In this post I will go through the research/ideation/first prototype of an AR Tarot Reader app to augment and give life to these ancient cards in order to help users connect with its symbolism, stories and, ultimately, themselves.
Tarot and Emotional Intelligence
Tarot is a divination ritual originated in the mid-15th century to help people connect through symbols to understand the present and forecast the future. Those symbols are pulled from a history of human myths and archetypes and are part of what Carl Jung would call the collective unconscious. It is an interesting tool where, through tangible objects such as cards, participants can project their feelings and thoughts. By allowing them to see the parallels between the stories represented in the cards and their own experiences, people can take a moment to meditate on their own environment and behavior – action that can influence future outcomes. Therefore, Tarot is a powerful tool for self knowledge.
With the rise of religious bricolage, people are increasingly partaking in the Tarot ritual both by visiting formal card readers and by purchasing their own cards, becoming readers themselves. Accordingly, several workshops, events, books, blogs, YouTube channels and Mobile Apps on the subject have been developed in the past years.
As a digital creator, I have been taking a close look at the current Tarot mobile apps. Most Tarot apps today either function with two main approaches: as an online “card taker”(as they are randomly/digitally picked for you), or as a guide to learn the meaning of the cards according to the outcome of a physically played one – sometimes they can also combine both of these functions. Still, I believe that neither of those actually works effectively for the purpose of helping the user identify with the card’s stories and meditate.
I think that Tarot is a tactile experience – holding the deck in your hands, shuffling the cards, turning them over one by one…if you make it 100% digital you take great part of that Tarot magical moment out. Still, by playing it digitally, it is really easy to access informations and symbolic meanings. Unfortunately, when you make an app that is only a guide, you have to manually look for that specific card name and its meaning and, when you finally find it, you will discover that the information provided feels incomplete as it is usually displayed as shots (a paragraph or two) of content.
Below follows some examples of the Top 2 apps that I selected. I really LOVE the design of the first on and the UX/UI is great.
Golden Thread Tarot
Tarot and Augmented Reality
With those pros/cons in mind, I started to think about creating an App that would use Augmented Reality to bring the Tarot cards to life, as a tool to promote emotional intelligence. And I was not the only one, there is already a developed version as you can check:
Again, even though I see a lot of potential in the approach and the AR integration works great, it simply lacks content. For me it works more as an Augmented Reality Tech prove of concept than an actual tool that people would use to play Tarot. Also, it is very game-icky. Accordingly I see that as an opportunity to create a more interactive and content-based experience.
As a way to explore how to use UX in AR and to tell the stories of the cards, my idea is to and personify each Tarot card. Based on the idea of the article/prototype experience AniThings: Animism and Heterogeneous Multiplicity as the user places the desired Tarot under their phone’s camera, the card would show some information and serve as a virtual button, that when pressed would tell its symbology, story, and meaning.
By coming to life I mean start talking, as I would work mainly with sound. Visually I would display text and maybe some sparkles or some kind of smooth visual feedback to let the user know that by pressing the card he/she is activating the sound. I believe that working with too much visual animations or actual visual characters would take some of the meditative characteristics that I aim to incorporate in the experience.
Press play to check the prototype:
Further on, maybe even with AI, people would be able to have an actual conversation with each card, like a “Tarot Alexa”.