designing for discovery with Augmented Reality

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Explorers, travelers, and anybody wanting to engage with their surroundings and community.


Maxwell Crabill, Casey LaRae Gustafson, Emily Huang, Jessica Cheung


Creative Direction
UX Design
UI Design
Art Direction and Visual Identity

Guiding Question

How might we use augmented reality to bring us closer to our environment, instead of replacing or personalizing it?


Create an experience which rewards exploration and deepens community by leveraging the unique UX design space promised by emerging augmented reality trends.


Imprints is a conceptual service which uses AR to attach messages and memories to specific physical locations. We emphasized anonymity, community, and the sanctity of place and time. Users leave behind “imprints,” creative messages, virtual artifacts, and stripped down recordings of their personal experiences for others to discover. Imprints can be read and rated by others using the service. Which imprints appear are determined by age, time of day, user ratings, and the density of activity.


Origins and Research

When our professor described the future of augmented and virtual reality to us on the first day of class, he said:


This didn’t sit well with me – I already have enough personalization in my life. My music is personalized. My advertisements are personalized. And, I realized, my sources of information are personalized. 

Hyperpersonalization is real, and it isolates us from our surroundings and our local communities. It's easy to feel this phenomenon growing throughout political campaigns and cultural shifts, especially in a city with a populace as notoriously frozen as Seattle. When it came time to research, I had a few questions on my mind.


Research and Inspiration

How does media technology affect our relationship with the world around us?
How do augmented and virtual reality spaces differ from current digital media?
How might we use these differences to counter trends of technological isolation?
  • Media technology feeds us information (1) (2). Digital experiences regarded as “immersive,” such as stories and video games, allow us to discover information over time (3). It can be inferred that less discovery in the real world might lead to a feeling of isolation and disconnection.

  • AR and VR leverages our natural ability to think spatially. We think easily when we tie concepts to individual objects and locations (4).

  • There exist already excellent examples of augmented-reality like services which bring people out in to the world, and spark community and a sense of discovery in the likes of Geocaching, Soapstone, and the first blissful weeks of Pokemon GO!



I knew what I wanted to see in an augmented reality experience. With research and principals in mind, I pitched my idea, rallied a small team, and we got to working.

The Product


IMPRINTS is an augmented reality platform for anonymous, location-specific communication between individuals and among communities.

Similar to graffiti, geocaching, and cairn-making, participants leave behind simple messages, objects, and recordings of their experiences for others to discover.

Mementos of people's existence, behavior, and thoughts accumulate, eventually stitching together a visual and emotional history of a place and fostering a sense of community that spans across time.


Users leave behind simple messages to express their thoughts and feelings, crack jokes, inform future visitors, or respond to visitors before them. Voice control helps participants find the words and phrases that best express their intent. A limited bank of phrases ensures anonymity, community, and spurs creativity.

Along with messages, participants can leave behind 3D objects to express sentiment, such as stacks of stones, boquets of flowers, local landmarks, and more. Participants start with a limited selection, but can add objects to their collection by discovering them out in the world.

A participant may choose to leave behind a ghostly, anonymous recording of their last seven seconds of action. These recordings appear in the world as footprints. Interacting with a footprint will manifest a mannequin-like spectre that plays out its recorded actions.

All three types of imprint can be voted on by participants. This increases the likelihood they’ll appear to others. An algorithm decides which imprints to display based on rating, density, and time.


Development Assets

Concept Art


Cut Content

Historian Imprints
Historian imprints were a way for approved community members to break the limits of letters and footprints in order to tell a richer story. These stories could be detailed written accounts of the history of a place, or extravagant virtual re-enactments of events. We cut historian imprints due to the sensitive subjectivity involved in deciding who within a community has the authority to tell that community's story.

I created a storyboard for a video depicting the experience of a participant discovering a historian imprint at the East Side Gallery in Berlin.