by Marc Ericson C. Santos
Hello! This is Marc, D2 student. I just came back from a 20-day business trip in the Philippines. The purpose of the travel is to conduct “demonstrations” and “field testing” of AR applications developed by the IMD lab. Normally, you demonstrate your research projects in conferences. However, you can do informal demonstrations too so that many people can become interested with your research. Field testing (or sometimes called user studies) is important for researchers because it gives you insight about how to improve your application, and it helps you understand what the users want. I did two user studies while I was in the Philippines. Aside from the demonstration and field testing, I got invited to conduct the first “Augmented Reality Summer Seminar” at Ateneo de Manila University. It’s a 5-day seminar designed for graduate students with the objective of getting them started with their own AR projects.
Our first activity is the AR seminar hosted by our collaborator, Prof. Ma. Mercedes T. Rodrigo of the Ateneo Laboratory for the Learning Sciences. She’s interested in using AR for education (like me!) and she recently secured funding from the Philippine government to create an AR location-based game about the history of Manila. I overheard her talking to some of her undergraduate students as they were brainstorming on the story-line of the game. My impression was first, the game sounds fun. Second, it’s amazing that she can challenge the very young students to think creatively. I think the AR seminar was part of the skills building for her lab, as they undertake this new project.
The AR summer seminar included talks about introduction to augmented reality, ARToolkit and OpenGL with everything designed by me and Arno. (Well it was mostly Arno with the help of Kato-sensei. I couldn’t have done it without Arno so I owe him a lot!) We made the seminar to be alternating lectures and hands-on programming. I thought Arno was really good with the hands-on tutorial, and it shows that he has practiced it before. The most difficult part for me was the part wherein the participants will pitch their application ideas. I was relieved when I realized that I read about most of the projects they wanted to do, or I have read something that applies to their proposal. I was also confident because I could easily ask Arno if what the students were proposing were too difficult. There were 30 registered participants from 11 institutions. Some people even came for Davao (south of Philippines, quite far) for this seminar! Overall, I think the participants were happy with their learning and accomplishments within 5 days. They wished it was 10 days though because they feel that 5 days is not enough.
Here are some highlights in pictures:
The lecture seems like the main event. But for me, I also had to do my field testing and demonstrations. I tested 2 applications. First is the “Work Support App” (I forgot the new name, sorry Jarkko. :p). This application is for annotating the environment with messages. I asked 20 people to pretend that they are technicians, and that they need to make a report about the state of the laboratory. They can view the information about the equipment in the room using the AR app. Below is a picture of what it looks like. While doing the tasks, I write down notes of what I think are interesting behaviors of people. For example, some people have a more clever working style. After doing the task, I asked them to answer a questionnaire. Probably, questionnaires are the easiest to use when measuring the user feedback. Better approaches (in terms of providing good evidence in scientific arguments) would be data logs of applications, and measuring biosignals (heart rate, skin conductance, brain waves, etc.)
The second user study is about using an interface for vocabulary learning. I’m gonna do this again with the new members of the lab so I’m not gonna talk about this experiment so much here. This is what it looks like:
Lastly, I used this trip as an opportunity to meet again with my family and good friends from high school, undergraduate, and masters. Actually, I also explained to them what I’m doing so I could get feedback from them and to promote the technology. My aunt has a very good suggestion for me and I plan to work on it by June. She also said she can help me find schools to test my application. She will introduce me to her friend who owns a school and that’s great! I also learned a lot from my friends who are now working in very different industries in the Philippines. I thought everyone was doing interesting things, and I think its important to also learn about things that are outside of what you think your project is about. Being open to ideas help you to think more creatively; you can apply it to your own project, you can also apply it to other aspects of your life.