Jon Kies Explores the Potential of the AREA Human Factors Committee

The work of the AREA is largely driven by its member committees: Research, Interoperability & Standards, Safety, Human Factors, Requirements, Marketing, and Security. Each of these groups is focused on activities that contribute to the development of knowledge about the adoption of enterprise AR and the practical implementation of AR use cases. For AREA members, participation in one or more of the AREA committees is an opportunity to share expertise, interact with other experts, and make a meaningful impact on the future of enterprise AR.

This is the fourth in a series of blog articles exploring the committees and their work. We spent some time talking recently with the Human Factors Committee Chair Jonathan Kies, Senior Director of User Experience at Qualcomm.

AREA: What does Human Factors in Augmented Reality encompass?

Kies: Human Factors is the study of humans, from both cognitive and physical perspectives. We investigate how humans interact with devices, applications, and services, and incorporate those insights into the design of systems. In the case of AR, it’s especially important because you may be wearing a device on your head, and interacting via an interface overlaid on the real world.  This is arguably one of the most challenging design problems.


AREA: Do we still have a lot to learn about the Human Factors implications of AR?

Kies: That’s absolutely the case. The technology is still evolving. Many current devices can’t be used for a significant amount of time. It’s going to get there, but there are some technical hurdles that need to be resolved. That’s why it’s super-important that human characteristics become part of the requirements and are factored into the device design process.


AREA: How much of our past user experience knowledge is relatable to AR, and how much is starting from scratch?

Kies: We’re not entirely starting from scratch. A lot of people in the field have experience designing for 2D interfaces like smartphones. But you then have to translate that to a spatial computing paradigm where everything is not only in 3D, but also superimposed on the real world. That’s unlike a smartphone or a PC, where the interface is primarily contained in a rectangle. That’s what makes AR enormously challenging compared to working with other computing platforms. But there has been a lot of research in AR and VR in the military and universities, so there’s a lot to glean from those areas, and established human-centered design processes are still relevant.


AREA: What’s your top priority for the AREA Human Factors Committee this year?

Kies: Our overriding goal is to identify and develop best practices to help ensure the best possible AR user experience. In pursuit of that goal, our number-one priority is to engage more with academic research labs – to invite them to share their findings with the AREA membership. They are often experimenting with or building the latest technologies and they’re learning a great deal from their studies. Another thing we’re discussing is compiling a set of unique human-centered design practices that are pertinent to AR systems. And of course, we always want to get more AREA members involved in the Committee.


AREA: What’s your pitch for why AREA members should get involved in the Human Factors Committee?

Kies: My bias is toward conversation. Having meetings that act as a forum where people can talk about the challenges they’re facing, the successes they’ve had, and just connect – that’s a compelling reason to participate. By participating in Human Factors Committee meetings, end-user members have an opportunity to hear about other members’ experiences and lessons learned and apply that knowledge to their own efforts. For AR solutions providers, it’s an opportunity to get direct feedback from the AR user community.  We also hope that concrete deliverables, like guidance on design, will enable AREA members to optimize their enterprise AR solutions for their target users.


It’s all about making connections and enabling dialogue – between users and providers, between the AR ecosystem and academic institutions – to everyone’s benefit. We’d like to build out a vibrant AR Human Factors community where people are learning from each other, contributing ideas, highlighting new discoveries, and finding solutions.


If you’re an AREA member and would like more information about joining the AREA Human Factors Committee, contact Jonathan Kies or AREA Executive Director Mark Sage. If you’re not yet an AREA member but interested in AR human factors and design, please consider joining; you can find member information here.


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