Wading into UX

Andrew stands in front of a large tv showing laser lines. Andrew is wearing a VR headset and gesturing with controllers in both hands.

Recently, Andrew and Celeste joined the Minnesota chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). They had 2 main reasons for wanting to join: 1) learn more about different approaches to UX, and 2) learn more about the professional community of user research and user experience design to better connect our student workers with opportunities.

So far, we’ve attended two very different events and here are some of the takeaways:

UX + Virtual Reality (VR)

Celeste: The 1st event was held at a virtual reality arcade meets karaoke lounge, where the networking hour doubled as open playtime. It was really interesting to see how the business had laid out the space and setup the VR into “pods” separated by partial walls. The cables for the Vive Pro headsets were suspended from the ceiling, which was a great improvement on worrying about tripping on cables along the ground. They even had 3 multiplayer areas, where headsets were paired — Andrew and I played ping pong in one of these areas, which basically just reminded me how much I like playing ping pong in real life more.

And then came the presentation. I have to admit to some concern when it started like this:

mighty claim of VR + UX presentation: VR’s biggest strengths are 1) democratizing experience and 2) seeing things in unique way.

slow your rhetoric, ppl.

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) February 13, 2019

And, it didn’t get better from there. But what I did takeaway is that there’s a serious gap between how commercial VR is proceeding and the research coming out of academia — and I see that gap as a place where there can be some powerful collaborations. There’s so much room for pursuing and applying research in the development of meaningful (and profitable) VR applications, particularly since some are hoping enterprise uses will generate wider adoption and profits. Some are less optimistic. But overall, I think researchers have a lot to say and do to shape the direction of VR experience development and break down some of the barriers between industry and academia to create better ethical products.

Andrew: I was excited for our first event since joining the UXPA, it was held at a virtual reality arcade. I like Celeste description here, the location really did feel like a mix between a karaoke bar, lounge and arcade with VR. I love the idea of VR arcades. As owning a VR device is still expensive and beyond the reach of most. Sadly, however, the cost per hour still seemed pretty expensive for most.

Two years on from our first Vive, I still love the technology and can’t wait to see the development. So you can understand my excitement when I saw they had the new Vive Pro headset. This is the second generation of the Vive headset we currently have. Some of the changes in this new version is a much needed improved screen. The resolution has been, so everything looks much sharper.

Being a UX/UI workshop, I was looking forward to the presentation, and I what I hoped would be a discussion around moving beyond flat screen UI designs into 3D space, sadly this was not to be. The talk took a very commercial route. The presentation was marketing talk for getting people and companies to buy time in VR rather how to better the field or peoples experiences. As a researcher in VR, I honestly feel like it can help revolutionise a large number of fields and subjects. However, the VR/AR/MR need to be lead by research and not the drive for money.

Building Consistent Design Systems

Andrew: Our second event with UXPA group was very informative. The speaker talked about designing and templating design elements and components in the product. I liked the idea of having a components/elements library to give coders more rigid constraints on which designs can be used and in what locations. These ideas of design patterns are something I feel we could use with our student developers here at Carleton.

Celeste: The second event dove much deeper into a specific topic, which was a nice change of pace. This was my biggest takeaway:

really like this approach: “define a process, not a project” to support long-term or ongoing work. #uxpamn

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) March 8, 2019

The idea of establishing a design library of elements really rang true, especially for our Omeka-based projects. Thinking about where to streamline, and where to customize, is an ongoing conversation we’re having so this was a nice case-study to consider.

 

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Celeste Sharpe

Academic Technologist for Instructional Technology at Carleton College
learner, teacher, occasional historian. stress baker.

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