Food desert viewer

Food desert viewer

A mobile augmented reality app that uses location-based information to expose nearby “food deserts”. A food desert is an area lacking access to fresh and healthy food. The app runs on iOS devices and can be viewed with Argon augmented reality web browser.


The Design Process


Product Research

  • Subject matter and market research

    Researched food deserts, augmented reality applications, location-based services and media production.


  • Design goals

    • Awareness

      Help interested citizens learn about food deserts in their city.

    • Provide an experience based on location

      Help users comprehend the barriers to fresh food in a certain location.

  • Storyboards

    Created storyboards to understand and adjust use-case scenarios and interaction flows.

  • Ideation and design sketching

    Followed iterative process to create and refine user experience based on physical and technical limitations.

    • Distance

      Augmented Reality Mode 1: System intuitively conveys distance from current location to local fresh food sources by scaling icons overlaid onto the field of view.

    • Disappearing Food Sources

      Augmented Reality Mode 2: Using a sliding scale controlled by the user, the view ‘simulates’ changing food desert severity by symbolically removing fresh food sources (crosses out food source icons from the current camera view). As food sources disappear, audio narrations describe health and other impacts of food deserts.

    • Panoramas

      Virtual Reality Mode: System covers the camera view of the real world with a 360 degree panorama photo taken in a food desert. A narrator explains the context and cofactors in the simulated location.

  • Prototyping

    Coded a medium-fidelity prototype for the Argon augmented reality web browser using KML files, the KARML extension to KML, Javascript, and a MySQL database that uses GPS data to calculate location, distance and quality of nearby food sources.


    • Expert Walk-through

      Facilitated expert walk-throughs and implemented practical changes.

    • User testing

      Performed field testing to debug and validate design and implementation.