The value of in-context interviewing really came to the fore in recent work. Many clients might see it as an expensive alternative to lab-based work, however being able to observe and talk to people in their own homes or place of work, enables researchers to get to the heart of the research question.
If the client is looking to understand and uncover real behaviours and influences, for instance around cooking, actually seeing how cook books are organised, or being able to ask to see how cuttings or scrapbooks are maintained, helps the researcher to directly understand how people do (or do not) physically interact with and curate recipes. This in turn, helps us deliver insights that positively contribute to the development of innovative and advanced digital features and applications: features that match users real life behaviours.
The press release of Microsoft’s latest gadget, Hololens, prompted a perfect opportunity to have an ExperienceLab roundtable discussion.
The team shared some great links to guide the discussion and encourage dialogue around the commercial and social facets of Hololens and its significance to our present and future work. The session was facilitated by Robert Gardner-Sharp [Assistant UX Consultant] who introduced Hololens to the team, then opened the floor.
What is Hololens?
Currently, a working prototype, Microsoft’s Hololens is an HD, 3D optical head-mounted display (gigantic ski glasses). The ‘smart’ glasses unit uses advanced sensors and cameras to offer an augmented reality platform (pseudo-holograms, hovering digital objects and screens in your natural environment). The technology utilises a natural user interface so users can control and interact though gaze, voice and hand gestures. Current applications include: HoloStudio, that allows users to digitally sculpt 3D models; Holobuilder, a Minecraft inspired augmented reality video game; OnSight, visualising and recreating simulated environments; and a range of other applications such as Skype, OneNote, Maps, and YouTube.
Earlier this week ExperienceLab were invited to the House of Lords for a luncheon with special guest speaker, Jason Chen, CEO of Acer. The inspiring talk traced Acer’s 40 year stronghold in technology from semiconductor chips to smartphones, wearables and their cloud based solution for a connected ecosystem, Acer Open Platform.
Chen spoke of Acer’s endeavour to foster businesses, across all industries, while creating solutions for users to have seamless experiences within a new ‘Internet of Things’. It is set to open up a world of possibilities in connectivity and significantly accelerate the applications and services market; an area Acer is keen to work closely with and support.
As part of an initiative to facilitate the development of relations between businesses in East Asia and the UK, the luncheon also offered ExperienceLab a fantastic opportunity to meet representatives from various tech companies and tech related government initiatives. We look forward to future opportunities in the New Year to engage in more tech discussions and events, and expand our ties within the industry.
Image credit: WantChinaTimes.com Photo/Chan Tzu-hsien
Selfies have been gaining a lot of press in the past year. Whether it’s about the most tweeted selfie ever, the recent influx of the ‘Selfie Stick’ (see Simi’s previous post on the subject), or the plethora of selfies that probably litter your facebook feed. Now there is a new way to look at selfies. With the ability to take high resolution images with your smart phone, a range of opportunities have been identified by researchers looking for new ways of providing healthcare. For example, a team of Australian medical students recently developed an app that’s capable of telling you if you have anemia. The potential use for the selfie is taking off in other areas too, including fashion and air travel.
Worried about a mole? A recent study showed that dermatologists were able to make an accurate diagnosis of skin conditions based on images taken by a smartphone. So in the future you might not need a trip to the specialist, just send a selfie of the offending spot.
In collaboration with Kingston University, I carried out a comprehensive review into Automotive UX that concluded with a mock-up trial test session of an in-car app. My colleague Richard and I assembled ExperienceLab’s first ever desk-based car simulator including a steering wheel controller, virtual road and infotainment system; I re-created sections of Spotify’s in-car app to run on our own iPad prototype of the Volvo’s Sensus Connect infotainment system. Read more…
EGX 2014, the UK’s biggest games show kicked off on the 25th of September at Earl Court’s in London. I attended the event on Sunday where I got hands-on with some of the hottest upcoming games.
The moment I entered the main hall, I felt an overwhelming joy seeing the plethora of stands showcasing exciting new games, cosplayers walking around and lots of gaming merchandise. Needless to say, I wanted to play everything, although of course there was not enough time. Huge lines were around the most popular games such as the Elite: Dangerous, Alien Isolation, The Evil Within, Far Cry 4 etc.
I’ve just returned from annual leave, and something I can’t keep to myself is a cringe-worthy (and slightly creepy) sight I saw all along the Croatian coastline: tourists with Selfie Sticks.
If you haven’t seen or heard of the Selfie Stick, think of it as a pole to attach your camera or smartphone to, sometimes with a button near the handle. This allows you to pose for a photo of yourself from afar. This new phenomena is booming abroad, and was recently spotted closer to home at a football game by the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor who tweeted:
— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) September 14, 2014
Selfies have attracted criticism from some (including the Selfie Police), mainly on grounds of vanity, but also the vague feeling that selfie-takers are missing out on the moment itself by concentrating so hard on documenting themselves at that time and place. That’s a thought that came to mind when I watched someone swim to the middle of Krka National Park waterfall with a selfie stick in hand, and pose for countless shots. But on the other hand, sharing that moment with friends and family at home, and looking back on it on the many weeks of the year when she’s not on holiday, isn’t such a bad intention.
Radial-G, at the starting point.
Finally! Thanks to Dean Gifford from Preliminal Games I had the chance to play around with several demos and games on the Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2.
My Rift experience started with Quake, an all time classic first person shooter released by ID Software in 1996. As soon as I put my headset on I felt like I went back in time! An element I particularly liked was the stereoscopic 3D gun that was in front of you, I could even put a finger on a trigger position. I had lots of fun playing around in the game – although the keyboard and mouse movement made me a bit nauseous.
Next on the list was the official Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 demo which presented you with a virtual office environment. The demo displayed a neat new feature of position head-tracking. You could move in whatever direction you wanted and this changed your position. You could even bend over to examine the potted plants from multiple angles. In one instance I found myself trying to lift a pen from the desk but without success. This reminded me of the eminent need for an intuitive interaction with the virtual environment.
The third demo put me into the legendary Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. The navigation was smooth but unfortunately there was too much chromatic aberration and that spoiled the whole experience. Chromatic aberration is the effect produced by the refraction of different wavelengths of light through slightly different angles, resulting in a failure to focus. Let’s hope that this issue is going to be addressed in the near future by Oculus VR and Unity, the game engine that many developers use to make games.
Example of Chromatic aberration
On the other hand Proton Pulse Rift gave me an amazing arcade gaming experience. The game resembles a 3D space-themed Arkanoid where you control the paddle by simply looking in the direction you want to move. It was a true hands-free immersive experience.
Proton Pulse gameplay in action!
The game that really exceeded my expectations and truly tested my reflexes and twitch skills was Radial-G. Radial-G introduced the user to a unique radial circuit space race where at the same time you had to avoid multiple obstacles. Although I really enjoyed the game I found myself at times quite distracted from the fast movement and highly visual environment. It was an awesome experience where the low persistence of the device, which eliminated the motion blur and judder, made the real difference.
In general the image quality of the Oculus Rift was much more superior to my Nexus 4 used with the Google Cardboard, although I could still observe the pixels in front of me in some cases. Orientation and position tracking were both seamless, although with the position tracking you had to be careful not to stand out of the tracking device’s field. Dean had worked out a simple solution to have a mat at the tracking area of play. An additional major limitation I observed was that the headset is not portable and the cable restricted your movement. Lastly, it was quite interesting that even though I played around only a couple of hours my perception of the real world had already been affected. The minute I got the Oculus Rift out of my head I was more observant of the distance and depth of objects and their shadows.
Future research could definitely be around how to control the environment, as the keyboard and mouse controls are not suitable. Finally, there is a need for a multimodal interaction inside the virtual environment. Oculus has made the first step providing an immersive visual world. Hopefully future development will bring forward the best of Virtual Reality.
Playing with Google Cardboard at the office
Whilst I was trying to find an immediate alternative to the long-awaited Oculus Rift, a project from Google caught my attention. Google Cardboard is a Virtual Reality headset that was created by a Google employee under a company initiative which gives all employees the flexibility to spend 20% of their time on their own projects. The Google Cardboard kit was given freely to attendees of the Google I/O 2014, the annual conference about the Android ecosystem.
I decided to go through the Google Cardboard DIY (Do It Yourself) design. The DIY kit was easy to make with cardboard (even from yesterday’s pizza box) as all the instructions can be found on the Google official website. As I was putting everything together, my colleagues were eager to find out what I was trying to make with all the pieces. The truth is that I did not have great expectations but it turned out that it was a truly amazing experience!