The Emergence of a New Medium – VR and its UX considerations

A very Happy New Year from everyone here at Objective Experience! Hope you guys had a wonderful 2015, and continue to stay awesome. Let’s share the joy and love to everyone by making the world a better place every day and aim towards an even better 2016!

In 2015 we have seen some interesting new trends happening in the technology and UX scene. Notably, we see the emergence of a familiar medium that we are so used to see in science fiction movies – Virtual Reality (VR). Although VR has been around for quite some time now, it was a niche technology that were mostly used as a research tool, as it has been far too expensive and bulky to enter the mainstream market.

In the consumer market arena, Samsung has already announced their new Samsung Gear VR and its corresponding lineup of games and apps, however many are still unaware that VR indeed exists because they have not been educated on it. VR is predicted to be pushed into widespread adoption via the gaming industry, with Sony spearheading the charge. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus last year could also probably mark the start of an era where VR could replace many of our real-world interactions.  VR could very well be the next computing platform, akin to how smartphones is starting to replace our desktop/laptop computers, as well as change how we live our lives over the last decade.

With the possibility that VR will become the next computing platform that will become increasingly prevalent and integrated into our lives, it seems that the UX community needs to get acquainted with this new medium, because it is our job and passion to make interactive experiences pleasurable. 2016 is poised to be an exciting year for VR, and UX designers can expect to have projects working on the VR medium.

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Source: Back To The Future Part 2 (1989)

As the medium is still relatively new, it could be still quite difficult to find good resources on the internet, but fret not, Github user omgmog (Max Glenister) has compiled a really comprehensive list of resources (to date) on UI/UX design considerations for VR. Below is the 3 fundamental UX considerations that is important for a pleasurable VR experience:

1. Immersion / Presence – Perhaps the most important concept that is associated with the UX of VR is “immersion” (or “presence”), so much so that design on the VR platform has been coined “immersive design”. Basically, “immersion” is the extent on how the virtual environment faithfully reproduces experiences in which users believe that the virtual environment is physically real. There are many factors that can “break” immersion, for example, if interaction with a virtual object does not result in any effects, it violates our mental model for object interaction and hence breaking immersion. Unrealistic positional sound effects and model details would also make the object interaction seem less realistic.

 

2. Spatial Disorientation / Virtual Reality Sickness – Research has shown that virtual reality sickness is a major barrier to using VR. The cause behind Virtual Reality Sickness is still not fully known yet, but sensory conflict during movement seems to be the primary cause. In natural navigation, we use a few of our senses in tandem to makes sense of the environment, especially the eyes and the ears. However in VR, this job become primarily subserved by your eyes. The mismatch from the information going into your eyes and the other of your senses creates discomfort and symptoms that are similar to motion sickness. However, the solution to this apparently inherent problem to the VR platform can be as simple as adding virtual noise or twerking virtual reality motion parameters.

 

3. Comfort – Although comfort mainly depends on the hardware design, the design of the software applications contribute to comfort as well. For example, physical movements should be consistent with human ergonomics. If a particular action forces an unnatural twist to the body (e.g., overturning your head while sitting still), it is uncomfortable and can be potentially dangerous. Illegible text (which is pretty common in VR) and overly bright scenes will also impose additional stress on the eyes, causing eye fatigue.

Other than putting the focus on assessing the UX for VR applications, VR can also be a useful tool for general UX research. As mentioned above, VR technology started out mainly as a research tool, thanks to fact that it can handle research that requires ecological validity in a controlled environment. Before VR existed, many research are conducted in a lab-based setting which cannot really be generalized to the “real-world”. With VR, you can attain both criteria by constructing an artificial environment resembling the real-world within a controlled environment. With this in mind, undoubtedly VR can also be useful for UX and market research, specifically in assessing user experience in an unbiased, controlled setting.

VR can also be combined with eye tracking technology to provide more ecological-valid insights to UX research. For example, Tobii Pro offers VR integration with the Tobii Pro Glasses 2, providing an easy way to combine both VR and eye tracking technology into a powerful research tool.

Click here for more details!

 

Seeing the world through Noongyar eyes

How can Aboriginal ways of seeing the world transform education? Research into Aboriginal Australians, specifically how their contributions can inform contemporary educational practices, are needed to help students, schools and communities sustain Aboriginal knowing, recognise its value to society and bridge learning across and between cultures. For example, using cultural knowledge to better understand weather and its relationships to breeding seasons and availability of food sources can allow synergies between scientific and indigenous Aboriginal knowledge to become apparent.

Education researcher Dr. Khady Ibrahim-Didi and Jason Barrow from Edith Cowan University (Western Australia) are using Tobii Pro Glasses 2 in a small research study “Seeing the world through Noongar eyes’. The study investigates how Tobii Pro Glasses 2 can be used by Aboriginal educators to help others ‘see’ changes in their environment.

Aboriginal Educator in parkland using Tobii2 glasses to point out flora and fauna to early spring (photo credits: Kadhy Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

Aboriginal Educator in parkland using Tobii2 glasses to point out flora and fauna to early spring (photo credits: Khady Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

Wearing the Tobii Pro Glasses 2, an Aboriginal educator walked around a parkland location in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia.  It was early spring and as he focused on those signs that indicated the turn of the weather, the Tobii Pro Glasses 2 showed the focus of attention and the order in which he sought those signs. The team then invited a young Aboriginal youth to walk through the same area, wearing the same pair of Tobii Pro Glasses 2. Dr Khady spoke about the value and significance of Tobii Pro Glasses 2 in documenting such knowledge, “It was fantastic! We could see the parallels between the two people, one much more informed than the other, and yet you could see the beginnings of a culturally informed perspective emerging”. Khady and Jason both see the potential for using this tool to show how an Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal child might learn to “see the world through Nyoongar eyes” and for recognising those aspects that might show similarities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal views.

Aboriginal youth focusing on fallen seeds and animal tracks through a pair of Tobii2 goggles as she is inducted into the culturally relevant signs of the types of birds and animals that inhabit the area (photo credits: Kadhy Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

Aboriginal youth focusing on fallen seeds and animal tracks through a pair of Tobii2 goggles as she is inducted into the culturally relevant signs of the types of birds and animals that inhabit the area (photo credits: Khady Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

In another instance, Aboriginal elder at ECU, Oriel Joy Green (Bartlett) has also used the Tobii Pro Glasses 2 when she took a number of women, from multiple cultures back to country on a trip to support reconciliation. The trip, named ‘Koorliny Koort Boodja’ (Going to Heart Land), was supported by the City of Stirling. This trip focused on the journey of Oriel and her family. As she explained the significance of the places, the Tobii Pro Glasses 2 informed those with her, including Khady, areas and specific spots that carried such emotional and cultural significance to Oriel and her family. This trip of reconciliation was a celebrated success as the group continue to meet, sharing in a common vision – that of a better more united tomorrow for Australians from all cultures.

Aboriginal Elder Oriel Green pointing out some of the culturally significant areas in her country (photo credits: Kadhy Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

Aboriginal Elder Oriel Green pointing out some of the culturally significant areas in her country (photo credits: Khady Ibrahim-Didi, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)

 

For further updates please contact Dr. Kadhy Ibrahim-Didi .

Emotional UX – Techniques for measuring user’s emotions

Emotion, the very spark of feeling that makes our heart flutter, eyes tear over and our hands clench in fear. No doubt, we are all controlled by emotions. It is the primary instinct that drives us to feel and act. In UX, people are paying more attention upon the skill of empathy, plus emotion. But, as far as we can see, no-one has defined a standard on how emotion in UX/usability should be measured. A designer’s gut feel, their previous mistakes and experience, mostly does it. Trial and error with an agile process is ok, but can it be measured?

Since, by nature, emotions are intangible, there isn’t a definite method to measure emotion yet. We have written this summary so that we can work out what would be best to do as a consultancy right now. 

Neurometrics, Biometrics AND Eye Tracking

Andrew Schall (the principal researcher and senior director at Key Lime Interactive) has written a comprehensive article suggesting various new methods on how emotions can be measured more accurately and objectively, along with their pros and cons. We briefly review some of the methods mentioned in his article below. Then we will focus on some techniques you can adopt right now in your UX practice.

BIOMETRICS

Facial response analysis 

Traditional facial response analysis involves a few researchers observing participants, and coming to an agreement on what emotions are being elicited by the participants. In recent years, software and algorithms have been developed to recognize facial expressions of different emotions, just with a simple webcam set-up. However, the current state of this technology only recognizes a limited set of emotions (e.g., anger, fear, joy), and are only accurate when the emotions are overtly expressed. An example for such a software would be AFFDEX by Affectiva. You can also check out this Tedtalk here by Affectiva’s Chief Strategy and Science Officer, Rana el Kaliouby. Other similar software includes Noldus’ FaceReader and ZFace. Despite the limitations, deeper and more precise algorithms are rapidly being developed to raise the accuracy of the analysis.

Electromyography (EMG)

EMG is able to accurately measure more subtly expressed emotions by measuring signals from specific muscles known to react to specific emotions (check out this Scholarpedia article for a simple introduction). However, EMG is obtrusive and only works if you know which facial muscles to measure beforehand. It is also impossible to put electrodes across the entire face of the participants; but again, this is too intrusive for everyday usability testing.

Another limitation for using facial response analysis and EMG is that they can only measure overt emotions which are often under conscious control. As such, these emotions can be highly influenced by social settings. For example, humans tend to show stronger facial expressions if they believed that they are being observed.

One of our UX consultants trying out the Empathica E3 Wristband

One of our UX consultants trying out the Empathica E3 Wristband

GSR (Galvanic Skin Response)

GSR technology have been traditionally used to measure physiological arousal. It can accurately measure intensities (e.g., arousal, stress), but not emotional valence (positive or negative). Although some computational algorithms can be applied to the GSR data to measure valence (Monajati, Abbasi, Shabaninia, & Shamekhi, 2012), it is still far from being able to measure specific emotions.

Other limitations include a delay of 1- 3 seconds (maybe more, depending on the equipment used), and can be affected by external surrounding conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity) as well as internal bodily conditions (e.g., medications). We have a GSR unit and tried experimenting with it, but we found that it was rather difficult to correlate spikes in GSR with UI interactions. The temporal resolution of GSR is too crude to measure emotional response to individual events.

NEUROMETRICS

Electroencephalography (EEG)

EEG is a neuroimaging method used to measure real-time changes in voltage caused by brain activity. Measuring brain activity means it has a much larger arsenal of measures for emotional responses as compared to biometrics. Its excellent temporal resolution also means that it has the potential to measure real-time changes in emotional responses that would be very useful for UX research. However just like physiological response patterns, brain activity patterns are affected by many external and internal factors. Well-designed computational methods and trained algorithms are needed to extract information from the “noisy” EEG data. For example, movement can cause bunches of artifact that are not related to experienced emotions. Research into EEG as a measurement for emotions are still in early stages, but it has showed more promising results than the GSR in measuring emotional states.

EEG technology is now becoming increasingly accessible (check out this list on Wikipedia), and companies like Emotiv are already starting to produce lightweight and wireless EEG equipment for a simpler and less obtrusive set-up. It means, however, that there will be lesser electrodes to precisely and reliably transform the data into meaningful insights. It is a trade-off between obtrusiveness and data sensitivity.

EYE-TRACKING

Eye-tracking is not obtrusive and can measure arousal from blink activity, pupil size and dwell times, however pupilometry like this suffers from the same problem of being affected by many external and internal factors. Thus, the environment must be well-controlled to avoid disturbance that may contribute to changes in pupilometry data of the participants.

With eye-tracking we can measure people’s unconscious eye gaze response to an interface they are using. Specific emotions, however, cannot be measured using eye-tracking alone, and instead are discovered only in the Retrospective Think Aloud (RTA) Interview afterwards, which is susceptible to suggestibility effect.

Despite eye-tracking’s inability to measure emotional states meaningfully on its own, its main advantage lies in its flexibility to combine with other research methods and measurements to gather powerful insights. Eye-tracking aids us in determining the user’s attention, focus or other mental states. Using other devices, we are potentially able to pinpoint specific events or touch points that cause a change in emotional states during testing sessions. The usage of lightweight eye tracking equipment, such as our Tobii Glasses 2, also enables the flexibility of the research objective to test in their own environment if they were to require more ecological validity.

How do we use all this?

One important piece of advice from Andrew Schall’s article is that EEG and GSR are not for everyone, as there can be potential for misinterpretation and misuse of the data. We believe that there is a need to understand the science behind the complexities of the technologies beforehand in order to avoid misusing them. This also applies to the eye-tracking technology, even if you are using it as a complementary research method to pinpoint specific events as mentioned above.

Andrew also warned that it is often insufficient to measure emotions just with a single technique, as the neurometrics and biometrics measurements for emotions described above are not fully matured yet. Using a variety of methods to complement each other would obtain a better accuracy in identifying users’ specific emotional experiences. There are, however, still significant challenges to implement a standard for measuring emotions using these technologies, especially in terms of economy and practicality. Given neurometrics and biometric measurements still have some way to go, is there any other way to measure emotions more economically and practically?

What else can we do to measure emotion?

We believe the answer to this question could be good old self-report questionnaires.

Questionnaires, unlike user interviews, are more objective and standardized, hence results can be compared across different context and projects. Our clients always want to compare scores like NPS or SUS for themselves against other projects across their organization. Although questionnaires still suffer from the same problem of having a reliance on a user’s recall (which could be mitigated by the use of the eye-tracking + RTA research methodology), it is simple to implement and you do not need to be a neuroscientist to analyze the results. There might be countless questionnaires available online, but fret not, we have done a little research to identify the following that are designed and empirically tested to measure aspects related to emotions

1. Geneva Emotion Wheel

This is an empirically tested instrument to measure emotional reactions to objects, events, and situations, based on Scherer’s Component Process Model. It assesses 20 emotions and can be used in 3 different ways, depending on your objective. You can download a standard template to use at their website, provided it is for non-commercial research purpose.

2. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

70cb81fe1b87d2703d5c2f127841efad.jpg

Source: Author/Copyright holder: Machine Elf 1735. Copyright terms and licence: Public Domain.

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is an early model of an emotional wheel that was constructed based on 8 “basic” emotions and their “opposite emotions”. It was further expanded to include more complex emotions that are composed of 2 basic ones. Even though this model lacks empirical testing, some UX designers and researchers use it from time to time to map out user journeys, because it provides an organisational structure (e.g., intensity, complexity) when measuring emotions.

3. Self Assessment Manikin (SAM)

This is a questionnaire that uses pictorial scales to measure 3 dimensions of experienced emotions: pleasure, arousal and dominance. It has been often used in evaluations of advertisements and increasingly in product evaluation. Because it is pictorial-based, it is compatible with a wider range of population (children, or participants from different language/cultural background).

4. PrEmo

This questionnaire also uses pictorial scales, but it is designed to measure more specific emotions for product evaluation purposes. It uses a set of 7 positive and 7 negative emotions to measure the emotional impact on users. Like eye tracking, PrEmo can be used either as a quantitative tool by itself, or as a qualitative tool to complement user interviews. Although PrEmo is available for academic (non-commercial) usage free-of-charge, there is a charge in using it for commercial purposes.

5. AttrakDiff

The Attrakdiff does not measure specific emotions, but it includes an assessment of emotional impact on product evaluation. It measures attractiveness of a product based on 2 sets of scales:

  • Pragmatic scale – basically usability, e.g., usefulness of a product
  • Hedonic scale – this is measuring emotional reactions. It is not measuring the distinct emotions itself, but the user’s needs and behaviours arising from the emotions, e.g., curiosity, identification, joy, enthusiasm

Their website offers a pretty comprehensive overview of what is it about and you are able to have a go at the demo on their website too.

 

6. youxemotions

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Source: http://emotraktool.com/en/why

youxemotions offer a simple and easy-to-use solution to measure emotions. Users will choose what they felt from 9 emotions and 5 levels of intensity. Turning results into charts for presentation is extremely easy as well. It is currently in beta, and is free for use till the end of the beta period.

Even though there are various ways to measuring emotions is UX, it is important to understand the benefits and limitations to each method. After all, research methods are only useful if it can help you answer your research question or design objective.

If specific emotions are too complicated for your needs, maybe an analysis of how users are using their mouse would be a good enough  tool to infer negative emotions when users are browsing websites.

-Ying Ki, Shermaine & James

References

Monajati, M., Abbasi, S. H., Shabaninia, F., & Shamekhi, S. (2012). Emotions States Recognition Based on Physiological Parameters by Employing of Fuzzy-Adaptive Resonance Theory. International Journal of Intelligence Science, 2, 166-175 .

We Can Help you Empathise With Your Customers

With the recent interest on empathy in design, many designers and researchers in the UX community are writing on this construct and imploring other designers to utilize more empathy in their design process. In fact, a quick search on Google for “Empathy & UX” will net you more articles than you can read in a week!

Unfortunately, interesting as these articles might be, one soon realises that each and every author has their own interpretation of the term “empathy”. From “understanding the feelings and thoughts of others” to “sharing the same feelings as others” or “a feeling of affinity with others”. Empathy is being defined in a variety of ways that do not necessarily coincide with each other. To quote Product Designer Emily Campbell,

“Like most buzzwords that become jargon, the value of the word empathy is being lost in the noise.”

At Object Experience, after self-insight, we believe that empathy is one of the most important assets for a UX’er. This blog post aims to decode this elusive construct and convey to the community exactly how to effectively embrace empathy in the design thinking process, especially with the help of cutting edge research technologies such as eye tracking.

What is empathy?

Source: http://www.stuartduncan.name/general/autism-and-empathy-heres-another-way-to-look-at-it/

Empathy comes from both the Greek root “pathos” which means emotion, feeling, suffering, or pity, as well as the German word “Einfühlung” which was used to refer to the human capacity’ to experience a sense of unity with the artist of a piece of art. Interestingly, the concept of “Einfühlung” helps us to understand that the act of empathizing needs not be limited to human beings, and it can be extended to objects and even ideas and symbols among other things that we can empathize with.

Empathy is a multidimensional construct. In psychology research, empathy has been dissected into two distinct types:

  1. Emotional empathy refers to the ability to understand and identify with someone else’s emotional states without being overtaken by them. This kind of empathy often happens automatically and unconsciously.
  2. Cognitive empathy refers to the objective understanding of other’s perspectives, context, goals and motivations, and is largely consciously driven.

Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/your-brain-structure-may-decide-how-you-empathize-emotional-brains-are-physically-339996

As with many elusive constructs, empathy receives a fair amount of debate on whether there is a need to distinct it into the 2 above-mentioned types. Some researchers have argued that emotional empathy is a more primitive type of empathy that preempts cognitive empathy and is thus necessarily more important (McLaren, 2013).  However, recent neurocognitive research has found that they are sufficiently different processes in terms of brain region activations, suggesting that cognitive empathy is no less important than emotional empathy (Nummenmaa, Jussi, Riitta, & Jari, 2008). This finding actually partially echos early propositions that argue “true empathy” integrates both types of empathy (Staub, 1987).

Role of empathy in UX Design & Research

Empathy underpins human-centered design and the UX community more than anything else. Developers and designers who do not understand the importance of empathy will find it difficult appreciating how different users think and work, and often assume that every user will approach and solve problems in the same way as themselves. Peter Smart, a designer who had gone on a journey to solve 50 design problems in 50 days mentioned that:

“Empathic research helps us understand our users’ needs beyond the functional, enabling us to develop more appropriate design outcomes. It is one of a raft of valuable processes and tools, on its own seemingly no more important than any other. However, while good designers understand the tools, great designers understand people.”

To put it simply, “great designers” are those who have a thorough and holistic understanding of their users, not just with their overt needs, but also their underlying implicit and latent needs.

Source: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/empathic-design-is-empathy-the-ux-holy-grail

In the UX community, empathy often takes on a strong emotional tone, because an “experience” is often associated to emotions, and companies that capitalize on users’ emotions in their marketing efforts often stand out. This is predominantly because emotions are more primal states of mind than rational thinking, and that the emotional brain processes sensory information much quicker than the cognitive brain.

However, as mentioned above, “great” UX design and empathic research requires a thorough and holistic understanding of users. This requires both emotional and cognitive empathy, and not just either one of them. Cognitive empathy is just as important, as understanding users’ multi-faceted cognitions (e.g. contexts, goals, motivations and problem solving approach) is required to make sense of the emotions and feelings that are elicited.

Developing empathy

Some people are naturally more empathic than others. Highly emphatic people usually have a curious and sensitive personality, and are genuinely curious about others, be it a friend, stranger or even an enemy. They also strive to challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices of others by searching for commonalities, rather than taking human differences on face value.

Source: https://www.scarymommy.com/teach-my-child-empathy/

That does not, however, mean that empathy is an innate trait and cannot be cultivated.

Broadening your horizons is one good way to develop empathy. The greater you immerse yourself into different experiences and expand your social circle, the higher tendency you will share a common experience with others, and hence real connections. Getting out from your comfort zone and travelling to different cultures can be a good way to gain experiences outside of your own community. You will not only appreciate human differences better, but also experience many of the real problems people are facing which you may not have encounter otherwise. If you are low on travelling budget, try helping people in your own community, be it counselling or volunteer work. Experiencing real problems faced by real people yourself is the best way to understand them.

Source: http://theoldrectorydonard.com/mindfulness-retreat-20-september-2015/

Interestingly, empathy also starts from understanding yourself. Practice mindfulness, whether that be yoga, meditation, sport or other pursuits that raise your awareness of your inner voice. Only through a greater awareness of our own attitudes and thought processes, can we then understand that our perceptions of others are often skewed by the self-reference bias that are inherent in all of us. True empathy requires an objective empathic process, and being mindful (intentional, accepting and non-judgmental) definitely helps. If mindfulness is too elusive a construct for you to grasp, maybe learning how to “Listen Better” would be easier to digest.

Deepen empathy with Eye Tracking

The human mind is complex. It’s next to impossible to read someone’s mind even if you are highly empathic, but there are ways to get closer. As far as UX research is concerned, we believe that Eye Tracking is one of the best ways to help us empathise with our users. Eye tracking allows us to directly see unconscious reactions during a usability testing experience, and this reveals what attracts consumers’ attention without requiring us to interrupt participants or expect them remember exactly what they have done. Most humans’ visual behaviour operates below the level of conscious awareness. People simply are not aware where their eyes are going, much less can they recall it.

From our experience, eye tracking helps us to better enquire about a consumer’s experience. When a task is complete, showing the participant where they looked and undertaking an empathic user interview we can gain deep insights into their experience.

One of our UX consultants conducting an user testing session to uncover insights into the thought processes and feelings going through a user’s mind when interacting with a mobile app.

Other than allowing us to deeply understand users, eye tracking numbers also offer a simple way to communicate usability findings and speak a language that executive stakeholders understand. By speaking a common language, we are essentially sharing a common experience, allowing us to be more empathic with one and other.

-Ying Ki and James

References

McLaren, K. (2013). The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill. Louisville, Colorado: Sounds True.

Nummenmaa, L., Jussi, H., Riitta, P., & Jari, K. H. (2008). Is Emotional Contagion Special? An Fmri Study on Neural Systems for Affective and Cognitive Empathy. NeuroImage, 43(3), 571-580.

Staub, E. (1987). Commentary on Part 1. In N. Eisenberg, & J. Strayer, In Empathy and Its Development (pp. 103-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

User interviews Demystified

Often user research is associated with a whole lot of complex sounding methodologies, like

Anecdote circle
Behavioral mapping
Body storming
Cognitive walkthrough
Context mapping
Ethnographic interview
Focus Group interview

But what does this jargon mean at the end of the day? Steve Portigal, author of “Interviewing Users” emphasizes that, no matter where you are in the design process, there really is just one “methodology” that you ought to follow. Speak to users.

When should I speak to users?
Newsflash! You can speak to potential users anytime during the design process! There have been times when our clients came over with a bunch of wireframes. The client wanted to test an idea with those wires. In other instances, we’ve had designers over with a few unrelated screenshots of proposed mobile applications. The user interviews that followed, resulted in design decisions that shaped products.

How do I speak to users?
So, do you need to have a formal education in design or psychology to interview users? Nada. Anyone, be you a designer, developer, a business user or a product owner can be an interviewer. Good interviewing skills come from experience.  To help you along the way, I would recommend the TED Talk by Julian Treasure on how to listen better. Julian speaks about the acronym RASA, to use as a guide in communication. In Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, RASA means “Essence”. It is completely relevant to interviewing users. So, here’s my take on the acronym.

Receive:  When you are an interviewer, watch AND listen to what the participant is doing and saying. Don’t assume you know all the answers.
Appreciate: Respond to the participant with “hmm”, “ok”, “Interesting” to show that you ARE listening. Be genuinely interested.
Summarize: Summarize themes from the research. Build a story so your stakeholders can empathize with users. Use short clips of the interview to demonstrate your themes.
Ask: Take on the role of a student rather than that of an interviewer. Ask the participant questions like, “Would you explain to me what you meant?”

What do I do with all the insights after the interviews?

Getting insights across are just as important as the interviews themselves.  The onus lies on you to get the word across to the stakeholders.  YOU are the voice of the user, so SPEAK.

There is however no such thing as an ideal report. A good report identifies issues and provides actionable recommendations.

Summarize:  Make the connections. Tell a story.  Summarise your research so that you tell a compelling story. Managers and VP’s seldom have the patience to go through pages and pages of your report, no matter how passionately you wrote it.

Include videos: Nothing is more impactful than seeing the users speak about pain points themselves. Use the videos to substantiate your story.

Include quotes: Participant quotes are more colourful and poignant than a researcher’s description of an issue. They usually drive a point home and sometimes even provide comic relief in a conference room full of grim faced executives.

Deliver the results in person: Always present your findings to your stakeholders personally.  If you spoke to participants, you will be able to effectively become the voice of the user to stakeholders.

Well like I mentioned earlier, good user interviewing comes with experience, so, don’t hesitate to get out there and ask the right questions.

Gowri Penkar

Portable eye tracking – Tobii Glasses 2

Tobii has recently announced the release of their new mobile eye-tracking glasses – Tobii Glasses 2!

Tobii Glasses 2 reveal what a person is looking at while they are engaged with real world environments and in other activities. They are the successor of the original Tobii Glasses, but come with a whole range of boastful upgrades to solidify their place as the future of mobile eye-tracking.

Buy Tobii Glasses 2

Tobii Glasses 2 Eye Tracker available in Singapore soon!

The glasses only weigh a tiny 45 grams and come with an upgraded wide angle HD scene camera and clear rims for optimal viewing. A new wireless feature allows for remote LIVE viewing so that others can instantly view what the user sees! With Binocular eye-tracking for improved accuracy and 1920×1080 pixel scene recordings, this new piece of technology will be in high demand as researchers discover more and more ways to use the technology in innovative ways.

 

New in Tobii Glasses 2 eye tracker

Live view — allows researchers to see exactly what a person is looking at, wirelessly and in real time. Gain immediate and actionable insights to tailor your retrospective interview prompts.

True view — provides complete freedom of viewing for the wearer thanks to the wide-angle HD scene camera and four eye cameras in a thin frame. Secure valid research by accommodating peripheral vision and natural viewing behavior.

Flexible mapping tool — significantly reduces time for coding videos. Efficiently aggregate and process data from multiple test participants for specific study objects. No more IR markers!

Lightweight, unobtrusive design — feels like a regular pair of sports glasses at only 45 grams. Give participants maximum freedom of movement to behave naturally.

Here’s a recent webinar from Tobii on Tobii Glasses 2 eye tracker

Driving you to D i s t r a c t i o n Eye Tracking Driver Awareness

Driving is a natural skill for most of us. So natural, that we often do it subconsciously. Have you ever felt yourself go on auto pilot while you driving? Chances are that you are preoccupied with thoughts of work or home. Researchers call driving in this manner, with little or no attention to the traffic around, “driving without awareness.”

They also refer to something called “distracted driving”. With all the cool gadgetry that comes with vehicles today, we find ourselves compelled to multitask while driving. It is not uncommon to check navigation devices, answer a call or even text while driving. What kind of impact do these small actions take on driving? What can we learn from these common experiences that all drivers have?

Keep your eyes on the road!

Researchers at Attitudes, a corporate social responsibility program launched by Audi in Spain, studied 13 experienced drivers all working around the same area. They were observed during two tests, one of which was on a racetrack and the other which was the route they took to work daily. Researchers used eye tracking to study how drivers’ behavior while they navigated around familiar and unfamiliar roads. Participants wore a pair of Tobii Glasses—a mobile eye tracking system—to record their eye movements, so that researchers could determine which items in a participant’s field of vision attracted their attention.

The findings from this research were as follows

  • Experienced drivers are likely to drive subconsciously on familiar routes: Drivers who drive subconsciously are typically experienced drivers who drive a lot and use the car every day to get to work or school, usually always traveling along the same route.
  • People scan the road differently when they are driving subconsciously: In conscious driving, the driver’s gaze remained focused on a particular area of the road, while a subconscious driver used a wider viewing area with a more rapid eye movements.
  • Familiarity with the route plays a role in subconscious driving: When a driver is more relaxed, driving on a route that he/she is very familiar with, subconscious driving tends to occur.
  • Being lost in thought: Most drivers admitted to have slipped into driving subconsciously as their mind began to dwell on other things like their workday.

While driving subconsciously might seem dangerous, the study showed that drivers are able to snap back when they are faced with a dangerous situation. This means that, whilst not advised, driving subconsciously is at best a moderate risk; but can be lethal when combined with excessive speeds.

…Your hands upon the wheel!

If a driver is actually distracted while driving it’s a whole other scenario. Researchers have found that the seemingly simple act of answering calls, checking satellite navigation systems or texting while driving, can be lethal. <include eye tracking videos of distracted driving>

  • Distractions are not uncommon among drivers: Researchers working for Direct Line, an insurance company in London, found examples of motorists taking their eyes of the road to adjust sat-nav devices and in several cases, navigate using a hand-held smartphone.
  • Young and old both tend to ignore stimuli when distracted: Some 21 per cent of cyclists were unnoticed by those aged 50 or over, but 31 per cent among motorists aged between 20 and 29 years, which is a cause of concern considering younger people have better eyesight on the whole.
  • Eye movement stops when you are distracted: Researchers found that people answering calls have a narrow range of eye movement, when the eyes stop moving and a visual tunneling occurs.
  • Taking your eyes off the road and shutting them… it’s the same thing!: Texting and driving, researchers found is as good as being off the road or driving with your eyes shut.

The study concluded that distracted driving is bound to be lethal and that a seemingly small distraction can be prove to be disastrous to drivers.

Why use Tobii eye tracking?

While it may seem obvious that vision plays a big role in how people drive, the actual way people use their eyes when they are driving subconsciously or are distracted, tells a whole different story. Tobii Glasses, which is a mobile eye tracking system, records driver experiences as they happen. Actual driver behaviour is captured in real time and in real life. A simulator could never have the same effect as the real-life driving experience and a survey relying solely on the driver’s memory would not have the impact either. “The biggest advantage of using the Tobii Glasses was that we could use them in a real-life setting. Test subjects were able to perform common, everyday activities without being hindered by bulky eye glasses. Besides which, working closely with Tobii meant we were able to secure the best results possible during the project, find solutions to unforeseen situations, and work together as a team“, says Hildebrand Salvat.

How to professional drivers drive?

The following two videos are of a pro driving instructor, Steve Shaw, from Shawsett Training and Safety and an novice driver, me! We drove the same route around Perth and look at the results. All I did was I look at the road and in the mirrors like I was taught to. In comparison, steve scanned the environment constantly looking for things that might go wrong. He was defensive driving and I was just driving. And I think I am a good driver!!!! The roads are so well maintained in Australia that we can get away with unaware driving, but in Asia it is a very different story!! Be aware or get hurt!

There are three phases of acquiring a driving skill, the cognitive phase, an associative phase and an autonomous phase. Mourant & Rockwell (1972) studied the development of eye movements and the improvement of observation with driver experience. Mourant & Rockwell (1972) found that vision in driving is believed to constitute over 90% of information input to the driver. When you are just beginning to learn how to drive, emphasis is laid on adherence to Road Traffic Rules, and coordinative ability to manoeuvre along routes while observing rules. Whereas at the autonomous phase professional drivers’ driving skills are shaped and reinforced by near miss or actual crashes. Hence they are more likely to have and increased observation of high-risk situations which results in a greater level of vigilance. More experienced drivers that have greater observation skills, therefore also have lower crash rates.

Listen up!

While professional drivers are more equipped to handle difficult situations, for regular drivers like you and I, it is a totally different story. Our brains are not capable of concentrating on two things simultaneously. If you are texting, speaking on the phone or are even lost in thought, you increase the cognitive load on your brain and your driving immediately takes a hit. Consequently, a distracted driver is more likely to get into a crash that an alert one. The eye tracking research findings on ‘driving without awareness’ and ‘distracted driving’ resulted in the research being shared with government authorities so that education and awareness programs can be conducted among the young and old alike. The eye tracking data is convincing because it is evidence based and is hard to ignore. It is a reminder, albeit in an unsettling manner, that road safety can be jeopardised in a matter of seconds.

Gowri Penkar