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CLEO the Augmented Reality Museum Guide

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Project Overview

Challenge

Museums are increasingly using digital technologies to enhance the visitor experience. Curators,  who organise the exhibits, put a lot of care into presenting information to visitors through  printed signs, portable guides and large interactive displays. However, there is less opportunity  for information to flow in the opposite direction i.e. for visitors to contribute "content" to the  museum. 

Your challenge is to design an interactive digital technology to enhance the experience of visitors to the British Museum. The technology should let visitors contribute some form of content to the museum.

Objectives

  • Understand the visitor experience to the British Museum and how some form of digital technology may enhance visitor experience

  • Develop a digital design concept using design thinking to truly understand user motivations

Project Scope

Interaction design, User Research, Concept generation

Tools

Adobe Photoshop, XD, Solidworks 3D Modelling

Role

UX Designer (Research, Visual Design, Interaction Design, User testing)

Team

Group project; Pia Steffes, Murdi Althaf & Jen Sparks

Duration

1 term (10 Weeks) 

Design Process

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As the design brief for the project was broad and open, we applied the Design Thinking iterative process to our approach for the project.

 

We wanted to understand the user, their challenges and understand current behaviours and potential pain points in the museum experience. Our aim was to redefine the problem space and to attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be obvious with our initial level of understanding. 

 

Although Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is an approach that is suited to exploring a broad concept areas and taking a iterative approach to continuously develop an appropriate strategy.

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Empathise & Define

Research Plan

Research provides the foundations to help to truly understand the users motivations, why they may act, perform in a certain way and helps the design team to understand their hopes, fears, limitations and goals when performing an activity.

To ensure the design team stayed on track, within the limited time frame of the project, it was important to create a research plan before diving head first into any activity. It was important to focus the research activities and spend our time wisely, as with such an open design brief this could result in masses of data and with a limited time to process this.

 

As the the design project was explorative in nature, the design team would continually iterate in the design process, but our first initial research stage in order to empathise with users consisted of our initial research goals and the user research techniques that we initial used to kick the design process off.

Plan overview:

  1. Day 1-2: Each member conducted direct observations at the museum and recorded their observations

  2. Day 3-4: Each member analysed their observation data and highlighted key themes and notable observations

  3. Day 4-6: User interview (10-20 people) would be conducted focussing on user experience around key themes

  4. Day 4-6: Contextual Inquiries would also be utilised to compliment interviews and probe users in more detail

  5. Day 7-9: Interview and Contextual Inquiry Data analysed and key findings distilled in three key themes for ideation and exploration

Research Goals

  • As the design brief is we were set is open and subjective to interpretation, our first goal was in two stages:

    • Firstly, to understand how current users engage with the British Museum and its exhibitions and determine key themes

    • Secondly, to utilising appropriate research techniques to focus on these key themes to better understand user motivations and behaviours

  • To uncover users behaviours, habits, motivations and pain points when at the British Museum and identify areas of opportunities to where users can contribute content back

Research Techniques

In order to investigate how people interacted and experienced the British Museum and with a limited time scale on the project the design team decided to focus on the Egyptian galleries at the British museum.

 

Our goal was to first get a better sense of the context, tasks and the potential problems visitors may encounter at the Egyptian Exhibits.

Direct Observations

Observations were chosen as a good starting point, as ‘people are incapable of accurately assessing their own behaviour when they are removed from the context of their activities’ (Cooper et al, 2007). It can be very difficult for people to explain what they do or even describe accurately how they achieve a task.

 

The team adopted the  Practitioners Frame work and Robson Framework (2011), breaking down the observations down by:

  • The Person: Who is using and are they engaging with the exhibit at any a particular type ? 

  • The Place: Where are they in the exhibition and where are they using it ? 

  • The thing: What are they doing with the exhibit ? Are they interacting with it or using technology to ?

  • Acts: What are the specific individuals actions ?

  • Events: Is what you observe part of a special event ?

  • Goals: What are the users trying to accomplish ?

  • Feelings: What is the mood of the group or the individuals? 

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Direct Observations Analysis

The observation analysis involved identifying the key themes, tasks and goals from the raw data. Several key themes were commonly observed, such as navigation and wayfinding, understanding the exhibition information and language barriers. These insights then drove a framework of semi-structured interview questions to gain more detail on the key observations, to help understand users experience to the museum in more detail.

Themes 

  • The most notable user group were 15-30 Year olds

  • Users would willingly use their smart phones or museum guides to learn about exhibits 

  • Navigation and wayfinding was a key pain point

  • The museum attracted a multi-national audience whose first language was not english

User Goals

  • To learn something new

  • To understand the information displayed in the exhibits

  • To record their experience

  • To have fun and enjoy themselves 

User Feelings 

  • Curiosity

  • Happiness

  • Boredom

  • Confusion

Pain points

  • Not understanding information presented

  • Information not in their own language, difficult to translate

  • Getting lost or unable to find an exhibit

  • No enjoying the crowds or waiting.

Interviews

Semi-structured interview questions were utilised to allow the design team to probe and prompt for further information to help the interview along without introducing bias and the flexibility when participants were in a rush. 

The interview questions combined both open and closed questioning and consisted of a  total of 16 participants, combining a mixture of museum staff and visitors at the museum, to get a broader context of their experience. The data was collected through an online survey tool, which allowed immediate analysis. A survey structure was chosen rather than structured interviews, as this allowed the design team to collect data from as many and various users in the time constraint process.

Assumptions validated

  • 13/16 interviewees found that the museum Mapping and orientation created issues and it was not the easier building to explore and certain exhibits like the Egyptian one, were difficult but desired to be seen

  • 12/16 interviewees found that Information was hard to understand and found the information difficult to read due to its size or the position of it at the exhibition

  • 7/16 interviewees found that the museum was too crowded in certain popular areas and areas that were not that will know would be empty. Crowds would put users off, but visitors were still curious and like the adventure. 

  • 2 staff members reiterated mapping issues and the difficulty staying up to date with new exhibits

  • 7/16 interviewees found that there was a language barrier to understanding information and that information was generally difficult to understand

Contextual Inquiries 

Further to the interviews, contextual inquiries were another primary method used to collect user data. A total of 3 participants were observed and interviewed within the British Museum, with a focus within the Egyptian galleries, recruited from friends of the researchers.

 

Contextual inquiries were used to interact with and observe the user in their normal environment and helped by opening up more insight into the user’s behaviours within the exhibitions as people were more comfortable to discuss their actions without feeling judged. The researcher’s assumptions were verified with the users at the end of the inquiries.

The contextual Inquiries also highlighted key pain points/opportunities:

  • Exhibit information could be difficult to understand

  • Exhibits were hard to find and there was no right way to view exhibits or in an order (participants wanted a story, an adventure!)

  • Crowding prevented certain exhibits from being viewed and participants didn't want to hand around

  • Lack of technology, felt museum was outdated

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Ideate

Our design brief started very open and then after the initial primary research as a team we were able to focus on three key opportunity areas, we would explore:

  • How could digital technology be used to combat overcrowding

  • How could digital technology be used to aid comprehending information 

  • How could digital technology be sed to aid Navigating the museum

Crawford Slip Method

As our team had a variety of backgrounds in computer science, product design and business marketing, we set out to draw on the groups experience to create as many ideas as possible address our main users pain points and individual experiences during the research activities. 

 

The best way to get a good idea, is to get lots of ideas. The team utilised the Crawford slip method, each design team member spent 5 minutes writing down design solutions to address a the three key insights, then the team then sat down and discussed each idea, grouped ideas and categorised them.

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From 31 different designs, the ideas generated by the brainstorming exercise were then grouped into nine categories;

  1. Creating a new type of display

  2. Using technology to provide additional information

  3. Using a device to scan and provide information

  4. Member contributed maps

  5. Displays that users can vote on

  6. Interactive images with artefacts

  7. Dynamic Displays

  8. Virtual Reality tools

  9. Smart translation concepts

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Sketch, ideate and repeat

Below shows a sample of just some of the sketches the group produced to explore a variety of the different ideas that consisted within the 9 themes. This included ideas from interactive hieroglyphic displays where people can tweet or write a message and it is captured within the museum memory to interactive floors that show the users route they need to follow or a heat map floor that shows visitors areas of high visits and areas that are not visited that often.

Final Design Space

By utilising the Crawford slip method, group brainstorming and sketching sessions, as a design team we were able to exhaust the ideation process and create as a group a pool of different design responses to the brief, each engrained in the orignal three key themes identified during research.

By conducting a Design Crit, where each member discussed the 9 different concept areas, advantages, disadvantages and how the idea met the key findings from research. The group decided to explore:

Member contributed tours/maps, which would help address the three key pain points highlighted in our research of overcrowding, understanding information and navigating around the museum.

Current User Journeys & Task Analysis

On top of using sketching and design crits to come to our final idea of a digital navigation technology, we wanted to understand what a current user journey looked like and how our concept could help address the three key pain points highlighted in our research of overcrowding, understanding information and navigating around the museum and where these pain points are on the journey.

Once an understanding of existing user journeys is fully illustrated, this allowed us an insight into setting out the recommended user journey for our design concept – one which is as simple and easy as possible for users to reach their goals.

Hierarchal Task Analysis (HTA) was also deployed to clarify the processes that takes place in the existing system or real world. This can be used to identify steps that can be removed and improve the user’s experience. In our system, the steps involved in obtaining or memorising a map can be removed, as the navigation device will replace the paper or mental map.

Sketch, ideate and repeat again! 

From 31, to 9 and now to one opportunity area, but a final concept was still yet to be conceived. The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas and that exactly what the design team did.

 

We again open ourselves up as a group to further divergent thinking and exploration of how might a piece of digital technology that helps users navigate the museum look like? what may they do when using it? and how could they contribute back?.

This led to further design crit sessions with the group discussing the design responses and which one would be meet our own design brief and requirements. The final design area chosen to explore was a navigation device that would lead users around the museum, whilst it have routes that could be generated by contributors i.e. some one could create a Cleopatra themed tour, only stopping at items or displays relevant to theat subject area. 

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Future User Journeys 

The initial concept design for CLEO was presented in a future user journey, this would aid the design process to create a realistic user journey and identify any functionality and usability issues. First it was important to identify the users through user profiling, in which two user personas were create; 1) The User and 2) The route setter.

The future user journey help present to the design team some key functionality issues, such as how users would interact with the displays, how would the user know where to go and what exhibit or display is to be seen and how could someone contribute a oute to be followed and how easy would that be?

User journey: Route setter

User journey: Route follower

User personas

As our concept would have two primary personas, the route setter and the route taker, 4 personas were created. The primary persona for the route taker mainly encompasses characteristics of people with little time to spend at the museum and want to see the most interesting artefacts. Whereas, the route setter primary persona mainly describes individuals who have a passion and want to contribute to improve the museum experience, as sharing historical knowledge is part of their life.   

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Initial Final Concept - CLEO

The first iteration of design called CLEO, was designed as a physical 'compass' like device that would direct people around different routes in the museum, taking them on different tours and adventures. CLEO drew on the inner adventurer within visitors to the museum and aimed to open up the exhibits for everyone to go on an adventure.

 

CLEO would utilise a smart compass that would point users into the direction of the next artefact on the route. The user would use CLEO like a compass to navigate around the museum.

The design of CLEO was captured in a series of design requirements that would define project drivers, constraints, functional requirements and non-functional requirements the design response must have

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Prototype

Validating the design

A user evaluation session was conducted in order to investigate the proposed design and how its functional attributes would be perceived by the user. A total of 14 users participated in the evaluation of a basic walkthrough of the designs wireframes. The idea was presented to the users to identify potential issues, learn about the interface and simply get a better understanding of the design.The evaluation session helped to highlight key interaction and functions of the product and idea that may prove troublesome.

 

One of the main issues was with how the routes were created by contributors, as this was expressed as confusion. Users expressed they felt it adds extra time having to go to the museum first to create this. Lastly, there were concerns with how successful navigation would be with the arrow as a means for the users to follow.

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Wireframes

Below are some of the wireframes from the interactive walk through used to conduct user testing for. The below wireframes showcase the route setter process.

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Evaluate and Re-design

Redefining the solution

Design thinking is an iterative process and despite achieving a reasonable response to the the design space, through testing with users this highlighted key functional issues that users experienced.

Functional Issues

  • Users found the arrow navigation tool ambitious and expressed concerns on how you know which way/exhibit it was pointing at.

  • The physcial compass style tool didnt add much more value comapred to using a map or just walking around. The displays were still the same and users lacked context for what they were looking at.

  • A compass was expressed as an outdated tool and users were not familiar with using one.

  • Route setters felt it unnecessary to attend the museum to physically walk around and scan and felt an online tool could save more time.

Opportunities 

  • Opportunity to adopt a more innovative technology to use as a guiding tool that would add more value to a users experience at the museum and help them to learn/engage more. Possibly VR/AR text 'think Pokemon go, but in a museum'

  • Route setters could use a web base tool of the exhibits to create tours or routes in the comfort of their own space at their own time.

  • A personal device still offered value as users at the museum would regularly engage with their phones .

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CLEO Version 2.0

By adopting an iterative process this allowed the team build more empathy with users and their needs, redefine the problem space and respond to this to improve on the proposed design solution. The below details the the revised version of CLEO, which now adopts an augmented reality interface to take users on guided tours.

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