A contextual case study of my design approach to a project for the NHS

(The above image is a still taken from Unity – here the subject has been recorded using ‘green screen’ technology and has then been superimposed upon or inside the simulation)

As a hired contractor, I have been working with the NHS and Real Space to create an immersive and interactive training simulation, in order to train the next generation of General Practitioners’. The overriding problems I have encountered thus far on this project have been:

  • Unity documentation of procedures being outdated or not supported

  • Choice of headset for delivery not set

  • Unity version control

These problems have mainly been to do with the framework, which I have already mentioned in the opening post.

According to an article in hubspot.net (2017, para.2) we can “use the space around us to visualize our imagination, organize our thoughts with our own hands, and share it all with our peers face-to-face”. I have been able to craft what we might refer to as the spatial interface design for this project. To start with, I designed the experience and I conducted extensive testing in Unity for stereo video and super-imposing of subjects in the space. These tests have been done to find out which workflow is best for the Oculus Quest (or Go) headset, and how I can make an experience that performs well, executes exceptionally, and looks professional. From my research into game’s design, I have started with an image that sums up the experience that I am going to make. This is a design principle that I have learnt whilst undertaking the course ‘Complete C# Unity Developer 2D: Learn to Code Making Games’ via udemy.com.

(The above image taken as a still from the course from Udemy: Complete C# Unity Developer 2D: Learn to Code Making Games)

By starting off with an image we can allow ourselves the opportunity to be creative in our approach to design. In the case of the NHS project, I started off with the below image as a creative entry for my design:

Another problem is that I don't yet know (at the time of writing) if the project will be delivered via Oculus Quest or Go device, and this presents a challenge, because although the workflow is similar, it is not the same. This is particularly important because I also must design and implement the interactions the user undertakes. However, taking the core design principle, according to an article in lawsofux.com (para.1) “Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable.” And when we consider the belief, according to hubspot.net (2017, page.3, para.1) that “Meta’s philosophy begins with a single, powerful idea: minimizing the time and effort necessary to understand an interface and take effective action.”, we can start to consider what space we want the user to be embodied in during the experience that is both visually pleasing but conveys a feeling for the theme of the experience. Moreover, we can actually design this element. For instance, during the NHS project, I have started to make a background that allows the viewer of the experience to be in a space that is clean and minimal, but at the same time gives them a sense of the environment they would be inside. To achieve this, whilst recording the content for the experience, I have been making photosphere backgrounds that act as backdrops for when the user has to answer questions in the simulation. These will keep the user in the same spatial headspace and therefore my aim is to keep the user feeling like they are in the same experience throughout. Here is an example of a minimal backdrop I have blurred and imported into Unity:

Now that I had my image design in place, I could then focus on the core game mechanics and interactions for the user experience. A good design approach is to use what is called ‘pseudocode’ to plan the toughest parts of the coding mechanics. This was something I learned at my time as a trainee developer at EON Reality and this lesson was reinforced during my recent studies on Udemy. Here is snippet of that code, along with an extract of the process map I developed for the NHS project:

(Pseudocode example)

(Extract of process map)

In this blog post we have looked at design theory and how a practical approach can be used to as an entry point for design. In the next post we will look at affordances and how they can inform our design decisions. References cdn2.hubspot.net (2017) Meta Spatial Interface Design: Augmented Reality and Neuroscience, [online], Available at: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2226488/Meta-Spatial-Interface-Augmented-Reality-Design-Guidelines.pdf [Accessed: 20th November, 2019] lawsofux.com (2016) Aesthetic Usability Effect [online]

Available at: https://lawsofux.com/aesthetic-usability-effect

[Accessed: 29th October 2019] Udemy (2018) Complete C# Unity Developer 2D: Learn to Code Making Games [online video]

Available at: https://www.udemy.com/course/unitycourse/learn/lecture/10575214#overview

[Accessed: 1st November 2019]

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