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MIT x Pro - Visual and Augmented Reality Certificate Program

Final Project: Shark Week AR App


In 2016, Discovery made its debut in the world of immersive technology with its first Head Mounted Display (HMD), VR app, and 360-degree videos. While it garnered interest, it struggled with technical issues and subpar video quality. Fortunately, technology has since advanced, and VR headsets and apps have significantly improved.

Given the widespread use of smartphones, embracing Augmented Reality (AR) offers an exciting opportunity to enhance the customer experience beyond the discovery+ platform. This move doesn't require users to invest in costly HMDs or VR devices. While creating immersive VR content is impressive, it demands substantial manpower and resources to maintain high-quality virtual reality experiences. Additionally, VR raises accessibility concerns that AR can address more inclusively.


Imagine this:

After watching a Shark Week show, viewers can scan a QR code from the credits to bring a lifelike shark into their homes or classrooms. Teachers can use this feature for educational purposes, such as demonstrating the size of a great white shark's tooth or the immense length of a whale shark.

This not only enhances the excitement of the streaming app but also enhances the learning experience and improves retention. Furthermore, it keeps customers engaged beyond the content library, making Shark Week even more unforgettable.

Validating the Problem


The Shark Week AR App opens up a new way for customers to engage with content, extending their experience beyond the promotional week. It guides users back to discovery+ and serves as an educational tool, aligning with the mission to entertain and educate the audience.

Customer Challenges

  • Retention and Return Traffic:
    The organization faces an ongoing challenge in retaining customers and encouraging their return to the discovery+ app for fresh content. After Shark Week concludes, it encounters difficulties in maintaining user engagement.

  • Yearly Wait for Shark Week:
    Customers often find themselves patiently waiting for the annual recurrence of Shark Week, resulting in interruptions in their viewing experience and risk of retention.

  • Missed Interactive Content:
    Users miss out on interactive opportunities to explore the extensive content library during Shark Week, potentially limiting their overall engagement with the platform.


Addressing these challenges requires a strategic approach that leverages technology and customer-centered solutions to sustain interest, bridge content gaps, and promote continuous engagement with discovery+ throughout the year.

Customer-Centric Solutions

  • Pre-Launch AR Teaser:
    The team proposes generating excitement and engagement through the introduction of an AR app experience before Shark Week's official launch. This teaser will offer interactive content, sneak peeks, and behind-the-scenes glimpses to build anticipation.

  • Seamless Integration with discovery+:
    A feature will be developed to enable seamless transitions between discovery+ content and AR experiences. Users can effortlessly switch between the two by scanning a code, thereby extending the Shark Week experience and enhancing user retention.

  • Gamified Shark Content:
    Users may enhance the Shark Week experience by nurturing their own virtual baby shark or another sea creature of their choice. Users will receive notifications about their shark's daily needs, fostering responsibility and long-term engagement. This not only adds an element of fun but also maintains a year-round connection to Shark Week's theme.


These customer-focused solutions are intended to address identified issues while simultaneously enhancing the overall Shark Week experience, thereby encouraging ongoing interaction with the discovery+ platform.

User-Centered Design

Discovering the Viewers



The timeline to develop an Augmented Reality app can vary significantly based on several factors, including the complexity of the app, the platform (iOS, Android, cross-platform), the specific features and functionality you want to include, the size and expertise of your development team, and the availability of existing assets and resources.






Test + QA



1 month

2 months

5 months

2 months

2 weeks -

2 months

In total, a simple AR app might take around 6-9 months, while more complex applications could take a year or longer. It's also essential to note that, for particularly ambitious AR projects, development times may be extended, and iterative improvements may continue well after the initial launch. Additionally, it's crucial to allocate time for proper testing, unconscious bias analysis, and user feedback to refine the app's functionality and user experience.

Role, Responsibilities, and Timeline

In this case study, the designer assumes a dual role as both the project lead and the AR concept designer, encompassing the following responsibilities:

AR Development:
Creating visual elements and designing the user interface for the AR experience, ensuring alignment with the Shark Week theme.

User Research:
Conduct in-depth research via interviews and surveys to grasp user preferences and inform the AR app's design.

User Flows:
Crafting user navigation pathways within the app to ensure a seamless and intuitive experience.

Collaboration with Technical Team:
Working closely with developers and engineers to bring the AR app to fruition, guaranteeing its seamless functionality.

Stakeholder Presentations:
Articulating the project's vision, budget, and anticipated outcomes to internal stakeholders, emphasizing how it enriches discovery+.

Long-term Planning:
Going beyond the initial launch, there's a focus on planning for ongoing enhancements, accessibility, mitigating unconscious biases, and overall growth to maintain user engagement.

By embracing these roles, the goal is to guide the successful development and continuous improvement of the Shark Week AR app. This not only enhances customer engagement but also contributes to the overall success of the platform.

User Needs & Values

Collecting data and user behaviors are crucial steps to forming the app user experience. Here are some methods on how to collect data.

  • Structured interviews

    • Surveys or questionnaires

    • Statistical quantitative analysis

    • Rigid and inflexible, no room for evaluation

  • Open-Ended Interviews

    • Allow to improvise questions

    • Great for the exploratory design phase before forming structured interviews

  • Focus Groups

    • Comparing a group of people that would normally not be found together to see differences in behavior

  • ​Protocol Analysis

    • Using the “think aloud” method of engaging with groups to explain behaviors, choices, or impressions; although doesn’t produce the best data

    • Sometimes users can’t talk and do a task at the same time making it difficult to get well-thought-out data.

  • Ethnography

    • Method of watching users behave naturally and use the application

    • Collect data over time that utilizes the user’s own terms

Example of Survey Questions

  1. Do you envision a more engaging and immersive AR experience for your favorite shows as a viewer?

  2. Which specific shows do you currently watch that you'd like to experience in AR?

  3. Are you interested in participating in an interactive environment where you can influence the show's outcomes or character pathways? For example, in a show like Makers Showdown, you might have the option to choose a host or contestant and collaborate with their team to craft and execute projects.

    • If so, how would you prefer to make these choices? Would you like to see visual thumbnails or 15-second video clips to help guide your decisions?

    • After selecting a pathway, how many times would you typically make choices within the experience or show episode?

    • At what point do you feel there are too many choices, making it cumbersome to watch the show?

  4. Would you prefer to use your mobile device or a head-mounted VR device for this kind of interactive AR experience?

  5. What potential challenges or obstacles do you anticipate when using an interactive AR experience? This could include issues related to space, user errors, accessibility, or any other concerns you may have.

Exploring AR Tools


Many tools are available for trying out ideas before committing to a costly custom AR app., an educational coding platform, is one such tool. It's beginner-friendly, offering built-in tools and designs for creating VR/AR experiences. Plus, it's cost-effective, allowing experimentation before diving into the full design process.

Mod5-gradedmemo-RPellicer (1)_edited.jpg

I quickly made this block-stacking game with CoSpaces. It was easy to create the objects, set targets and triggers, and add environmental designs. You can share the experience publically for others to try and comment.

Unity is the top choice for making interactive XR experiences. Learning Unity can be a bit challenging if you're not already an expert with Adobe Creative Suite apps. But you can create experiences from the ground up using its built-in content and actions. Here's an example of something I made using pre-made tools and action-based movement.



To begin the design process I created a storyboard and low-fidelity mockups to illustrate what the AR experience could look like.

Next, I considered the user visual and accessibility ranges. This meant I needed to make sure my experience was going to work within the field of vision as well as the space being used.

For the sketch above, I used a simple 360 VR viewer like Google Cardboard to transform your sketch into a low-fidelity experience. This will give you a rough idea of your concept.

Task-Driven Approach

What our user goals are trying to achieve?

  • Users aim to enhance their discovery+ content experience with VR/AR. The initial project focuses on bringing Shark Week to homes and classrooms, extending ocean education, exploring species, and adding fun interactive elements.

  • Success means ongoing app usage beyond the initial campaign, with users returning for more VR/AR experiences on the platform.

What do users actually do to achieve those goals?

  • Users use a VR headset for an immersive experience and a mobile or tablet for a partner AR app.

What experiences (personal, social, and cultural) do users bring to the tasks?

  • Users curate their experience with choices, and the option to create avatars adds a personal touch, making the journey interactive and unique.

Cited from:

Key Goals


Your content should be original and fulfill a need.


Site/App must be easy to use.


Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation.


Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite.


Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities.


Users must trust and believe what you tell them.


Cited from:

Green Coral and Fish
High Fidelity Prototype

These are examples of what the AR UI experience could look like based on user research, connectivity to the existing discovery+ app, and examples of the immersive experience.

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