New interactive interface design for STEM museums: a case study in VR immersive technology

Phichai, Pornphan (2023) New interactive interface design for STEM museums: a case study in VR immersive technology. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Novel technologies are used to develop new museum exhibits, aiming to attract visitors’ attention. However, using new technology is not always successful, perhaps because the design of a new exhibit was inappropriate, or users were unfamiliar with interacting with a new device. As a result, choosing alternative technology to create a unique interactive display is critical. The results of using technology best practices enable the designer to help reduce failures.

This research uses virtual reality (VR) immersive technology as a case study to explore how to design a new interactive exhibit in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) museums. VR has seen increased use in Thailand museums, but people are unfamiliar with it, and few use it daily. It had problems with health concerns such as motion sickness, and the virtual reality head-mounted display (VR HMD) restricts social interaction, which is essential for museum visitors. This research focuses on improving how VR is deployed in STEM museums by proposing a framework for designing a new VR exhibit that supports social interaction. The research question is, how do we create a new interactive display using VR immersive technology while supporting visitor social interaction? The investigation uses mixed methods to construct the proposed framework, including a theoretical review, museum observational study, and experimental study. The in-the-wild study and workshop were conducted to evaluate the proposed framework.

The suggested framework provides guidelines for designing a new VR exhibit. The component of a framework has two main parts. The first part is considering factors for checking whether VR technology suit for creating a new exhibit. The second part is essential components for designing a new VR exhibit includes Content Design, Action Design, Social Interaction Design, System Design, and Safety and Health.

Various kinds of studies were conducted to answer the research question. First, a museum observational study led to an understanding of the characteristics of interactive exhibits in STEM museums, the patterns of social interaction, the range of immersive technology that museums use and the practice of using VR technology in STEM museums. Next, the alternative design for an interactive exhibit study investigates the effect on the user experience of tangible, gesture and VR technologies. It determines the factors that make the user experience different and suggests six aspects to consider when choosing technology.

Third, social interaction design in VR for museum study explores methods to connect players; single player, symmetric connection (VR HMD and VR HMD) and asymmetric connection (VR HMD and PC), to provide social interaction while playing the VR exhibit and investigates social features and social mechanics for visitors to communicate and exchange knowledge. It found that the symmetric connection provides better social interaction than others. However, the asymmetric link is also a way for visitors to exchange knowledge. The study recommends using mixed symmetric and asymmetric connections when deploying VR exhibits in a museum. This was confirmed by the in-the-wild research and validated the framework that indicated it helped staff manage the VR exhibit and provided a co-presence and co-player experience. Fourth, the content design of a display in the virtual environment study examines the effect of design content between 2D and 3D on visitors' learning and memory. It showed that content design with 2D and 3D did not influence visitors to gain knowledge and remember the exhibit’s story. However, the 3D view offers more immersion and emotion than the 2D view. The research proposes using 3D when designing content to evoke a player’s emotion; designing content for a VR exhibit should deliver experience rather than text-based learning. Furthermore, the feedback on the qualitative results of each study provided insight into the design user experience.

Evaluation of the proposed framework is the last part of this research. A study in the wild was conducted to validate the proposed framework in museums. Two VR exhibits were adjusted with features that matched the proposed framework’s suggested components and were deployed in the museum to gather visitors' feedback. It received positive feedback from the visitors, and visitors approved of using VR technology in the museum. The results of user feedback from a workshop to evaluate the helpfulness of the framework showed that the framework's components are appropriate, and the framework is practical when designing a new VR exhibit, particularly for people unfamiliar with VR technology. In addition, the proposed framework of this research may be applied to study emerging technology to create a novel exhibit.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Royal Thai Government Scholarship.
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Supervisor's Name: Williamson, Dr. Julie
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-84002
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2023 11:20
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2024 09:02
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84002

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