Wading into UX

Andrew stands in front of a large tv showing laser lines. Andrew is wearing a VR headset and gesturing with controllers in both hands.

Recently, Andrew and Celeste joined the Minnesota chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). They had 2 main reasons for wanting to join: 1) learn more about different approaches to UX, and 2) learn more about the professional community of user research and user experience design to better connect our student workers with opportunities.

So far, we’ve attended two very different events and here are some of the takeaways:

UX + Virtual Reality (VR)

Celeste: The 1st event was held at a virtual reality arcade meets karaoke lounge, where the networking hour doubled as open playtime. It was really interesting to see how the business had laid out the space and setup the VR into “pods” separated by partial walls. The cables for the Vive Pro headsets were suspended from the ceiling, which was a great improvement on worrying about tripping on cables along the ground. They even had 3 multiplayer areas, where headsets were paired — Andrew and I played ping pong in one of these areas, which basically just reminded me how much I like playing ping pong in real life more.

And then came the presentation. I have to admit to some concern when it started like this:

mighty claim of VR + UX presentation: VR’s biggest strengths are 1) democratizing experience and 2) seeing things in unique way.

slow your rhetoric, ppl.

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) February 13, 2019

And, it didn’t get better from there. But what I did takeaway is that there’s a serious gap between how commercial VR is proceeding and the research coming out of academia — and I see that gap as a place where there can be some powerful collaborations. There’s so much room for pursuing and applying research in the development of meaningful (and profitable) VR applications, particularly since some are hoping enterprise uses will generate wider adoption and profits. Some are less optimistic. But overall, I think researchers have a lot to say and do to shape the direction of VR experience development and break down some of the barriers between industry and academia to create better ethical products.

Andrew: I was excited for our first event since joining the UXPA, it was held at a virtual reality arcade. I like Celeste description here, the location really did feel like a mix between a karaoke bar, lounge and arcade with VR. I love the idea of VR arcades. As owning a VR device is still expensive and beyond the reach of most. Sadly, however, the cost per hour still seemed pretty expensive for most.

Two years on from our first Vive, I still love the technology and can’t wait to see the development. So you can understand my excitement when I saw they had the new Vive Pro headset. This is the second generation of the Vive headset we currently have. Some of the changes in this new version is a much needed improved screen. The resolution has been, so everything looks much sharper.

Being a UX/UI workshop, I was looking forward to the presentation, and I what I hoped would be a discussion around moving beyond flat screen UI designs into 3D space, sadly this was not to be. The talk took a very commercial route. The presentation was marketing talk for getting people and companies to buy time in VR rather how to better the field or peoples experiences. As a researcher in VR, I honestly feel like it can help revolutionise a large number of fields and subjects. However, the VR/AR/MR need to be lead by research and not the drive for money.

Building Consistent Design Systems

Andrew: Our second event with UXPA group was very informative. The speaker talked about designing and templating design elements and components in the product. I liked the idea of having a components/elements library to give coders more rigid constraints on which designs can be used and in what locations. These ideas of design patterns are something I feel we could use with our student developers here at Carleton.

Celeste: The second event dove much deeper into a specific topic, which was a nice change of pace. This was my biggest takeaway:

really like this approach: “define a process, not a project” to support long-term or ongoing work. #uxpamn

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) March 8, 2019

The idea of establishing a design library of elements really rang true, especially for our Omeka-based projects. Thinking about where to streamline, and where to customize, is an ongoing conversation we’re having so this was a nice case-study to consider.

 

BiochemAR is now available!

3d model of molecule appears above QR code on a plain table.

BiochemAR, an augmented reality app for visualizing 3d molecular models, is now available for download on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. This app, a collaboration between Rou-Jia Sung (biology) and Andrew Wilson (AT), also includes learning modules and ways to use the app in the classroom. To read more, checkout this write-up in The Scientist. If you’re interested in more information or talking through developing additional modules, please email Rou-Jia (rsung@carleton.edu) or Andrew (awilson@carleton.edu) directly.

Through the looking glass: Adventures with the Hololens

This blogpost has been a long time coming. I have meant to write about our ongoing Hololens developments for some time. I wanted to start by saying, even after over a year with the Hololens, it still really excites me over all of the other VR/AR technology currently available. Since I last posted we have purchased three more Hololens. This expansion was to enable multi-user experiences, something which I think makes the Hololens and AR stand out from VR in a classroom environment. These extra Hololens have helped me to work on two fascinating projects; Spectator-view and Share Reality view, both utilizing multiple units.

Spectator-View

We have had the Hololens for over a year now and only have one video demonstrating it. This is due to how difficult it is to record the AR via the Hololens. Microsoft thought of this and created Spectator-View. The spectator-view allows you to plug in a digital camera and Hololens into a computer and stitch together the images from both. This means you can record the Hololens at much higher resolution. But to do this, you need a second Hololens and a mount to hold it onto the digital camera. So second Hololens, check, Hololens mount, check (see the picture, I 3D printed one over the summer). Now came the hard part. Although Microsoft has created the software for Spectator-View, they don’t package it up in a nice easy application. You have to build it yourself via the source code. After a few hours of debugging, I finally got all of the required applications working. This is our current setup.

top view of Hololens on plastic mount
Hololens sitting on 3d printed mount

I am looking forward to making some new Hololens videos.

Share Reality view

The second package I have been working on is a shared reality experience where the users get to explore an archaeology site, Bryn Celli Ddu, and its associated data. Similar to the spectator view, Share Reality allows each Hololens user to see the same hologram within the same space. This will enable us to create shared experiences, for teaching this is a vital tool. Being able to all see and interact with the same object within in the same space. This adds a whole new level to AR allowing for more social interaction, not isolating the user in their own `realities’ like VR or single user experiences.

This share reality experience was demoed at GIS day.

Recap: Day of DH 2018

3 scholars seated on high chairs with microphones smiling and laughing during discussion.

Image caption: (l-r) Thabiti Willis, Jack Gieseking, Adriana Estill in conversation. Photo by Briannon Carlsen.

 

Guest Post: Arduino Water Depth Monitor

Author: Nathan Mannes, ’19

With supplies from the Geology Department and with the advising of Andrew Wilson, we have created an Arduino-based water-depth monitor. The grey cone you see at the bottom of the photo is a sonar-device that measures how far the closest solid object in front of it is. That could mean a wall, but we intend to put it over a body of water, like Lyman Lakes, to measure its depth over a long period of time with little maintenance. Because it is solar powered, we can leave it outside and let it send readings on its own.

On the right side you see a 3G shield module (with the antennae) mounted on an Arduino. It uses mobile data to send readings over the internet. But it has to send data to somewhere, right? We are setting up a public-facing webserver so that we can keep track of this data long-term. Then, much like the water tower, we will always be able to check what the depth of the Lyman Lakes are. In the future, we intend to expand this to conduct other readings on the water, like its pH or temperature, or volume of flow.

Academic Technology at OLC Innovate 2018!

Andrew, Dann, and Janet presented at the Online Learning Consortium Innovate! Conference in Nashville.  Their talks were (respectively):

Dann’s notes from sessions he attended are summarized below:

Andrew’s Spring 2018 Update

Fall and winter terms were an exciting time for me, with the arrival of our new 3D printer and the in-class trial of one of my Augmented Reality (AR) applications. Spring term will be just as exciting but a bit more virtual for me, as I will be spending time developing virtual experiences for Psychology and making virtual proteins a reality.

Spring term will also see more development and another full trial of our Biochemistry AR application. Working together with Rou-Jia Sung, we will be developing additional modules for use within the Intro to Biochemistry course this term. On this front, we will also be applying for a NSF grant to fund further research into the use of AR within a classroom setting. Excitingly, the AR application will be presented twice this term at the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) in Nashville and at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER).

Spring will also be an exciting time for me personally. Now I am settled in Carleton, and having worked with the wonderful librarians, I am about to embark on writing my third book Visualizations in Cultural Heritage. The book will look at the history and development of the multitude of visualizations employed within the Cultural Heritage field.

Carly’s Spring 2018 Update

This term I’m looking forward to more sunshine and outdoor running! But I’m also looking forward to the data collection phase for a few of my research projects. I’ve got quite a busy term ahead of me!

I’m working with Asuka Sango (Religion) on implementing some gamification techniques into her Zen Buddhism course. The goals of this project are to provide students with a positive reinforcement model for participation in good study behaviors and optional components in her course. While research suggests that gamification works well, it will be interesting to see what we can learn about the efficacy of gamification in a small humanities course.

I’m also stepping up my work with Language Lesson, a software that I designed as a practice tool for foreign language speaking exercises. This year I’m delving deep into the field of acoustic phonetics and digital signal processing to try to introduce intelligent features based on second language acquisition research. I will be presenting on the development of Language Lesson and the implementation of pitch graph display at the next CALICO conference in late May.

On this project, I’m collaborating with Andrew Wilson, who is helping to manage a team of student developers to realize this project. I’m excited that these students are getting some practice with software development and experience with tools used in industry.

Amongst all of this, I’m also traveling to Japan in April to participate in the International Kyudo Federation’s International Kyudo Seminar and Shinsa (rank examination). I’ll be learning, taking a rank examination and volunteering as an interpreter. It’s going to be an exhausting trip, but I appreciate the opportunity to visit Japan and make use of my language skills to help others learn.