Aiming for innovation:

Using service design and gamification to discover unique solutions

The brief

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) wanted a partner application for the 2019 Australian International Airshow to help drive engagement with the broader air force before, during, and after the event. The timeframe was 8 weeks.

The app needed to:

  • Excite, engage, and educate people from 16 years of age and above.
  • Augment the physical experience at the air show
  • Showcase air force capability

Gamifying augmented reality

The first task I undertook was to design the experience loop and reward system. I needed to create the core systems/features and their interactions to enable an organic in-experience economy. Part of the challenge here was understanding how the physical event was going to be setup and run, as the users would be scanning posters at the outside event to spawn the AR aircraft. 

Beyond this, the RAAF had a high priority business need to inform and educate users to help drive interest in the air force as a career, as well as wanting to draw attention to the other types of work available in the force.

I created an economy that:

  • Had a rank and level system in alignment with the Air Forces ranks
  • Utilised multiple features and content streams to create variety in both content and those interested in it
  • Distributed experience throughout all the systems and features, rewarding the user both in app and with physical prizes too
  • Allowed the users to move through experience levels and ranks independently to promote both digital and physical aspects of the app

The semantics of a reward system

One of the biggest design challenges I faced with this product was the time frame we had. Due to this I very quickly had to reassess aspects of the economy due to scope. Aspects, such as the ‘Mini-Game’, were removed to make development more manageable. 

I made improvements on the app by:

  • Reducing how different economies interacted with each other
  • Bring together the experience and rank economies; simplifying the natural movement through the app
  • Ensuring the user was made aware of what they had achieved

User feedback

A main target demographic were female students interested in STEM. I contacted the school I use to teach at to conduct usability testing of the application with current students of their iSTEM class. 


This round of testing was preceded with some initial alpha prototypes and concept tests to ensure the app was usable and providing the base experience needed. This taught us that augmented reality technology paired with gamification and a reward system was entertaining to adults of all ages and backgrounds.


The second round of testing with the students validated mechanics, features, systems, and economies that had been designed and built. 

Tweaks were identified around:

  • How long a scan should take
  • What type of content our target demographic was generally interested in
  • That the app had the “COOOL!” factor

The outcome

The result was a simple gamified system. Due to the time frames the economy was relatively generic, however it played to the core troupes to generate engagement in the content. 

This product taught me a lot about gamification when applied in the real world, however, I would not approach the challenge in the same way next time. One of my key takeaways was that the “fun” was at the core of everything, including sharing this with friends and family. For future gamified products I want to approach the challenge with the perspective of maximising engagement through social means, not just internal economies and rewards. I want the systems to feel like they’re having fun with you and the app, the user, and everyone in between are having a blast whilst using the app.