User-centred design of smartphone augmented reality in urban tourism context.
Authors: Yovcheva, Z.
Exposure to new and unfamiliar environments is a necessary part of nearly everyone’s life. Effective communication of location-based information through various locationbased service interfaces (LBSIs) became a key concern for cartographers, geographers, human-computer interaction (HCI) and professional designers alike. Much attention is directed towards Augmented Reality (AR) interfaces. Smartphone AR browsers deliver information about physical objects through spatially registered virtual annotations and can function as an interface to (geo)spatial and attribute data. Such applications have considerable potential for tourism. Recently, the number of studies discussing the optimal placement and layout of AR content increased. Results, however, do not scale well to the domain of urban tourism, because: 1) in any urban destination, many objects can be augmented with information; 2) each object can be a source of a substantial amount of information; 3) the incoming video feed is visually heterogeneous and complex; 4) the target user group is in an unfamiliar environment; 5) tourists have different information needs from urban residents.
Adopting a User-Centred Design (UCD) approach, the main aim of this research project was to make a theoretical contribution to design knowledge relevant to effective support for (geo)spatial knowledge acquisition in unfamiliar urban environments. The research activities were divided in four (iterative) stages: (1) theoretical, (2) requirements analysis, (3) design and (4) evaluation. After critical analysis of existing literature on design of AR, the theoretical stage involved development of a theoretical user-centred design framework, capturing current knowledge in several relevant disciplines. In the second stage, user requirements gathering was carried out through a field quasi experiment where tourists were asked to use AR browsers in an unfamiliar for them environment. Qualitative and quantitative data were used to identify key relationships, extend the user-centred design framework and generate hypotheses about effective and efficient design. In the third stage, several design alternatives were developed and used to test the hypotheses through a laboratory-based quantitative study with 90 users. The results indicate that information acquisition through AR browsers is more effective and efficient if at least one element within the AR annotation matches the perceived visual characteristics or inferred non-visual attributes of target physical objects.
Finally, in order to ensure that all major constructs and relationships are identified, qualitative evaluation of AR annotations was carried out by HCI and GIS domain-expert users in an unfamiliar urban tourism context. The results show that effective information acquisition in urban tourism context will depend on the visual design and delivered content through AR annotations for both visible and non-visible points of interest. All results were later positioned within existing theory in order to develop a final conceptual user-centred design framework that shifts the perspective towards a more thorough understanding of the overall design space for mobile AR interfaces.
The dissertation has theoretical, methodological and practical implications. The main theoretical contribution of this thesis is to Information Systems Design Theory.
The developed framework provides knowledge regarding the design of mobile AR. It can be used for hypotheses generation and further empirical evaluations of AR interfaces that facilitate knowledge acquisition in different types of environments and for different user groups. From a methodological point of view, the described userbased studies showcase how a UCD approach could be applied to design and evaluation of novel smartphone interfaces within the travel and tourism domain. Within industry the proposed framework could be used as a frame of reference by designers and developers who are not familiar with knowledge acquisition in urban environments and/or mobile AR interfaces.