When designing live mixed reality events where augmented reality and virtual reality blend to create artistic experiences, many things can go wrong. Hardware can fail, software can glitch, and the ever-present stress is prone to causing human error. And while you can be careful and plan for every contingency, live events that rely on technology are rarely issue-free — something will always go wrong. But with a solid risk management checklist, you can minimize issues and decrease their severity.
We’ve worked out the best practices below during a live event we hosted at Infinity Festival 2022 with our _Yond experience built in six weeks.
One User = One Support Person
We knew that the experience itself required a relaxed but curious state of mind. Technical issues would quickly spoil this mindset. To make sure that a problem was solved quickly, we assigned one support person to each user.
Whenever a tech issue happened or a person simply needed assistance, there was always someone readily available to help. Of course, this is hardly scalable advice for bigger events, but the more tech support people you have at the event, the better the user experience.
Multiple Devices at Hand
Although there were only two people taking part in the experience at any given time, we had four additional devices ready. This was extremely helpful when a device crashed and, instead of rebooting and reconfiguring, we could simply hand the user a “fresh” device with the experience already running. This significantly reduced the potential negative user experience.
To improve the process of device handling, set up a process for arranging the devices in a pre-defined order. Then when users enter the event briefly explain what is what. Have an additional person who checks, restarts, and cleans the devices.
Gradual Introduction into the Experience
For the _Yond event, we created a portal that helped ease people into the experience. It gave people the ability to look back through the portal, and that they could only see AR in the "mirror" of the portal. Most people even left _Yond walking backward. This underlined the feeling of being able to access and exit the VR freely, more naturally.
Matching Visual Assets
To further enhance the experience for the user, the physical space where a person started their journey was arranged in patterns and colors that matched the virtual world. People appreciated the immersion. They started in a room with a wallpaper, then slowly geared for VR in augmented reality, and only then faced VR full-on.
To maximize the “wow effect,” play around with onboarding, the scenery, and the blending of worlds and contexts.
Assessing Guardian Zone Uncertainties (With Quest Devices)
At the start of the experience, some people played with the Guardian (the safe zone in Quest to prevent injury). But if a user wasn’t familiar with the Quest device, they didn’t know what the Guardian was, which didn’t provide a sense of safety at all.
How to set the Guartian zone so that it is safe but does not spoil the experience? Turn off the Guardian effect (the mesh) and leave the safety protection, which turns on complete pass-through when a user leaves the play area.
Balancing Performance with Graphics Quality
With XR experiences that depend on the visuals, it might be tempting to put a lot of emphasis on keeping that high quality. However, Quest devices have limited computing power. In other words, complex patterns and high-quality visuals can put a strain on performance, leading to potential pixelation, screen jumping, and jittery effects.
That’s why you should score visual objects present in the experience according to their importance. Those objects that are the core elements of the experience can retain their high quality. But with less important elements, you can play around with quality, proportion, and size to save the visual experience and still find a clever way to save performance.
Key Takeaways for Designing Successful XR Blended Experiences
The best practices outlined above can significantly improve the user experience and help you peacefully navigate the live event. And while it may not be possible to plan for every contingency, careful planning and preparation can go a long way in creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for all attendees.
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