Formative Usability Evaluation of Product Prototypes Utilizing Augmented and Virtual Reality


Augmented and virtual reality offer many yet unknown possibilities for a broad variety of different areas. For example, in architecture they can support viewing and feeling a building or individual rooms yet to be developed. In a similar fashion, these technologies can also be useful for visualizing prototypes of technical devices, e.g. coffee machines, or other consumer products. This supports the evaluation of the visual design of a product before its production and release. In addition, the whole interaction concept of the device can be simulated.
Usability tests are a well-known and established method for assessing the usability of any kind of product. In a usability test, prospective users of a product are asked to perform certain tasks with the product under test. In the meantime, the users are observed by an evaluator who takes notes about the problems that the users have during the task execution. Furthermore, users may be asked to verbalize their thoughts during the task execution (Thinking Aloud) or to fill out questionnaires afterwards. This overall process provides insight into the issues the users have with the product and may also give hints for potential improvements. Usability tests can be applied on fully functional products or on prototypes. The prototypes can vary from plain pen and paper prototypes to fully functional product simulations.
In this project, we evaluate the applicability of usability tests on virtualized prototypes of technical devices in augmented and virtual realities. For this, we put virtual representations of a product under development into an augmented or virtual reality and then perform usability tests with these prototypes. Through this, we assess if the results of such evaluations are valid and similar to real world usability tests. Furthermore, we determine which interaction concepts can be used for interacting with the virtualized prototypes to ensure a minimum of interference of these interaction concepts with the validity of the usability test results. In addition, we derive minimal requirements to be matched by virtualized prototypes and their surrounding augmented and virtual realities to be applicable for such evaluations.

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