EleciTree AR helmet
AR headset / mobile app
Methods & tools
user research and analysis / UI design & prototyping / usability testing / figma
To find an problem that AR could to solve! This was a technology driven project, opposed to a problem or user driven one. working with a new technology, the goal was to learn how to design for AR.
But why AR?
Given free reign for my final masters project I decided to explore the emerging field of augmented reality. Since begining my ux journey, this technology and its capabilities to be used in daily life have become more evident. seeing as this could be the next step in technological advancement I wanted to better understand how it could be used to solve problem & how to design for its use.
The AH HA! moment
Initial desk research showed that AR was already being used in the likes of construction, healthcare, design & entertainment. Already a bit saturated for a new technology...
Luckily there was an industry I found that had yet to be explored, the Arborists (or tree surgeon). These are considered be dangerous & labour intensive jobs thats require workers to cut at heights, in extreme conditions & near live electrical lines.
Understanding the users
With no prior understanding of the arborist industry I had to quickly deep dive into the field to understanding the users and their issues. I conducted 4 interviews with various members of the NIE team, from a field arborists to the companies health & safety manager. From this I was able to gain a solid understanding of the process and challenges.
Through the permission of NIE I was able to conduct a field observation study to witness first hand how field arborists conduct their work.
Finally I conduct an online survey to gain statistical data to support some hypothesises I had created from my user research, I managed to collect 80 responses to the survey before moving forward with the project.
With an enough data I now had a solid understanding of the target user group would be. Developing a person would allow me to keep focus on the users needs.
Understanding the problem
Having collected various amounts of research from desk, quantitative and qualitative studies, I set about organising the key findings into an affinity map to help narrow what the focus of the product should be.
The arborist industry present a range of problems that needed to be solved, such as:
lack of training
being hit by falling objects
extreme working conditions
Live line / electrocutions injuries or deaths
In many ways AR presented itself as a great tool to solve several of these problems, but working to a schedule I choose to focus on the issue that would offer most value to users and businesses alike:
Workers may often be required to cut trees growing in and around electrical lines, my research showed that some were willing to forgo training or risk managment procedures while conducting work of this nature. AR offered a new and innovative way to avoid unnecessary risk put on users.
Crafting the solution
With an understanding of the problem to be solved, I could now focus on developing a solution. Given that arborists constantly require the use of their hands to work, I felt that designing the solution for a helmet approach in mind would be the most practical solution, as this is a piece of equipment they are familiar with. The use of a helmet design would also open the door to other potential uses in the field.
As this was a conceptual project and time limited I did not spend too much time on the design of the helmet. Although its design would be important, I didn't want to spend too much time of its look, as the functionality and users interaction was more important to the project.
The user journey
to better understand how and when the helmet would come into effect, I planned a user journey map outlined, from my initial research, how an arborist would conduct a site survey with the use of the helmet. From doing this I came to the conclusion that the helmet would also need a VUI interface to allow the user to interact with the helmet while still keeping their hands free.
As this technology would be unfamilar to new users I also thought it would be important to include a companion app that explains the helmets features, with when and how to use them. This would act as the onboarding experience for the user, helping them to understand the interactions with the helmets as well as icons and VUI.
Since I had decided that the users interactions with the product would be through a VUI I felt the information architecture for this was important to understand before getting into the design as the dialogue of the voice interactions would be dictated by what stage of the process the user was on.
Visor UI Ideation
now that i knew how and when the users interacts with the helmet it was time to storyboard the interaction through wireframes.
Lo-fi visor UI
mid-fi visor UI
Hi-fi visor UI
Because of the bases of this project, conducting a standard usability test was much harder to achieve as I was not capable of building the product for the likes of oculus or Microsoft HoloLens . As the product had a core function and a step by step process to complete it, carrying a series of task on the product was also not quite possible.
So rather than do a standard test, I took my interviewees, Craig Inglis, through each screen design, asking him to tell me what he seen on each screen, his thoughts and at the end if he felt the designs were useful and informative to the problem.
With the first 5 screens the user said that they were informative and easily understandable as to what was going on. He was aware that screen 5 was a Home Screen.
From screen 5 the user explained that a drop down menu might be more useful than the two overlay boxes. The addition of a drop down menu would allow the user to have easier access to the alternative feature the helmet could provide, such as measuring the height of the tar. Offering an easier way to include these side features.
The user also stated that the addition of a ‘limited works certificate’ or LWC, in the drop down would be important, as this is a document that tells them how much work they are allowed to carry out on a job. This is a document created by the ‘way leavers’ who originally assess the lines for work.
The user stated that the AR icon overlays were understandable and informative as to what the user should do in the process and what the helmet is doing.
here the user said the information was clear, but another bit of helpful information here would be to include the height of the trees and poles. Incorporating eye tracking into the process would be necessary, rather than a stand alone feature.
For this screen the user said that it would be important to highlight the power lines of the pole as well as this is an important aspect for them, and also any individual conductors attached to the poles so that all relevant information is clear.
Each pole and line are also numbered, the user stated that displaying this information would be key to help ensure they carrying at the work at the correct pole.
The user stated the screens were clear and understandable
From the analysis the user stated that it might be helpful if they were given information about the trees they were cutting, such as species and length of time for regrowth. This information could be distracting to the process but a side bubble display that they could view could be incorporate.
The user informed that that the layout of the clearance zone is incorrect, on a line such as this they will cut 3 meters from the right side of the pole and 3 from the left, creating a 6 meter clearance zone in total. This should be broken down on the screen to show 3 meters on either side instead.
The green ‘vicinity’ zone should be made larger be be more visual accurate to this distance.
Information on the live zone distance should be included, in this case it would be 0.8 meters.
Screen 18 - 19
here the user said that the cutting distance should be shown on screen, e.g. 3 meters, and that the workers will cut to the edge of the green area as a minimum, so the highlighted zones should be made larger to ensure safe practise.
screen 20 & 21 were easily understandable.
screen 22 the user said that perhaps a single flash warning would be better rather than it remaining on screen, as this could be distracting when working near the line.
Based on the guidance offered stakeholders, and after seeing onboarding guidance from other AR apps, I felt this would be a necessary addition. I used the screen designs from my lo-fi designs as I thought it would be helpful to the user if this onboarding tutorial was animation based to help keep the information process they will go through clear and direct.
Looking back through the journey to create this product, I feel I underestimated how challenging trying to design for this field would be. Although it is considered and emerging technology I found that it is already being heavily implemented in a variety of fields, making it difficult to find a niche area in the market. But with perseverance and some luck I was able to find just that.
I was able to learn a great deal about designing for AR from this project but also the many constraints and obstacles it presented. Overall I feel I became a more well rounded designer for taking on the challenge, however there is still much that could be done with the project.
The project would benefit from a redesign of suggestions given and addition usability testing of the visor UI with other users, along with testing of the companion app.