MineXR @ CMU’s Augmented Perception Lab

Role // User Researcher
Duration // Jun - Aug 2023
Tools // Swift+Xcode, Unity+HoloLens                
I worked under Dr. David Lindlbauer and PhD student Hyunsung Cho to design and conduct user research studies for MineXR: a collaboration project with Meta Platforms, Inc. establishing an open-source database regarding how people integrate and orient personalized apps+websites (widgets) in extended reality (XR) within everyday spaces. 

Designing the Study

The test procedure is broken down into:

1. Consent Form
2. Introducing the Study
3. Demographics Survey
4. Set-Up App and User Scenario
5. Run the Study
6. Post-Test Survey
The test researcher components is broken down into:

1. Study Objectives
2. Test Requirements
3. App and HoloLens Installation 
4. Tech Troubleshooting

I focused on “Tech Troubleshooting” - finding and working through all possible bugs in downloading the MineXR application and connecting the HoloLens (displays the user’s XR widgets in an actual VR setting). 
See the full study protocol here!

Conducting the Study

This study requires not just collecting various user XR orientations, but understanding the motivations behind the decisions the participant makes - why participants place widgets in certain places, what they like and don’t like about the app or the VR display. 

Thus, I created starter questions the researcher could ask the study participant (questions should change based on the specific participant - especially addressing unique choices they make): 

1. Do you see any benefits or cons to having widgets in a 3D VR format compared to its 2D smartphone representation? 

2. How likely would you use a fully functional VR headset with widget-making capabilities? What motivates your opinion? 

3. If you could add any features or modify the widget appearance within the HoloLens headset - what would you change and why? 

These questions have generated interesting observations as a researcher and unearthing why participants make unique widget placement decisions was my favorite part of this project.

What I found especially interesting was that people usually placed their most significant widgets based on their dominant hand - right vs left-dominant products play a significant role in user satisfaction. Moreover, participants’ opinion on the future of VR is variable - product creators primarily decide the fate of VR. 
A Participant’s Widget Layout

Analyzing the Study

For statistical analysis, I used a React-built program to annotate 80+ widgets placed by 10+ participants. Each widget is given a name + description, an Apple application category, and its UI components.

The annotated data will eventually culminate in various graphical displays including an augmented matrix based on widgets’ occurrences across all participants. 
Annotation Program

What I Learned
1. There’s a lot of minute details to account for in a user study (consent, surveys, every little set-up step, etc).

2. To gather significant data, sometimes you have to nudge the participant to elaborate and reflect on their decisions. 

3. The world is small! One participant in my study ended up going to the same middle school as two of my best friends from high school. 
Next Steps
1. Using Python to make graphical representations of the annotated widget data to gain further insights in user decisions. 

2. Conducting more studies within a more diverse pool (most of the participants were CMU HCII undergrad summer researchers).