Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

AR Hike

A speculatively designed advanced navigation and location system
Research & Design Plamena Atanasova, Barbara Bugalska, Alan Dilleen
Programme PGDip in User Experience Design, UXD Strategy & Futures / CA2 Speculative Design
Supervisor Dr. Hilary Kenna
Project Goal How might we reimagine hiking navigation and safety using augmented reality, smart contact lenses and GPS in a plausible future?
How might we reimagine hiking navigation and safety using augmented reality, smart contact lenses and GPS in a plausible future?

Project Description

The objective of the project was to engage in a speculative design process that focused on emerging technology and the impact it could have in a 5-10+year timescale by designing a hypothetical user experience to meet a future user need.


The project team chose Augmented Reality (AR), Global Positioning System (GPS) and smart contact lenses as our emerging technologies. Our future scenario focused on the need for nature, for physical and mental wellbeing in a world full of stressors including climate change and worker displacement from AI and automation. Hiking is a great way to get out, explore nature and foster positive health and wellbeing. However, hiking carries risks, especially when people are unprepared and inexperienced. Getting lost is the main reason adult hikers require search and rescue. Our user need centered on hikers who want to navigate with confidence so they can have an enjoyable time and come back home safely.


The team designed AR Hike, an advanced navigation and location system for hikers and mountain rescue teams. It uses augmented reality, smart contact lenses, and drop-dead GPS navigation to allow people to explore mountains without the risk of getting lost. The smart contact lenses can be controlled via an app or with eye movements. AR Hike tracks the user’s location, provides a clear path to selected targets, and keeps users informed about target parameters (height, elevation, time to reach) and up to minute weather conditions.


The team produced a short video to tell a story of how the technology could be used in a future scenario. The video was supported by a high-fidelity interface prototype, inspired by navigation apps and augmented reality navigation, tracking and information displays. The benefits of AR Hike include: a safe and stress-free outdoor experience; peace of mind for loved ones; lower personal hiking insurance costs; and reduced dependence and pressure on mountain rescue. Although the system empowers hikers, people may become over reliant on the technology and lose traditional navigation skills. The team also delved into ethical caveats including: social division, privacy, public safety and security.