thought leadership by laying out a set of well-designed interaction mechanics.

“Some developers will protest just as some did then, but the resulting influx of users will grow the market for all involved. Until one of the major providers steps up to this challenge, you’ll need to make educated guesses about which interaction mechanics will become established and widely familiar — and test with users more than ever,” he said.

Presence

In XR, position and movement are in virtual spaces instead of virtual documents, and presence is often indicated by an animated character — or an avatar. Using animated characters is skeuomorphic and, according to Jared Ficklin, partner and chief creative technologist at argodesign, “skeuomorphism is not the route.”

Ficklin emphasised the importance of thinking critically not only about ergonomics and technical capabilities but also about the metaphors we use as organising systems for experiences. XR design involves deciding to what extent users will perceive themselves and others virtually — and how.

Permission

XR spaces can be either private or completely public.

Truog said, “When you decide on a space’s XR information architecture — what portals it should contain and where they should lead — you need to decide whether any user can access the portal or if they need a specific permission profile or authentication credentials for access.”

Magic

When designing XR experiences, designers usually need to strike a balance when deciding on the physics.

“Boost the believability of the illusion while also choosing when to deviate from the way the physical world behaves — giving users what are sometimes called ‘superpowers’ — to make the experience more useful,” Truog said.

Empiricism

XR experiences are very different from familiar digital experiences. Truog said, “Don’t trust your own enthusiasm or skepticism about XR unless you’ve experienced it enough to form an opinion rooted in observation, not speculation. Apply the same filter to the enthusiasm or skepticism of colleagues, customers, partners, analysts, journalists, survey respondents, and research study participants.

“Gather solid evidence about the XR experiences you design by testing them with real users — you don’t need to bring people into a lab to do this,” he added.


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