At Zappar our interest in AR has always been about using the technology to help solve specific user problems. Over the past year, we’ve seen a rise in the number of use cases and ZapWorks users experimenting with AR to solve unique business problems, with amazing results.
To chat through some of these concepts, AR’s problem-solving ability and the challenges faced when starting a business, I sat down with Stian Johansen, fitness fanatic, UX Director, ZapWorks user and founder of WOD.52.
Stian Johansen, UX Director and founder of WOD.52
DM: Hi Stian, tell me a little bit about yourself, background and your product WOD.52
SJ: My name is Stian Johansen and I live in Norway. I work as Creative Director in Telenor for a cloud storage app, Capture. I have a sports background as a volleyball and beach volleyball athlete. After my volleyball career, I wanted to keep fit and found CrossFit.
WOD.52 is a deck of cards you use to create an efficient workout in seconds. It's a perfect way of creating a workout when travelling, working out at home or at a regular gym.
The name WOD.52 is simply an acronym for 'Workout of The Day', and 52 because there are 52 cards in a deck.
DM: How did the idea for WOD.52 come about?
SJ: I travel a lot for work and had to do my workouts at different poorly equipped hotel gyms. The problem was that making up an efficient workout was very hard. I ended up doing the same things over and over again and the quality of my workouts was quickly diminishing.
I solved this problem by drawing some cards that I could shuffle and create a workout. It worked great and I used the cards on several trips. Using the Lean Startup Methodology, we developed the hand-drawn cards into WOD.52 and launched it at our CrossFit gym.
DM: Why did you decide to incorporate AR into your business model?
SJ: After we launched, we observed and user tested customers using WOD.52. We quickly discovered a common problem. Most people didn't know how to perform 6 to 12 of the 24 Movements.
Their solution was to ask someone, Google it, or draw another card. We wanted a quick solution that was directly connected to the cards.
We thought that AR could be the solution and I discovered ZapWorks using Google. We made a simple prototype, tested on some existing customers and the response was incredible.
Our users also got that “WOW” effect from scanning and using the AR-enabled cards. This meant we could use this newly created feature as a selling point for new potential customers.
We’ve just been testing the first production-ready AR decks and they work great.
DM: How do you think AR uniquely solved your problem?
SJ: In a regular gym I see people doing movements wrong all the time, which can very easily lead to injury. Many gyms don’t have staff so you can’t ask for guidance and AR is great for giving you guidance in the moment. Just scan the equipment you’re going to use and you can get an instructional video, a brief description and some useful links to check on your progress.
DM: That’s a great use case. How important would you say it is for AR and other technologies to solve real user problems?
SJ: There’s a lot of buzz around AR and I’ve seen a lot of cool demos and concepts. Common for all of them is that they generate a “WOW” effect, but I haven’t seen many that actually help users solve problems. If a new technology is hard to use or doesn’t solve a real user problem, it won't stick.
DM: As a UX designer yourself, how do you think AR is enabling you and others to solve new problems and push boundaries right now?
SJ: The unique thing about AR is context. UX designers are now able to provide the right information at the right time about a particular object. Say you enter a gym and set your user profile to female, beginner level with a goal of gaining muscle. You scan a pull-up bar and get information on recommended scaled workouts, reps and sets. Being able to tailor the AR experience according to user profile opens up a lot of possibilities.
And the best part is that you can achieve this with a device that you carry around all day (your smartphone), not some expensive headset or glasses.
DM: What advice would you give to other UX/UI designers wanting to dabble in AR?
SJ: Just give it a try and look at the possibilities. I promise you that ideas on use cases will start popping up. Also, start with the problem first, and decide whether AR is a good fit before working up the concept.
DM: That’s great advice. Let’s talk about creating and building the experiences seen on the WOD.52 cards. What was your workflow?
SJ: When I first tested ZapWorks I downloaded Studio and dived right into programming. After a day of testing, I realised that the web-based Designer would solve my needs. I only needed to show a video with an alpha mask and some indicators on the level of mobility, strength and endurance needed.
The indicators I designed in Sketch and exported as PNGs. The videos were a bit more complicated. First, we shot a video of each movement, then we contacted a 3D artist and asked him to make a 3D model to use for the videos.
We had already designed the 2D version of the model as part of the initial WOD.52 design process. He made the 3D model in a couple of days and it looked exactly the way we wanted. Then he made the 24 3D animations using our videos as a guidance/backdrop. Some movements are pretty complicated and have forward motion, but after some iterations, we got them right.
DM: Where did you find the 3D artists? What advice would you give to other ZapWorks users looking for freelancers to collaborate with on an AR project?
SJ: I hired a 3D artist using fiverr.com. I posted a detailed request and got approx 30 answers. I hired the one with the best portfolio for a small test and he delivered good quality renders in the time agreed upon.
I then gave him the full order and out of 24 videos we only had to adjust four of them. This is the first time I’ve used fiverr.com and it was surprisingly easy.
My tip for others would be to hire two or three of your chosen creatives to do a small task so you can test their work without committing any serious time or money. You can then select your favourite freelancer to continue the project with great results!
DM: Once all the assets had been delivered, how long did it take to pull the full experience together?
SJ: Once I had the videos and the indicators it only took a couple of hours to make the Zaps. I exported the zapcodes, put them on the cards and ordered another print from our factory in Hong Kong.
All in all, it took us two weeks to get everything right.
DM: Where can people find out more and buy a deck of WOD.52 for themselves?
SJ: You can head straight to www.wod52.com to check out the cards themselves. However, we haven’t started selling the AR version yet, we need to empty our store of the old ones first.
They'll be available shortly!
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