I was fortunate to join the Blended Interaction Studio, a multidisciplinary team under the direction of Dr. Brian O’Keefe [more of his cool projects]. The team was continuing their research on mobile augmented reality technologies in the form of an iOS application. I had joined as an Interaction Designer to create a workshop series connecting a historic village museum, middle school students of different schools, app developers, researchers, and multimedia students.
Can you turn schoolchildren into interaction designers?
My job became a wonderful balancing act of the needs of the project and the coordination of schedules. Keeping the parallel tasks of researching effective middle school instruction strategies and our development cycle in mind helped to scope what we could achieve in a semester. Fortunately our clients had trust in our work as they had been involved at several different iterations of this blended reality application.
We followed an agile approach to development allowing for constant input by all parties into our project stages. Using the feedback of our project kick-off meeting as well as initial project scoping, I had helped to co-fascilitate our in class workshops. Visual aids such as PowerPoint and historical artifacts from the museum’s time period were used to help students create stories. Their stories were mapped to an affinity diagram to help them capture and manipulate all of their ideas. The challenge we faced as researchers was to encourage them to create stories that: contained interesting characters, a location at the museum, and an action that may or may not involve the user.
The peer-reviewed student stories were then turned into narratives that would be used by the phone app at the historic village. We had filmed the students acting out their finalized stories with the help of the RIT multimedia students. The students had put on period costume and acted out their story for the developers to add to the app. The app use the GPS location data of the story to trigger the recorded content to play on an iPhone. The class trip to the historic village let the students not only see their story in action, but also use their learned user observation skills. Armed with clipboards and charged iPhones, the evaluating students followed a group of students their age from another school to record their experience. My team and I created a work in progress paper to share our project.
We all had a blast! Even with the slight technical difficulties the app had during our field study, the students were really enthusiastic about their experience with the project. Our work was published in the 28th British HCI Conference conference proceedings for other researchers to use [Dr. Brian O’Keefe’s perfect explanation of it all.].
A major challenge we had faced was with some of the technology. One of the early versions of the technology had difficulties in going from map navigation to video streaming during the tour. It became really difficult to show other people how the app works when its main feature was having difficulty with connecting to cellular service. The historical village has very minimal modern technology and any that does exist is hidden from guest view.
Our options were extremely limited. We had to make adjustments on location for the next group of observers, I had an idea: “why not load all of the video content on another iOS device and show that as the app updates the map navigation?” I had quickly loaded all the video content onto my iPad and used the combination of both devices to get through the day of testing. The developers were able to turn those bugs around for later uses of the app.
I learned that you have to be very careful when shifting how a goal will be met during the course of a project. Because it is important to find a balance between what each team is looking to accomplish, compromises and adjustments are critical. At the end of the day it is entirely worth it the you are able to help contribute to making a positive experience for all parties involved. My experience taught me that as much investment you put into your individual contribution, it is never more important than the goals of the group.