Case study

Guided Travel Using
AR and Voice

Reimagining travel experiences using Focals by North smart AR glasses and Amazon Alexa.

A pioneer in wearable tech, North has been spearheading innovative yet practical applications of their industry leading AR smart glasses technology for nearly a decade. Myplanet partnered with North to reimagine the travel experience using their Focals smart glasses in a way that would allow users to access information they want and need, without disrupting their activities.

 

  • Design research & persona development
  • UX & content strategy
  • Interface & user experience design
  • Native and hybrid mobile applications
  • Multimodal conversational interfaces
  • Early product validation
  • Prototyping
  • Agile software development
The Challenge

With nearly ten years of experience in wearable tech, North is a category leader known for creating stylish and functional smart AR glasses. Myplanet teamed up with North to explore how enhancing the user experience through voice activation could open new opportunities for market growth and increase user adoption.

Together we determined that travel—with its well-known barriers to entry and need for lightweight, portable solutions—could be a perfect fit for North’s Focals smart glasses. From navigating foreign streets to ordering a coffee, a voice and AR solution could offer travelers an easy entry into what might be an otherwise challenging experience.

The Strategy

Following a research deep-dive into a full range of travel experiences—from trip booking to regional exploration to which kinds of travelers would be interested in an AR solution and why—Myplanet ran an intensive design studio with the team from North to further narrow the scope of focus for the experience.

Research indicated that travelers not only want to feel like they’re having an authentic experience, but they want to look authentic too. The standard trappings of a tourist (travel books, maps, and cameras) became key areas of focus for a smart AR glasses solution. However, the lack of a front-facing camera and the current limitations of GPS meant a tour guide experience with no pre-set boundaries or parameters would be an untenable solution. The team ultimately landed on a guided tour experience with specific points of interest outlined, to give travelers a fully independent option for exploration.

We believe the best technology is there when you need it, invisible when you don’t, and can be part of your everyday life. Focals smart glasses are a great solution for this kind of intelligent guided tour scenario.

Walter Hermsen, VP Product, North

We conducted a second research spike focusing on technical implementation and viability, looking at both the creation of a native Focals app and a possible integration with an Amazon Alexa multimodal experience. We selected the multimodal approach, which allowed us to incorporate voice for a more natural user flow for travelers.

The Solution

Using a mix of heuristics and in-depth industry research to establish a proto-persona, we built out our traveler journey. With the outline of a guided tour in place, we quickly built a lo-fi demo and began iteration. Exploring the twin design spaces of AR and conversational UI, we also indentified pivotal points in the journey where gamification and socialization could enhance the experience and make it a richer, more fulfilling solution for travelers.

Since voice offers a natural entry point for users, we built on Amazon Alexa to engage the AR experience through voice activation. Each conversation string was carefully written to guide the user through the tour with ease, relying on simple yes/no responses that address the realities of noisy urban streets and the desire to remain inconspicuous as a traveler. Additional insights from our AR research determined the need for an at-a-glance approach to info display. Too much text to read took users out of the moment, making them look and feel conspicuous as foreigners. Accordingly, each element of the display was made as succinct as possible.

And finally, universal translation—an early concept we explored—was quickly set aside in favour of more practical, context-relevant scenarios. By pulling out the key moments of interaction and struggle that would make a significant difference for travelers we were able to create a communication function with actual utility for users. Identifying those moments also led to additional insights around how social elements could supercharge the experience or how gamification could be used as a breadcrumb to encourage engagement. Tokens, in person meet-ups, and location-specific discounts were all explored as potential add-ins to the guided tour experience.

Outcome & Next Steps
A multimodal experience using nascent technologies in both voice and AR brings a lot of complexity to the table. Both the hardware and the software are in rapid stages of growth, and as they continue to evolve our approaches will as well. Key areas of risk and implementation challenges were identified, laying out a roadmap for potential product development for North down the line.

Our focus for Phase 1 was to explore a multimodal voice + AR solution: to unearth where both the risks and the rewards would be down the line as these technologies continue to evolve.

Greg Fields, Managing Director, Myplanet Ventures