AR Pet

Interactive Product Design & Development Project
@ ZJU Human-computer Interaction Course

In the HCI course project, I led a team of 4 to design and develop an interactive prototype using Human-centered Research and Design methods learned in the course. The app AR Pet aims to create a pet-keeping experience in augmented reality, mainly for the entertainment of college students and young adults.
Android AR App
Product Manager
Interaction Designer
May - June, 2020
Haojun Zhao, Jing Zhang,
Hanting Zhang
When virtual pets make it possible for everyone to have a pet, AR offers the opportunity to bring virtual pets into reality.
As an animal lover, I've always wanted to have a pet, but living in a big city makes keeping a pet not easy for practical reasons. So I fell in love with virtual pet games like Tamagotchi, QQ Pet when I was a kid - they make it possible for everyone to have a pet, despite any constraints such as health, space, time, costs.

In 2016, Pokémon Go took the world by storm. It is a game that allows players to capture, train and battle virtual creatures that appear as if they were in the player's real world. From Pokémon Go, I saw potential in AR to bring virtual pets into reality.
With this drive, we decided to design and implement an AR pet application in this project.

We designed 6 tasks for the AR virtual pet application, and developed a prototype for testing.
As the product manager, I led the team through the entire process. And my focus was on research, ideation, and evaluation.
To start with, I talked to 4 different types of possible users to learn about their:
  • pet-keeping experience and preference
  • experience and views on virtual pets and AR
  • needs for pets or virtual pets
Alice, collage student
"I super love small dogs and cats, but the dormitory does not allow me to keep."

Sam, IT engineer
"I often sit for a long time because of my work. Pets can encourage me to go out and exercise more."

Peter, 8-year-old boy
"I can’t wait to own a cool and unique virtual pet, and play it with my friends!"

Judy, housewife
"I hope it can teach my son responsibility and empathy through guiding him to raise a virtual pet."

I defined our target users as college students and young adults aged 18-35 based on the following interview findings:
  • Such users are more interested in AR and willing to try it.
  • Most of them love pets, but they cannot keep real pets due to accommodation and economic conditions.
  • Although most of them can't afford the substantial fees for pets, pet food, pet medicines, etc., most of them are willing to pay for video games. 
Focusing on target users, I summarized the key user needs and ideated a few key features for our product.
User Needs

Users tend to prefer pets of different varieties, appearances, and personalities; most users want to have a unique pet.

Hope to experience the unique fun brought by AR, e.g., interacting with the real world.

Expect it to be similar to the real pet-keeping experience.

Want the pet to encourage them to go for a walk or exercise.

Proposed Features

Pet Adaptation: Provide 4 pets of different types, appearances, and personalities, randomly generated by the system. If the user doesn't like any of the four, there is another chance to reroll.

Pet & Pet House Placement: Allow the user to scan the room to place the pet and its house "in reality", to make the experience more similar to reality and enhance the interaction with the real scene.

Pet Feeding: The user can throw bones or other food to feed it and increase the strength value.
Interaction Game: The user can select a virtual toy and throw it to the pet by swiping his finger on the screen.

Outdoor Walk: Staying indoors for a long time can make the pet feel down, shown as less active and indifferent. To cheer it up, the user should go out and take a walk with it.
Our team developed an interactable prototype on Android. Then, I broke the user flow into 6 tasks, and performed a Cognitive Walkthrough to determine if the interface and interaction match the user's standard task flow patterns.

I challenged myself to take on the role of PM.
In addition to performing the requirements analysis and designing the product features, I had to make sure the development team would implement my designs before the deadline. Due to technical limitations or communication problems, the development team sometimes did not follow the design strictly. I learned to write detailed requirements, regularly check the development progress, and be flexible to change the design.

Future Steps
In the course project, I did not have enough time to polish the visual design and design details because I needed to leave time for the engineer members to develop on the AR platform. If I had time to continue with this project, I would continue on the following steps:
  • Improve interaction details based on evaluation results
  • Conduct user testing and continuously improve the design based on feedback
  • Refine the visual design of the product, redesign the color and icon style