Check out my final project proposal for Design for Usability below. Went a little of the beaten path and asked for special permission to undertake this mission. Super super excited to get started!
If you are an expert on usability and/or VR (developer, designer, tester etc.) I want TO TALK TO YOU!
Please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog post with your contact info.
Evolving Usability Principles & Heuristics for VR:
An Evaluation & Extension of Current Knowledge
Technology continues to push the price of virtual reality (VR) hardware down and the variety of applications for its implementation up and up. Over the last few years it has become increasingly accessible and several fields such as education, media, gaming, and most recently immersive journalism have picked it up as a result. However, since virtual reality is still a relatively new medium its very definition is still in flux and as such, standards for how, where, when it should be used continue to evolve.
Like any Human Computer Interaction (HCI) VR applications put people at the center of the experience, relying on their perceptions and reactions to provide appropriate feedback for a successful interaction. Given the centrality of the human to these applications, VR must be examined, developed, and evaluated using human-centered design methods. From a brief scan of available literature, I have found a few scattered attempts at applying usability standards based on human-centered design principles to VR or virtual environments VE. One group in particular, Sutcliffe and Karr, actually proposed 12 VE heuristics in 2000, modified from Nielsen’s usability heuristics (from Usability Inspection Methods, 1994) in order to address usability and presence issues in virtual environments. Since then, a few authors have evaluated or attempted to critique these guidelines through case studies and testing, however I have found no evidence of a solid set of new usability principles created since.
For my final project for Design and Usability, I propose to create new heuristics for VR and VE’s that takes recent advances in VR technology into account To do this I will undertake an in-depth literature review to collate any and all usability guidelines and heuristics that have already been created, explore usability guidelines targeted at designers of Virtual Reality systems (such as Google Cardboards’ built-in developer guide) and perform short interviews with students/faculty/outside experts who have created VR applications. Finally, I will explore the motivations behind several related usability principles in adjacent fields: UI/UX, Human Computer Interaction (HCI) in order to see if there is crossover at the theoretical level (e.g. psychological motivation behind the principle, cognitive biases addressed etc.).
The deliverable for this project will be an analysis of current standards, and the proposal of a refined set of usability principles for virtual reality interactions and virtual environments, taking into account the current capabilities and varied uses of VR technologies. By no means will I attempt to specifically propose VR standards for a given field (such as gaming), nor will I cover the technical implementation of these standards from a development point of view (although I may discuss relative concepts – after all it is a virtual reality). Rather I seek to better understand how tried and true usability principles can be modified for virtual reality, or if the experience of VR is so unique that new principles and heuristics entirely are required.
Just for fun, here is the best VR commercial I have seen so far!