Case Study - Play and learning for the world of tomorrow

Youth today engage the world natively through the lens of the smartphone camera, from outdoor games to photo filters and augmented reality. A decade prior, we partnered with the Creative Learning Lab in Amsterdam to imagine new interactions for AR/VR, now used widely by museums worldwide.

Waag FutureLab


By 1965 Ivan E Sutherland (the "father of computer graphics") had already published his landmark dreams of "The Ultimate Display", which he imagined as a room within which virtual objects came truly to life. He would go on to develop the first head-mounted display system three years later, setting a course that would ultimately lead to Microsoft HoloLens, Apple Vision Pro, and of course the cultural landmark of Pokémon Go.

What we did

To design for the future, we need to first step into a vast world of imagined yet pragmatic possibilities. We need to understand market trends, patents, emerging technology, and above all the habits and relationships we have with our devices. Using all this, we then anticipate and empathize with the many cultures and cohorts of tomorrow.

Together with thought leaders in the space, we gathered at the Augmented City Lab and city-wide Frequency 1550 outdoor game event to do just this. Working beween New York and Amsterdam, our research was funded through an innovation award and grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Co-located at the Waag FutureLab for art and society, we ran a deep dive across mobile and headset technologies, with a careful eye towards usability and potential for widespread market adoption. We then hit the whiteboards and prototypes to explore new interaction design concepts. We ran outdoor play-tests with youth and research pilots at museums. To bring it all together, we published our findings and interface concepts in a digital report for use by the larger AR/VR community, helping to drive future research and ideation sessions.

  • Concept Development
  • Tech Canvas
  • Interaction Design
  • App Prototyping

How It Looked

Example interactions we conceptualized and tested:

  1. Guidelines: at your feet, find a virtual trail and moving arrows to guide your way turn-by-turn through a building or city
  1. Radial Reveal: when glancing at an object in augmented space, a radial menu appears around it to allow deep interaction
  1. Pop-up Data: while moving through a building or room, showcase charts and graphs to reveal energy usage, air quality or forces of gravity
  2. Hot & Cold: like a metal detector for game objects; a 3D scope and device vibration helps guide the user through the room to find a hidden item

Fast Forward

Modern examples now employ these techniques in widespread commercial and learning experiences:

Business Impact

For mainstream public, the future of spatial computing is just now coming to view. But through future design and prototyping, we helped explore these trends and design techniques over a decade early. Not only does this create competitive edge, it helps to inspire new and more human-centered visions of tomorrow and plan for greater inclusivity and access.

New Interface Patterns
Patents Reviewed
Play Tests

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    11222, NY, United States
  • Montreal
    4020 Rue St-Ambroise
    H4C 2E1, Quebec, Canada