Enhancing Remote User Research through Virtual Experience Prototypes

Additionally accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote user research has become an increasingly popular mode of inquiry to obtain feedback from users at various stages in the design process. Compared to lab and field studies, remote user studies allow participants to be invited from various locations and time zones, and, at the same time, reduce development time and costs. Most remote user studies are conducted in the form of unmoderated online surveys, where quantitative data is collected through standardised questionnaires. While this is now a common approach for experimental studies in human-computer interaction (HCI) and human-robot interaction (HRI), less is known about the remote evaluation of prototypes following a qualitative descriptive research design, for example through observations or semi-structured interviews. However, this type of study is important to gain rich contextual insights about how users perceive and interact with a prototype in a certain situation.

In this exploratory design research project, we build on the notion of experience prototyping and investigate how this form of early concept explorations can be carried out in remote design exploration sessions. With the availability of easily accessible game development platforms, such as Unity, computer-generated simulations have become a popular method for the design and evaluation of early design concepts. We propose the use of Virtual Experience Prototypes (VEPs), which we define as a specific instance of an experience prototype: a light-weight application that is designed to enable rapid prototyping and remote evaluation of an interactive experience in a non-immersive VR environment. As VEPs mimic the general appearance and functions of a prototype in the real world, we argue that they can be of value to reveal insights on how users may perceive the envisioned product, even if they are not able to interact with it in a real-world setting. To illustrate our approach, we present preliminary insights from a synchronous remote user study; we observed and interviewed participants while they were interacting with an urban robot, manifested through a VEP.

Find out more about Virtual Experience Prototyping in the Medium article.


Project Lead: Almohannad Albastaki

Supervisors: Marius Hoggenmueller, Frederic Robinson, Luke Hespanhol

Key Publications

Almohannad Albastaki, Marius Hoggenmueller, Frederic Anthony Robinson and Luke Hespanhol. Augmenting Remote Interviews through Virtual Experience Prototypes. In Proc. of the 32nd Australian Conference On Human-Computer Interaction (OzCHI’20) (Steve Howard Award)