This project is funded by JISC under the Learning & Teaching Innovation Grant Programme.


15 Students Involved in Pre-Pilot Testing

Over the past 10 days we have begun testing our pre-pilot biodiversity application on-site, gaining some valuable feedback, bug reports and suggestions for improvement.

The UoE Biodiversity dataset (not currently availble publicly) within Layar has been accessed by around 15 students from various academic disciplines using a variety of their own hardware devices – including the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 running iOS, HTC Hero and HTC Desire phones as well as a Samung Galaxy Tab.

Students testing the Layar Biodiversity app on Campus

Students testing the Layar Biodiversity app on Campus. Image credit: Emma Barker

General feedback has been very positive, and we have gained a valuable insight into how students have used the app to explore and engage with parts of the campus – some having never previously visited.

Most feedback and suggestions for improvement appear to be limited by the Layar platform itself, most notably:

  • The user experience could be more intuitive with addition of back/forward buttons within the Layar web browser.  Currently, pressing the back button after following a link trail immediately returns users to reality view, regardless of any subsequent web-links that they may have followed.  A work-around can be provided to include javascript back/forward buttons within each ‘more information’ species page.
  • The option within Layar to locate a particular species/point of interest (POI) is tricky as there is a lack of search facility within specific ‘layars’ themselves.  Indeed, the slow refresh GPS refresh rate can also make locating a species using proximity/radar indicators appear unreliable.
  • It is a common scientific convention to note Latin species names in italics.  This does not appear to be possible to within the POI title in Layar, although names can of course be displayed using italics within the HTML web pages.
  • There were also some problems with the display of ‘floaticons’, as on occasions default grey circles are displayed instead of the specified custom icons.  We suspect this may be related to the the beta Hoppola Augmentation content management system for Layar.
  • There are inconsistencies in the way video was displayed, with some mp4 video files being unavailable.  Further investigation suggests that Hoppola may prefer video files in the mobile-standard 3gp format.
  • The default floaticon size may be too large, as several icons can hide a large part of reality as seen through the camera.  This is particularly pertinent when users are within metres of more than one POI, as floaticons become larger within prominent when close to species.

Despite these issues, students were impressed with the concept of the system, spending time exploring the survey area in detail.  In particular, non-biology students were viably engaged and interested by the current system – with students taking time to read the associated species ‘more information’ web pages in detail and share facts with the rest of the group.

Video footage of pre-pilot tests to be added soon to our YouTube channel.

3 comments to 15 Students Involved in Pre-Pilot Testing

  • Some interesting feedback. I do still think we have a ways to go regarding the UI of mobile AR, especially when the user is faced with several floaticons sharing such a relatively small screen.

    I was thinking – wrt to GPS refresh rate and overall GPS accuracy – about an added level of user experience using physical markers. Junaio allows for that in their app with their Glue channels, whereby you can create tracking markers out of photographs/images. I think something like that would work nicely in your context.

    Of course, you’re not using Junaio. However, I asked some Layar people yesterday if this was on their roadmap and they said “stay tuned”…hmm…I was hoping for something more specific but I do suspect we’ll see this very shortly.

    The other option would be the QR code of course…but, for me, it’s a no-goer as it would mean switching apps and thus disrupting the whole user experience and adding another layer of operation, which I wouldn’t want to see in all honesty. But I guess it could be covered and then explained why it wasn’t opted for 🙂

    Interesting that you went for the Hoppola system. Was that to make it easier for students to create channels themselves?

  • I think an interesting dimension of the work you guys are doing would be to look at how AR can be applied to the area of education. We are looking at different aspects of AR on the Thinking Ahead blog:

  • @Mark Completely agree with your UI comments, especially if users are looking to locate one particular species.

    Physical markers/QR codes could help, although there are issues with maintenance and sustainability of the project beyond our project finish date. Really interesting to hear that a Layar are interested in markerless/marker-based AR within one app as with Junaio.

    Alternatively, on a simpler technical level, another option we’re thinking of is more location-obvious species photos to help users identify a more precise location if they are already within geographic proximity.

    We definitely chose the Hoppala CMS for the pre-pilot for it’s ease of use. We will however be migrating to an in-house MySQL database, which allows for more flexibility at the edges of the Layar platform – eg it doesn’t appear possible to add a search box using just Hoppala.

    @David Thanks for the link – some really interesting and thought provoking posts. Definitely added to my bookmarks!

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