Investigation of Novice Authoring Interfaces for Handheld Augmented Reality

Author: Lawrence Sambrooks

Sambrooks, Lawrence, 2017 Investigation of Novice Authoring Interfaces for Handheld Augmented Reality, Flinders University, School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics

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Current consumer handheld devices are ideal platforms for an Augmented Reality (AR) experience. All the hardware necessary is self-contained within a portable form factor, allowing the device to function like a 'magnifying glass' to reveal AR content as the user looks through the display. Accordingly, decentralised, ephemeral AR experiences will undoubtedly favour handhelds given the ease with which users can retrieve them from a pocket or bag. If mobile AR is to be adopted on a wide scale, users will need the ability to create and contribute content in addition to viewing it. This will require the development of suitable authoring tools that consider novice users who are unlikely to be proficient with technical AR concepts, programming, or 3D modelling.

This thesis reports on the investigation of appropriate novice AR authoring tools for handheld devices, focussing on suitable user experiences. To understand this problem, three distinct questions were investigated: is there an ideal handheld form factor for mobile AR? can the complexities of AR authoring be simplified for mobile device users? and what interface factors should be considered to provide a suitable user experience?

Given the variety of handhelds currently available, a preliminary user study was performed to investigate the effects of form factor on the AR user experience. The study evaluated three distinct handheld form factors comprising a smartphone, mini tablet, and tablet, and found the mini tablet to provide the best overall experience. Tablets were found to be affected by size and weight issues that overshadow any advantages offered by larger screens. The results of this study were used to inform the design of HARATIO, a prototype mobile AR authoring tool developed to investigate user experiences for mobile AR authoring by novice users. This thesis documents HARATIO's design and development as well as the two independent user studies that were performed to evaluate it.

The first study assessed HARATIO's overall usability via structured and unstructured tasks. Results revealed promising usability scores and validated the use of a view freezing technique to stabilise the interaction space and manage the physical characteristics of larger devices. Overall, authoring was considered easiest on the mini tablet form factor.

The second study sought novice participants to evaluate HARATIO's menu and scripting editor interfaces. The menu design was demonstrated to be effective at facilitating access to authoring features involving creating and editing objects. The scripting editor was shown to simplify the definition of object interactivity for non-programmers. High levels of comprehension with the editing interface and scripting language enabled various script implementations to be produced. The study also discovered a difference in the way distinct age generations approached the use of HARATIO: younger participants exhibited exploratory learning styles while older participants were more cautious and cognisant of making mistakes.

Through the development of HARATIO and subsequent user studies, this thesis contributes to a better understanding of user interfaces and user experiences suitable for novice users and mobile AR authoring.

Keywords: Augmented Reality, Authoring, Handheld, Mobile, User Interface, User Experience, Usability, Novice

Subject: Computer Science thesis, Engineering thesis, Mathematics thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics
Supervisor: Dr Brett Wilkinson