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Design checker

Instilling User-Centered Thinking in Spatial Design

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Role

Designer + Researcher

Tools

Unity

SketchUp

Adobe Aero

Adobe After Effects

Timeline

November 2023- December 2023

XR research

Hand tracking 

Animation

Skills

Project Description

The project aimed at creating an AI based personal assistant in Mixed Reality for designers which will make them test their products during the iteration and design phase itself as a way to build empathy for different user groups and what they go through while experiencing their designed products. 

Pain Points In Architecture Industry

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Unlike digital products, architects can't pre-test spaces with users during the design phase until the space is constructed. And, modifying an already constructed building to align with user needs is challenging.

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Modifying a constructed space increases development costs, making it an undesirable option.

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Designing a space necessitates consideration of diverse user needs in terms of navigation, lighting, accessibility, etc. But, current limitations in user testing make this challenging.

Problem Domain

Enabling architects to better empathize with their user groups and how they would interact with the space before actually building the space by building a personal assistant for them using XR.

Problem Statement

 

“How might we leverage XR to enable architects to pre-test and understand user interactions for diverse user groups in different physical spaces before constructing them?”

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Conceptualization

Digital Prototyping 1

Digital Prototyping- 2 

Modelling the space to test with the tool

Storyboarding 

Adobe Aero

Unity

Adobe After Effects

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Physical Prototyping

Paper Prototyping

Then I moved on to prototyping the scenes that I visualized while storyboarding. I started off with paper prototyping". This was a quick method to understand the interactions in a 3D environment.

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Digital Prototyping

Phase 1 | Modelling the 3D space

I started off with modelling a 3D space using SketchUp with a few rooms and a corridor. This space was then used in the prototyping process and transferred to Unity for the same...

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Digital Prototyping

Phase 2 | Creating Interactions 

The video below shows the final prototype for the Design Checker and makes use of both AR and VR..

Why Mixed Reality?

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AR Component 

 

Architect customizing their character and choosing the 3d model of the building that needs to be tested from their library via AR. 

 

Starting with AR provides a user-friendly onboarding experience before transitioning into the more immersive VR environment.

VR Component 

 

Navigating through the 3D model of the space in Virtual Reality in the user’s character, with the personal assistant checking out different aspects such as navigation, daylighting, accessibility of the space, and so on. 

 

Getting recommendations from the personal assistant. 

 

Personal assistant flagging areas which need to be rethought or changed.

Design Principles

Intuitive hand gestures for interactions

I made use of intuitive hand gestures for rotating the 3D characters and the models, or pointing gestures to tap on a  button. Finger moving gestures for moving objects within the VR environment.

Accessibility

Considerations

My premise for the project is supposed to help architects empathize with users with diverse needs. Therefore, in the prototype as well, I have shown the user using the space as a person on wheelchair.

Feedback and

responsiveness

Throughout the design, the user gets feedback from the personal assistant in form of design suggestions and they also have the option to ignore the feedback or save it for later.

Phase 4 - Next Steps

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Expanding the Assistant's design to cater to end users, it enables diverse groups to experience a shared space uniquely. For example, the signage height adjusts for wheelchair users and children with AR glasses, ensuring a personalized and inclusive interaction with the environment.

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I could explore additional prompts for the design assistant, extending beyond accessibility guidelines to enhance its overall impact and narrative.

Project Learnings

Takeaways

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Got hands-on experience in developing a Mixed Reality experience. 

While designing for this prototype, I identified ethical considerations which need to be taken into account such as safeguarding architects' design privacy to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information during this testing and feedback process.

Challenges 

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To decide which interactions would work better in the AR v/s VR space by weighing their pros and cons.

Ensuring XR simulations for various users are free from stereotypes and inaccuracies, promoting an unbiased representation to reflect their diverse needs and foster inclusive design.

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