A low-cost test environment for usability studies of head-mounted virtual reality systems

Peer-reviewed Article

pp. 60-73Download full article (PDF)

Abstract

There is a need to develop new usability testing environments and methodologies for unconventional interactive systems. Pursuant to that need, we developed a low-cost test environment for a Head-Mounted Display (HMD)-based, virtual reality system called Osmose. Osmose was difficult to test for many reasons, one of which was its style of interaction. We began setting up the testing environment about two weeks before the start of the usability testing. We learned many lessons throughout the experience. This paper summarizes the study findings, both methodological – how to setup and conduct a usability lab for such an environment – as well as conceptual -the human experiences and behavioral patterns involved in using an immersive environment.

Practitioner’s Take Away

  • There is a need today to rethink and develop new usability testing environments and methodologies for unconventional interactive systems such as virtual reality, immersive environments and mobile applications.
  • For Virtual Reality (VR) many difficult design questions arise, such as how do we record what the participant is seeing when the computer’s monitor is really a helmet? How do we record the participant’s interaction with the system when the participant is able to freely move about the entire world?
  • We provided a detailed description of how we successfully set up a usability test environment and methodology for an immersive interactive virtual-reality environment installation with 3D computer graphics and interactive 3D sound, a head-mounted display and real-time motion tracking based on breathing and body movements.