Usability evaluation practices for the HMD VR


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In this article, I will report about the usability of information systems in virtual space. Specifically, this subject can be summarized by simply asking, “What should be considered in order to test an HMD [head-mounted display]?” because we can’t cover all types of VR media devices and yet there is not clear answer. Only very few best practices are helping the production. However we have good reason to discuss this in 2015. Virtual reality is everywhere and in many forms (i.e., ibeacon technology, Google Glass, augmented reality mobile applications). Virtual access toward the information is rapidly expanding. HMD is arguably the most primitive device in the original VR production and perhaps the most challenging product in last decade. So how was it tested? Was it able to landed at the stage of end-user product?


HMD (head-mounted display) visually represents immersive space by isolating human vision in the virtual space. HMD utilizes depth recognition of the human eye. Based on the stereoscopic visual perspective, it illuminates the feeling of depth and lets the human brain simulate depth. Most weakness of VR devices originated from this mechanism: 1) it is important to providing immersive environment for the users to focus on the feeling in the virtual world; 2) interface is a challenging subject while keeping the immersive setting for the users while it is required to explore the information space; 3) the well-known jet lag from virtual reality sickness from high doses of multiple cognizance (i.e., nausea, headache, vomiting). However, an HMD-based VR system remains attractive because it is potentially one of the most affordable cave systems that allow users to experience a rich and perceptive-able environment.

In the recent literature, usability evaluations for VR HMD were heavily rescued by heuristic evaluation methods, cognitive walkthroughs. The technical usability testing paper for Oculus suggests the reason caused from the production that remained in alpha production over the last decade. But some of the post-hoc questionnaire and formative summaries were developed while it joined to pre-production and utilized user questionnaires and production design reports for software user testing. Spectrum of usability subject was not only for the software and the immersive space but also the surrounding environment, sound, screen setting and user interface, UI for the shift between virtual world and real world. One of the most interesting issues in this evaluation will be the usability of virtual reality, which has many distinctive characteristics in evaluation issues from the usual interface evaluation. Mainly, three aspects of evaluation issues , the user, evaluator, and application contents, confronts the immersive system itself. Evaluator can cause the distraction of user if user can recognize evaluator. Users desires better recognition about the surroundings: they would drink coffee without removing HMD devices. Of course, application should be recognized as a space, not a display. Application limits the viewer perceive-able space to control the layout of visual representation in limited screen. In evaluation papers, these three challenges in different needs are confronting each others during the evaluation process. To sum up, evaluation process is also on process of the development.


Definitely current HMD systems reached commercial production and close to the living environment than ever. Typically in last few years, Google Cardboard suggests many best practices in better budget and improved public recognition about the VR devices and extended experience devices with wearable computing devices, such as Google Glass. Gesture recognition system reduced the limitation of the human computer interaction toward the virtual space. Finally, we, the usual people, are experiencing and learning virtual environment without its visual representation in the mobile devices, cloud environment and wearable computers. I hope the other world can be visually experienced to everybody, very soon.



Image reference :

Main image : from Oculus official website  : Rift Product Description page
HMD headset image: Wikipedia webpage of Head mounted display




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Ehn, P., & Kyng, M. (1992, January). Cardboard Computers: Mocking-it-up or Hands-on the Future. In Design at work (pp. 169-196). L. Erlbaum Associates Inc..

Google Developer “Cardboard: How Cardboard Works” Published on Nov 5, 2015  Retrieved from : ” ”

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