Design patterns for Immersive Tech

Virtual Reality patterns

Movable menu panel

User goal

Be able to place an interactive panel in a particular location in space (i.e. move it to where it’s needed)

Have the panel options remain in the desired spot until I’m done using it (i.e. I can place a menu where it’s convenient, not getting in the way and where I know I can find it and easily see it when I need it)


Sometimes the user needs to open a menu or access particular features and they will need the options to be available fairly persistently until they are finished with the current task. On option covered in another pattern involves attaching a menu to the controller. However, sometimes there is a need to decouple the menu panel from the hand, for example if the user needs to use both hands for a task, but needs to be able to see information directly in front of them, or where a menu panel attached to the hand/ controller would get in the way of the task. In this case the user may want to place the menu panel in a specific spot and have it stay there indefinetely.

  • The user triggers the menu panel to appear in some way (e.g. by pressing a controller button or making a selection from another menu screen they are in)
  • Alternatively the menu panel may always be there, a feature of the environment, but it’s under the user’s control to move it whenever desired
  • The panel is usually a flat 2D menu
  • The user can use their hand (e.g. if visualised like for Oculus Rift) or a griping tool to pick up the panel and move it around
  • When the user releases the panel it stays in that location. It does not fall under gravity (an advantage over the real world).
  • The user can move the menu higher, lower, to the left or to the right, and even change it’s 3D orientation by rotating in 6DOF
  • When finished the user can move the panel away, close it by tapping the ‘X’ on the panel, or by using the controller button associated with the panel.

Linked to: Pointing & selection with finger & Displaying a menu on the controller


  • Gives the user control over where menus are placed in 3D space
  • Can be useful for arranging multiple menu panels
  • Allows the user to glance up at the panel when needed without having it follow them or appear directly in front
  • Can be used for target menu panels compared to those attached to the controller or arm
  • The direct physical manipulation is intuitive once learnt


  • The user may misplace the panel and struggle to find it
  • It may not be immediately clear  that the menu can be physically grabbed and moved (one of the design challenges is to indicate this affordance for first time users)


Facebook Spaces (Oculus Rift)

During a call the communication panel essentially becomes a virtual phone that can be moved but floats in zero gravity

Numerous panels can be arranged in space however the user desires. It’s like moving windows on a computer desktop, but much more intuitive and with a lot more space to play with.