Cameron Collis
Augmented Reality Community App

The problem

There’s been community outrage over the state of Portland’s public spaces. After a series of unfortunate events has resulted in media attention towards deteriorating and hazardous areas of the city.

The City of Portland have since held community meetings to discuss improving these areas. Unfortunately attendance at these meetings hasn’t represented the diverse groups in the community. The City of Portland is now asking for new ways to inspire all members of the community to become apart of the discussion.

The solution

Project Portland — an app designed to empower residents to contribute their diverse perspectives, and ideas for improving Portland’s public spaces.

Information Architecture

The tab bar organises the app into three sections — Home, Map, and Profile.

Named after neighbourhoods and local areas in the city. Places and Challenges use residents pre existing knowledge to make navigation more intuitive. The app draws special attention to the neighbourhoods users visit most. Creating a clear path to content that’s relevant to them.

Below is the basic architecture of the app’s key features.


The AR Challenges need to be a key driver of product adoption, retention and growth. Though early on I discovered problems relating to the general gameplay. Too many interconnecting elements made the challenges too complicated. I began to doubt if I would even find enjoyment as a player.

I took a step back and began further research. This is when I discovered Regina Nelson and her work on Gamification Dynamics, Mechanics and Design Elements. Based on her research I ran a gamification workshop where I separated the core functionality into three parts.

Gamification Dynamics are the ideological constructs that together form the gameplay. Two key dynamics used are Narrative and Relationships.

Gamification Mechanics are the challenges, goals, rewards, rules, competition, and randomness that engage players and motivate forward movement.

Created from the dynamics and mechanics are the Gamification Elements, these are the concepts players interact with.

In addition to the Stars, Points, Statuses and Badges. Rewards include unlocking challenges, and objects that can be used in creations.

Images from the Gamification Workshop

Before the workshop I had vague ideas of gamification dynamics and mechanics. Defining these concepts during the workshop allowed me to create stronger and more meaningful connections between the gamification elements.

The major breakthrough was simplifying the scoring system. Challenge Points, Stars, Coins, Social Points, and Eco Points became distinguishable from one another. These elements now have a unique purpose and support different player interactions.

Community Feedback

To achieve success, Project Portland needs to be an inclusive platform. To foster community spirit and empower participation from a diverse range of people. This is why it has been a conscious decision to exclude open forums and public comments from the app.

The reality is that not everyone will use a product as expected. With feelings of angst towards Portland’s public spaces already at a high. There is a strong chance comments filled with emotion will make their way onto the platform. Intentional or not, some of these comments will cause harm to other members of the community. Considering the campaign runs over a short period, the impact this could have on Project Portland’s success is massive.

“It is critical that your product design process and business model take into consideration those bad actors and the misuse cases they will be involved in, in order to design mechanisms that will demotivate them to harm and reduce the health of the product.”
Illai Gescheit

Removing public comments also has cost benefits. Which include not having to hire content moderators or build reporting functionality. The money saved can fund more community meetups, or make greater improvements to public spaces.

The app is an important channel of communication between residents and The City of Portland. And with the exclusion of public comments, the app needed a new way to capture feedback from the community. This is why Question Cards are a key feature. Question Cards ask multiple choice or open ended questions. To collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Question Cards are on the Home tab, Place pages and Challenge popups. They update often so The City of Portland can experiment with the types of questions asked. Allowing them to pursue different topics of interest on the fly.

The barrier of entry to provide feedback through the app is low, compared to attending community meetups. For this reason, it’s expected that most of the public feedback will come through this channel.

Social Features

Project Portland’s social features build community spirit in both the physical and digital environment. This community spirit brings together a diverse group of residents to share a common goal.

When seeing what others in the community have created. Players become inspired to create their own public spaces. In the animation above, a user is reacting to another player’s creation. Reactions are another way The City of Portland will collect feedback from the community. Other social features include:

Inclusive Design

In her wonderful book Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, Kat Holmes states “Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the world.” It’s crucial the Project Portland campaign implements principles of inclusive design. So all residents have equal opportunity to contribute their ideas and solutions. Failing to include all community groups results in public spaces that aren’t designed to accommodate the community’s diverse needs.

“There are also concrete social benefits to inclusion. Each time we remedy a mismatched interaction, we open an opportunity for more people to contribute to society in meaningful ways. This, in turn, changes who can participate in building our world”
— Kat Holmes

Accessible Challenges

It’s important that challenges are in accessible areas of the city. As they provide a way for residents to contribute their ideas for improving Portland’s public spaces. All challenges are...

Augmented Reality for everyone

The reality is that not everyone has a device that supports AR. This is where community events play a role in inclusive design. Paid organisers are attending these events with devices residents can use for their own AR creations.

Organisers will be initiating and recording conversations with residents. This is another way The City of Portland will collect feedback from the community.

Removing potential harm

Open forums are daunting for some people. Being put on a public stage means they could be subject to negative comments or criticism. Removing this functionality creates a welcoming social platform for all community members

Colour accessibility

Two ways the Project Portland app achieves colour accessibility is by…

These solutions are not enough to combat the unpredictability of Augmented Reality. To overcome this problem each player has ‘AR Colour Adjust’ settings. This allows players to alter the colours of their creations, and the physical world that appears on their screen. Configuring these settings next to a live preview guarantees all players can have an enjoyable AR experience.

Why I did this and what I've learned

I became inspired to work on a social impact project after reading Design, When Everybody Designs by Ezio Manzini, and Mismatched: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kate Holmes. Both books influenced the direction, and outcome of the project.

Around the time I began this project I was learning about the relationship between UX and AR. I set myself a challenge to incorporate AR into a project where it wasn’t the sole feature or used to build hype. It needed to be used because it’s the best option from a product standpoint.

I knew how I wanted Project Portland to look and feel. I had no idea if I had the ability to create animated mockups of the AR Mode. In the end it was deeply rewarding to see the final animations, and improving my animation skills.