In early June, Apple introduced its Apple Vision Pro and in doing so sent the technology world into a frenzy with two words: spatial computing. With spatial computing, the physical environment and the digital environment are one; rather than the user operating separately from their computing environment, they are placed inside of it.
Spatial computing has implications for how we live, work and play. For developers and other tech professionals specifically, it means new programming languages, platforms and tools. Spatial computing also means we must reconsider how we approach things like workspace design, collaboration, application development and multitasking.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the potential implications of spatial computing on software design and development. Specifically, we’ll explore the concept of infinite digital canvases; address the complexities of design adaptability; and consider the potential hurdles associated with collaboration in 3D spaces.
Infinite Canvas: Possibilities and Challenges
Spatial computing fundamentally reinvents the workspace by removing the constraints imposed by physical monitors.
This allows for limitless windows, adjustable to your precise requirements and spatial preferences. It also provides an immersive experience, removing distractions and allowing space for intense focus.
However, the immersive environment provided by spatial computing risks creating a degree of isolation from the physical environment, which may not always be ideal.
Moreover, if manufacturers successfully integrate experiences across all devices, the potential for distraction could increase. Notifications may no longer be limited to a subtle vibration or sound from your pocket or wrist, but could materialize right beside you in your visual field, demanding immediate attention.
The takeaway: Finding the right balance between immersion and awareness is vital.
UI/UX Design Considerations
As we transition to spatial computing, software engineers will need to rethink how to design and optimize applications. This shift necessitates a move from 2D to 3D design and interaction paradigms, demanding adaptability across mediums. For example, an app might have to be scalable from a watch-sized screen to a theater-sized display, without losing usability or aesthetic appeal.
The takeaway: Intuitive navigation systems and interaction cues will be more important than ever to maintain a seamless and engaging user experience. Get ready for a whole new frontier for UX and UI design!
Collaboration in Spatial Computing
Spatial computing has the potential to transform traditional methods of collaboration, like pair programming and screen sharing, due to the immersive and personalized nature of the workspace it creates, which may not easily translate to another’s perspective. On a positive note, necessity is the mother of invention (or so they say), so these challenges create opportunities for innovative new solutions. (We love innovation!)
Multi-Tasking, Efficiency and Workspace Management
Spatial computing may make multitasking easier, enabling spatial organization of apps and tasks in a manner previously impossible. This new way of organizing could impact efficiency in both positive and negative ways. For example, access to more information may boost productivity, or it may result in cognitive overload and distraction.
Similarly, spatial computing stands to radically transform workspace management. Traditional navigation methods will become redundant as we transition to spatial and gaze-based controls, requiring focus on optimal strategies for organizing and interacting within a three-dimensional workspace.
The takeaway: Thoughtful, disciplined design practices and user customization will be crucial to preventing potential pitfalls.
Comfort and Practicality for Extended Sessions
One of the biggest challenges for spatial computing will be ensuring user comfort over long periods of time. Prolonged use of hand gestures can lead to fatigue, and headsets can become uncomfortable over time. Thankfully, hardware and software product teams alike are already exploring alternative methods of interaction (voice commands, gaze-based interactions, integrations, etc.) to counterbalance potential issues, improve accessibility and increase engagement.
Adaptation and the Learning Curve
With any new technology, there is a learning curve. Developers and users will both need to adapt to the possibilities and constraints of spatial computing. For the end-user, this adaptation involves learning to navigate and manage a 3D workspace. For engineers, adaptation means learning how to design, develop and debug within a new realm. Challenging? Likely yes. Rewarding? Incredibly so. The key? Adjust, experiment and continually refine practices as we collectively explore the vast potential of spatial computing.
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