Design patterns for Immersive Tech

Augmented Reality patterns

Interactive hotspots: coloured dots

User goals

The user needs to know if something in their visual field is interactive or has hidden information


There are many ways to indicate something is interactive. In this pattern we’ll look at one of the simplest ways, which involves using a coloured dot to indicate where the user can interact:

  • The user looks around the environment
  • Objects that are interactive have a permanently visible brightly coloured dot on or just above them
  • The dot should not be particularly large as this pattern needs to work even when there are many interactive objects. It’s more important to be precise about the items each dot refers to than to be large. As a relative real world reference it should be between a golf ball and a tennis ball size.
  • The dot needs to be placed at the appropriate z-depth to match the object it refers to.
  • The dot can also be a pulsating colour rather than completely static, which increases visibility
  • Usually as the cursor nears the dot, the dot may start to expand in response. This is a type of fusing based on proximity
  • Once the cursor is on the dot, the dot should become larger and change appearance to signify t’s ready to be triggered.
  • The user then uses the standard triggering mechanism for the app or platform to open the additional information.


  • It’s very simple
  • It takes up little space so is relatively non-intrusive and works well even when multiple interactive objects are in view


  • It’s not clear what information will be available. The user needs to trigger the interaction to find out. It could be possible to expand the target and show some top level info to disclose purpose when the cursor hovers over the target.
  • It relies on visual proximity to the object. In some cases there maybe ambiguity about what the dot is actually associated with (e.g. if there are many objects next to each other)

Linked to: Targeting with gaze


Alibaba VR shopping app: principle applies to AR