The study aims to explore effects of navigational augmented reality (AR) apps on the users’ perception of their surroundings, and to analyze in which ways these effects are enabled as well as limited by the performance of AR apps on currently available devices. To answer these questions, an exploratory quasi-experiment has been conducted, consisting of three groups of participants, each group differing in their method for obtaining location information as well as the frequency with which this information is consumed. Semistructured pre- and postexperiment interviews with participants, questionnaires that were filled out by the participants after every app usage, and expert interviews with navigational AR app developers are employed in combination with analyzing the effect of augmented reality on the user’s perception of space. Surprisingly, it was found that AR users actually became less aware of their surroundings than non-AR navigational app users. This is mainly due to the comparatively worse performance of AR apps on currently available smartphones: The overall quality regularly suffers from a cluttered and confusing presentation, leading to considerable amounts of time spent “deciphering” the layout and functionality of the presented results. Erratic result behavior, caused by frequent movement delays and unexpected lag of the virtual objects further decreases the quality of the overall experience. Finally, some initially unexpected issues related to the social acceptability of augmented reality app usage in public places were encountered during the experiment, which are explained by the physically very involved method of interacting with AR apps, namely having to point and hold the device into the direction information is being sought over. Nevertheless, augmented reality was found to have a number of distinct advantages over other navigational apps, namely the ability to improve the users’ understanding of proximity, directions, and spatial relations.

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Mobile Media and Communication
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Hofmann, S. (Sebastian), & Mosemghvdlishvili, L. (2014). Perceiving spaces through digital augmentation: An exploratory study of navigational augmented reality apps. Mobile Media and Communication, 2(3), 265–280. doi:10.1177/2050157914530700