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VR Galactic Map

Introduction

Virtual Reality is a booming industry with many big companies expending money and resources to utilize this new technology in as many ways as possible. These range all the way from entertainment to education.

Our task is to reimagine and design an innovative way for students to interface and learn about the galaxies around them. This is where a galactic map viewable using a Virtual Reality headset comes in. This program would allow students to learn about stars and planets in a more natural and intuitive way through the movement of the head to look around the galaxy, and the use of a controller with a thumbstick to zoom in and out. It would give a high level detail of stars when hovered on, and with just a click of a button, would show a larger high resolution image of the star with further details of it.

Key Stakeholders

The Students

The student's main focus is to have a discoverable approach to the technology given. This allows them to enter the situation expecting to learn, or discover something new.

About Jane - Jane is an astronomy student at her states university. She loves to study stars, black holes and nebulae, but hates using the technology that allows her to do that. She wants a more natural way to discover new celestial bodies without it being so complicated.

The Professors

The professor's focus is to give the students the best possible experience from the technology. Therefore, fulfilling the purpose of the galactic map, and overall creating a well-rounded learning experience for the majority.

About Dr. Bruce Banner - Dr. Banner is a Nuclear Physicist by profession, but got asked by the Physics & Astronomy faculty to teach astronomy. Dr. Banner is very experienced with the latest and greatest technology, but sometimes gets frustrated with it and storms out of the room.

User Requirements

Requirement #1 (Functional)

Description: The VR Galactic map interface will be intuitive while the Galactic map itself will be very broad.

Rationale: An intuitive interface allows Jane - the astronomy student with no experience with technology - to feel as though she is building confidence and learning while using VR. Having a broad enough virtual map will allow Jane to learn much about the solar system and the simple interface and controls will not impede her ability to do this. These functional attributes combined provide a perfectly balanced experience for Jane and all different levels of students. Not only will the intuitive interface allow Jane and other students to succeed, but also will allow Dr. Banner to learn quickly how to use the program to teach others.

Fit Criterion: Upon the end of each session, Jane will be prompted on-screen to rate her experience based on her previous session.

Requirement #2 (Non-Functional)

Description: The software performance of the VR Galactic map, alongside its software security, must be reliable and efficient.

Rationale: Having an efficient and reliable program, both security wise and performance wise, will allow Professor Banner to concentrate on the learning outcomes being taught to the students. When he does not need to worry about the logistics of the program, it allows him to narrow down the purpose of the VR Galactic map and how it should be presented to the students. This stress free, well executed learning environment being provided by Dr. Banner creates a well-rounded, overall great experience for all students, including Jane.

Fit Criterion: Based on previous classes taken in the same school, the students will be given the opportunity to provide feedback on the learning experience they had with Dr. Banner.

Requirement #3 (Functional)

Description: The VR interface must have multiple features with the option of hiding them.

Rationale: For students, such as Jane, who do not want an over complicated and unnatural interface, the multiple on-screen features must be hideable. On the contrary, for advanced more technical students, these on-screen features will be made viewable.

Fit Criterion: Upon entering the VR Galactic map program, the user will be prompted to choose whether or not they want to view certain features, or hide them.

Requirement #4 (Non-Functional)

Description: The look and feel of the VR Galactic map program will be natural while remaining technically advanced.

Rationale: Jane hates technology but loves to study the solar system. This means that the Galactic map program must not only be intuitive, but must also give her a natural feeling while navigating the broad map. The headset and controller must not be complicated, this will eliminate the frustrated thoughts Jane might otherwise feel for an overly complicated technological device when using VR. Likewise, for Dr. Banner this will eliminate confused beginner students which will keep the course outline for his class on pace to finish on time.

Fit Criterion: Upon first time use of the VR, Jane will be prompted to rate her usability with the device, specifically the non-functional feature of the headset and controller.

Scenarios

Scenario #1

After missing the first week of classes, a student walks into his astronomy lab and is confused when he notices everyone is using VR headsets. The lab instructor tells the student to find a computer with a headset. The student complies and equips himself with the nearest one. Each of the galactic map applications were set up by the TA prior to the lab and so the student is now looking at a 3D rendering of the solar system. The student doesn't know the controls but quickly realizes that turning his head allows him to look at different angles. Now the TA tells the students to go to Europa - one of Jupiter's moons - using the same methodology taught in lab last week. The student is concerned because he missed last week but all of a sudden an indicator on screen says: "You've been here for a while! Using your remote (see figure 1), click this search bar to choose a destination or select something you see on the map!" with an arrow pointing to a search bar at the top of the screen and an animation of a hand clicking the required button on the remote. Since the student can't remember exactly where to look for Europa he clicks the search bar by first looking at it and then using the remote attached to the device. On screen is a digital keyboard and the student begins clicking each letter by looking at it and selecting with the same button. After the student types "Eu" the search bar suggests "Europa". The student chooses the suggestion and all of a sudden arrives at his destination and is ready to proceed in the lab.

Discussion: In the previous scenario, a student who knows nothing about VR or the galactic map application was able to get up to speed with the technology in only a few minutes of use. This is an ideal scenario that the Galactic map's interface and functionality should support and is most important for students who are unfamiliar with VR technology such as Jane was described earlier. It is also important for teachers to be able to rely on students to follow with their instructions when using the app without having to explain exactly how all the time.

Scenario #2

A lab instructor for the VR astronomy course is running late to prepare each of the headsets for the students. When he finally manages to get to the class he only has 5 minutes to set up 25 VR headsets. Fortunately for him, all he needs to do is turn on each computer and then remotely logs into each computer with guest accounts. Once each computer is logged in he remotely tells each computer to load up the galactic map in teaching mode. This locks the computer so that only admins can close the VR program. The lab instructor is happy when each computer does so with no problems and their VR headsets are waiting to be used. He has done this same process every day so he is quite fast and rarely needs to troubleshoot. Discussion: The previous scenario is ideal for teaching instructors using this VR application who need it to be reliable. It is expected that instructors do a little more than the students in terms of setting up the program so there is more leeway in this regard. However, the extra work should be easy for the instructors to learn and troubleshooting should be obvious if something goes wrong. The aim is for teachers such as Dr. Banner to not get frustrated when relying on the application under stress.

Scenario #3

After a few labs of getting comfortable with the galactic map, the student feels more comfortable to delve into the more advanced features of the map. By default, the TA has set it up so that such features don't become available until half-way through the course as he didn't want to overwhelm his students. However, the TA has allowed access to the more complex features to this student since he is willing. The TA is happy with this feature as it allows him to ease the students into using the application but also loosen the restrictions on students who are more advanced.

Discussion: In this scenario, the technical elements of the application are hidden from students depending on the teaching instructor's constraints. The galactic map should be powerful but not necessarily bloated with features. Students should be provided only the features that are needed for a lab session and access to more only if requested.

Scenario #4

It is the first day of labs and one student is worried about being able to work on assignments using this seemingly advanced "VR Galactic map" his professor was talking about. Upon arriving in lab he becomes more anxious when he sees everyone already testing around with the headsets and he quickly finds his own. The student first notices the headset is accompanied by a remote and he can assume it is used for interacting with the application. At last, he tries on the headset and is immediately surprised and fascinated. He looks around and sees the solar system so simply in front of him. When he looks at the planet Earth an indicator suggests he should click it and so he does using the remote in his hand. Now he's zoomed in looking at a larger rendering of Earth and seeing various details and statistics of the planet. Neat! The student feels like looking at something else and looks away which automatically brings him back to viewing the whole solar system. Optionally he could have clicked the "Go back" button but he didn't notice it and is simply viewing the solar system at his own rhythm.

Discussion: In this scenario, the student naturally gets a handle on how to traverse the map using his own intuition. There are also multiple ways for doing so. The student could have left the view of Earth by clicking the "Go back" button but instead just looked away. Some students may use the button while others may find looking away more natural. The application should be flexible for a variety of user preferences so each feel comfortable using the app with no prior experience or a manual guide. This is helpful to both Jane and Dr. Banner who each find themselves quickly frustrated with technology that doesn't adapt to their preferences.

Hierarchical Task Analysis

Scenario #1
  1. Place VR on head
  2. Move your head and look around
  3. Use the remote to click on the search bar to choose a destination
  4. Keyboard pops up and the users hits the keys with his fingers
  5. Hit enter and the program will take you to the location
Scenario #2
  1. Turn on computers
  2. Remotely log into a guest account on the computers
  3. Remotely tell the computer to load up the galactic map
  4. Check the computer to ensure all of them are ready to use
Scenario #3
  1. The VR galactic map starts with basic features
  2. As the class progresses, the program will give the user more features based on the needs of the class
  3. Additionally, the professor can allow extra features based on class needs
  4. Keyboard pops up and the users hits the keys with his fingers
  5. Hit enter and the program will take you to the location
Scenario #4
  1. Place VR on head
  2. Move your head and look around
  3. Use the remote to click on an object
  4. Information pops up that the user can read
  5. To go back the user will hit a back button

Contributions

V00833377

V00833377 wrote the introduction and designed the website. Discussed the interface and design of the program with group members.

V00818835

V00818835 took care of the stakeholders and their main goals. This involved developing these goals based off of the personas of the stakeholders. The personas were made by taking the people in a typical class, and developing their personalities and backstory to align how they interact with the VR. V00818835 made sure that the personas were able to project people that had some difficulties with technology, but were still able to get by. This made it easier for V00829017 to expand on the scenarios where Dr. Banner or Jane are struggling to use this technology; therefore, giving a more diversified situation to work with.

V00835855

V00835855 defined and described the user requirements for the VR Galactic map. He used V00818835's user profiles as an idea for where to start basing the user requirements. Using the Volere template, the requirements were broken down in a more understandable way while being discussed with other group members to decide what were mandatory and essential requirements for this VR application. After determining the requirements, the next step was to justify and describe them in enough detail for V00829017 to create the scenarios.

V00829017

V00829017 built scenarios off of the user profiles and requirements previously defined and discussed by V00835855 and V00818835. For each user requirement a relevant scenario was discussed to elaborate on the benefits for the user experience. V00829017 also collaborated with other group members in the brainstorming process for how the Galactic map program could work.

V00830053

V00830053 took V00829017's scenarios that he wrote about and carried the Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA). For each HTA V00830053 went through, and defined what the user goal is. After finding out the user goal for each scenario, he defined what that task was. After knowing the user goal and the associated task V00830053 broke them down into sub-tasks. After having the user goal, tasks and subtasks V00830053 was able to put it all together to create the HTA for each scenario. Additionally, together as a group we collectively decided how we were going to go about the VR Galactic map. Together we decided that it would be designed as an educational tool.