Applying Design Thinking to Enterprise AR

We’ve created this example to explain how our user-centred design process works, what are the deliverables and the advantages. Please note that this is based on a real use case.


Pipe Corp is an established enterprise with industrial technicians working on water and gas piping. Their technician work across multiple sites, depending on operations and needs of the enterprise.
Pipe Corp has a need to open and close valves in time critical scenarios to maximise system output and minimise delays and downtime.

Human error is a common issue and can be costly or even dangerous, depending on which valves are incorrectly operated and which moment.

“Can you help us design a solution that will improve efficiency and reduce human error?”

What we did

By using our user-centred design approach, we were able to research and understand what is the reality of valve management at Pipe Corp. We did this by observing how the workers did their job and mapping out their taskflows.

User adoption was a critical KPIs for Pipe Corp. A worker-centred design approach allowed to identify and design a solution that fits into the way workers do their job, rather than being forced onto theme.

Task analysis, pain points and opportunities

After a series of contextual observations of the technician workflow we created a visualisation of the different tasks, as they are currently being done.

The analysis would be composed by a series of lanes: the steps and sub-task, a measure of the user satisfaction and pain points over time, the analysis of the risks at each stage, the opportunities where a technological solution could help.

Risk Assessment
Opportunities for AR
Task is broken down into steps and sub-task

It’s key to understand the work from the worker’s experience of doing it,
not from corporate manuals of how it should be done.

Capturing and recording workers needs and KPIs

Next step was to capture and document the user needs and requirements so that they feed into the AR solution design process.

Every user need is identified and associated with the equivalent KPI. This ensure that the following design phase will be driven by what both the user and the business need
Technical feasibility of potential solution is done at early stages
Every user need is identified and associated with the equivalent KPI. This ensure that the following design phase will be driven by what both the user and the business need

Design and prototyping with data

Designing at Threesixty Reality starts with data gathered from user research. It’s key to the success of every solution to have designs that are based on data and evidence.

For Pipe Corp. we had the opportunity to explore a series of design solutions and hardware option. Together with the Pipe Corp. we selected the Realwear HMT-1 because it was key for the technician to be able to operate completely hands-free.

The HMT-1 uses front and rear microphones and a ‘say what you see’ interaction paradigm. Compared to a conversational UI like Google Assistant, the HMT-1 operates with a more concise and direct set of commands.

Another important design consideration is that the real-estate available is limited and the periphery of the screen not always visible or in focus.

User requirement coming from the research process
KPIs and user metrics for the design to consider

We use prototyping as a tool to understand users and generate feedback.
For Pipe Corp. we started off with paper prototyping, which is always low effort but allows to share and get feedback on initial designs.

The prototyping process has then taken us to an interactive prototype built in Unity and Vuforia, which has then been used in a series of usability evaluations with the technicians.

Usability evaluation and design iterations

We carried out a series of usability sessions with 15 technicians to gather feedback on the taskflow design and the interactions with the HMT-1 headset.

The sessions were structured in a set of tasks that had been designed in relation to the goals and key metrics of the project. The participants were asked to perform the task and the sessions were moderated by a senior UX researcher.

As a result of these sessions, the design of the prototype has been iterated based on the findings.

One findings was that technicians often turn their head away from the valve, to look at their toolbox or talk to a colleague. In doing so, they would lose the information they’ve initially focused on.

The design was iterated to created a ‘locked’ state for the AR overlays so that, when in ‘task mode’, the technician could look away without losing the important details about the identified valve.


Following the research and the designs, we produced a design solution that would improve the key metrics that Pipe Corp. wanted to work on and at the same time kept the workers involved throughout the whole design process, resulting into an easier transition and a higher user adoption of the new AR solution.