Instagram AR/VR

Conceptualizing the future of social media 📷

Role

UX/UI Designer, Full Stack Dev, Prototyper

Duration

2 weeks

Team

1 (Just me!)

Tools
VR UX Figma Unity C#

Full Video

  YouTube Teaser

Overview

Social media provides us with the unique opportunity to socialize with one another from anywhere in the world. This medium of interaction satisfies our intrinsic needs of esteem and love/belonging in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As time goes on and technology evolves, the ways in which we can meet these needs must evolve too.

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As of now, some of the biggest players in the game are names such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, among many others. Of these, Instagram allows users to connect not by walls of text but by pure visual media. Through videos and pictures, anyone can see what their friends are up to in seconds. Instagram holds a very impressive track record for user engagement, but I believe it can be improved even further.

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Currently, Instagram offers little to no AR/VR support. Viewing the app in VR entails using the web app, which is not optimized for mixed reality interactions.

Instagram has done a great job introducing its wide user base to AR through the use of virtual AR lenses, but fully supporting VR and AR interactions can help them reach wider audiences, make social experiences more natural, and change the game.

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Approach

How can mixed reality improve social media?

Make it feel good

Instagram's appeal comes from its great user experience. Want to post a photo? Tap the plus sign. Want to explore? The magnifying glass is one click away. Instagram works because it feels natural. ​

Expanding how we interact with Instagram would require an overhaul of its visual design while maintaining a sense of familiarity. If users already know how to interact with the app, why change those interactions? Innovation and familiarity do not have to be exclusive. In fact, attending to both is crucial.

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Add key features

I didn't just want to redesign Instagram, but fundamentally change the way a user interacts with it. To do this, I found the features that make Instagram so usable, and looked for opportunities where these could be expanded to support mixed reality interactions.

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From these criteria, I redesigned the Instagram desktop app. Despite being mostly used on mobile, Instagram is still in the top 10 most visited websites, meaning a significant number of users view content in browser.

I made myself hyper-aware of the affinity mapping I had done for feature expansion when redesigning the interface. Doing this early on allowed me to design with a common visual style across three device types: AR on mobile, VR, and desktop.

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Augmented reality could enhance the user experience for Instagram by providing expanded screen real estate where there otherwise wouldn't be any.

By using devices such as AR glasses, users could view and manipulate multiple windows on desktop or mobile with the swipe of a finger. Such interactions would add coherence to the Instagram experience across devices and thereby eliminate user friction and pain points.

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Leveraging the power of XR

Mixed reality opens the door to natural interactions that just aren't possible on conventional displays. Users are suddenly given the freedom to use their hands to socially interact in much more fluid ways.

Users can move and resize windows with their fingers, or even from a distance with raycasted projections that mirror their movements. 3D photos can also be enjoyed in mixed reality like never before, since the user can experience the depth missing from a 2D screen. Even 3D models can be leveraged in extended reality settings, allowing users to interact with media in new and fun ways.

Reflection

Instagram AR/VR started off as a small consideration of the applications of mixed reality to social media and quickly turned into a passion project.

It allowed me to do some market research in the social space and address some of the pain points I myself experience when trying to use social avenues in virtual reality. This project allowed me to design and prototype a concept that feels truly fresh and relevant.

If you are interested in my work on this project, I would love to hear from you! Thanks for reading! 😃

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