SIAT - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Attending to inner self: Designing and unfolding breath-based VR experiences through micro-phenomenology

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-17
Abstract: 

This thesis contributes to human-computer interaction (HCI) research with a focus on the design of virtual reality (VR) applications that support and elicit the experience of breath awareness. Within HCI, advocating for technology-supported well-being has resulted in a large body of interactive systems informed by the quantified self paradigm. While these technologies elicit positive health outcomes, they also sometimes reduce access to a greater range of experiences that promote self-regulation and well-being. A growing interest in HCI is moving beyond the quantified self to designing technologies ``as experiences'' based upon embodied and first-person reflective practices. In this research, we are specifically interested in the experiences that arise through technologies that elicit breath awareness. However, in reviewing prior HCI research in designing for breath awareness, we have found that the differing epistemological commitments and theoretical frameworks determine very different sets of systems’ values, expectations and methods. This is an under-explored design space within HCI that necessitates a deeper understanding of disambiguation of how epistemological commitments shape not only our systems, but our experiences and how we consider methodologies that support the rich and meaningful explication of those experiences. While we contribute primarily to HCI, our work is positioned in the broader intersection of art, science, and technology. We structure our research around two main foci. First focus is on the design and evaluation of VR applications built upon first-person practices of eliciting breath awareness. We engage in disambiguating theoretical underpinnings of the systems that perceptually extend breath awareness to understand how epistemological commitments of different theoretical frameworks inform system design to support breath awareness. Then, we present the iterative process of design and evaluation of two breath-based VR systems: Pulse Breath Water and Respire. Second focus is on methodological strategies that clarify not only fine-grained descriptions of the experience but its very own structure. We have applied micro-phenomenology in HCI to design and evaluate two immersive VR systems for eliciting breath awareness. We contribute to understanding how micro-phenomenology can be used in the context of VR systems for articulating the nuances, complexity, and diversity of a user's experience beyond surface descriptions.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Philippe Pasquier
Thecla Schiphorst
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Exploring the use of telepresence robots in long distance relationships

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-06-22
Abstract: 

This thesis explores the use of telepresence robots as a communication tool for long distance relationships. While communication between partners can be nuanced and varied, current remote communication tools are limited in the aspects of communication that are supported. The lack of an embodiment creates challenges for maintaining relationships over distance because communication becomes limited to audiovisual interactions. The telepresence robot provides an embodiment through which long distance partners can interact, opening up unique opportunities for engagement. This work explores how real world couples utilize telepresence robots to interact over distance and considers how the findings translate to design implications and considerations. This thesis presents the following three studies in a cumulative format. The first study looks at how telepresence robots are used by long distance couples in the home space. This exploratory field study utilized interviews to collect data while minimizing intrusiveness in the home space. The second study compares the use of telepresence robots versus tablets for the joint activity of shopping as long distance couples. This between-groups study used data from observations and interviews. The third study explores the use of a telepresence robot when paired with voice-controlled devices in a home shared over distance. This autobiographical study collected daily diaries, interviews, and photo/video materials for data. This collection of studies contributes early insights on the use of telepresence robots by long distance couples to support their uniquely demanding communication needs. My findings show that couples use telepresence robots during evening and weekends to spend time together, with the freedom to move around independently. The telepresence robot supports the sense of a shared home and lets partners participate in everyday life. Movement supports not only independence, but also displays of personality and playfulness. This work also underscores the limitations of an appendage-free design, which constrains helpful acts and joint activities. I include a chapter on design considerations before the conclusion chapter. There I discuss the importance of supporting a sense of belonging and ownership in the shared home home space, and a sense of joint participation and variety in activities.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Carman Neustaedter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Exploring social presence with a companion scout in virtual reality for arthritic seniors

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-07-20
Abstract: 

Apart from heavy usage in the game industry, Virtual Reality has been gaining focus in recent years in the health world. When it comes down to pain treatment, VR has been proven to be effective for acute pain. However, VR has been inadequately studied regarding its efficacy in dealing with chronic pain, and insufficient explorations have been in place to consolidate best practices. In this direction, a VR environment named LumaPath has been built by the Pain Studies Lab at Simon Fraser University for assisting ageing patients with arthritis with managing their chronic sufferings by motivating them to conduct Range of Motion (RoM) activities, as RoM is an essential component proven to be effective for alleviating arthritic pain symptoms. In the initial version of LumaPath, even when the testing users were indeed motivated to conduct RoM activities, they reported senses of loneliness and uncertainty about what to do. These voices were abstracted as the need for social presence inside VR, hereby defined as the sense of being with another entity delivering verbal or non-verbal information. To mediate LumaPath into a VR environment better for its purpose, this thesis tries to address such need from arthritic seniors (the target users of LumaPath) by first putting forward a list of potential forms of social presence that can be introduced to this VR environmnent, and then chooses a companion scout with navigation capability to move forward with design and implementation. A mixed methods study consisting of quantitative questionnaire and qualitative inquiry is conducted with 16 participants (ages 56-89, 8 females) diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and/or Osteoarthritis (OA) to measure to what extent this scout brings a sense of social presence into the scene, reduces a sense of loneliness, and provides guidance inside LumaPath when maintaining the original goal of LumaPath. This thesis discusses the findings regarding the perspectives of arthritic seniors about an assistive virtual character inside a VR environment, their preferences regarding forms of companion and assistance, and concludes with feasible improvements that can be made to the companion scout, preferable ways of providing support inside a VR environment promoting physical activity such as LumaPath, and design directions for creating better immersive environments for the ageing generation with chronic conditions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Chris Shaw
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Visual analytics in precision medicine: Using mixed methods to support stakeholder data needs

Date created: 
2020-06-26
Abstract: 

Precision medicine solutions require health consumers to increasingly interact with digital interfaces to report their medical history and conditions. This is challenging since the symptoms of an illness can often be located to an activity or a body part and untrained health consumers struggle to communicate them clearly. To address this problem, I designed a mixed methods study, where I first conducted short-term ethnography in a precision medicine company to understand the data requirements of a set of health data analysts. This exploration led to methodological and design guidelines that translated into an interactive data-capture system that visually mapped a controlled vocabulary of human disease phenotypes to a graphical depiction of the body. Results showed that describing the experience of illness in a somatic representation gave health consumers a more accurate and descriptive understanding of their illness, and by doing so captured more reliable data for analysts. The representation can support health care workers to provide more accurate analyses, aid caregivers in managing health risks, and empower health consumers to take action to better their health.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Brian Fisher
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

IdeaBits: Tangible design tool to aid idea generation for tangible user interface input actions

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-06-02
Abstract: 

Novice tangible interaction design students often find it challenging to generate input action ideas for tangible user interfaces. There is no design tool to facilitate such idea generation. To address this gap, I designed and developed IdeaBits as an exploratory research instrument. IdeaBits consists of interactive physical artifacts coupled with digital examples of tangible systems and technical implementation guidance. I investigated how novice students use IdeaBits to generate tangible user interface ideas, how it supports them, and what challenges they face. I conducted an exploratory case study involving video recorded design sessions, remote observations, and semi-structured interviews with twelve students individually. The findings show that IdeaBits helped in generating input action ideas by enabling to experience the input actions, encouraging and facilitating hands-on explorations, and introducing possibilities. However, it fell short in supporting the technical implementation planning of the generated ideas. Also, introducing examples at times caused design fixation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Alissa N. Antle
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Visual analytics in personalized health: A study of the expert analyst – health consumer relationship in a direct-to-consumer service

Date created: 
2020-04-21
Abstract: 

In the era of “big data analytics” for healthcare, the personalized medicine promise offers a shift to the provision of care enabled by our technical ability to quantify and assess large volumes of biomedical data. This message however, often seems to strengthen a notion of healthcare from a “biomedical positivism framework”, that is, that diagnosis of disease, medical image analysis, integration of devices, and ultimately, the selection of the appropriate therapy is empowered by volumes of data and algorithmic accuracy, thus improving the patient’s illness. In this research program, we approached expert biomolecular analysts, recorded their sensemaking process, and analyzed the role of data visualization technologies while they performed analysis of multi-omic data for a direct-to-consumer service of personalized health. We uncovered the nature of the analysts turning to their human-interaction skillset to address the health reality of each consumer they worked for. Assertions about the scientific validity and the amount of data, often emphasize the claims of this personalized health approach, but in practice, the analysts turned to attend goals, preferences, to find actionable evidence in the data, and to frame a relatable health summary story for the clients. The role of technology design in scenarios like this one will be fundamental in properly translating and bridging the effort from these emergent providers (the analysts) in communication with the end consumers. Our findings suggest that both parties benefit from analytic capacities to explore and understand the strength of each piece of evidence in the case, including the evidence that is provided by the clients themselves beyond their biological samples. We believe that this work, along with the research methodologies deployed in work-settings, are a contribution to the Visual Analytics community to support the tasks of bio scientists in personalized medicine, as much as an HCI initiative in support of evidence-based models of preventive healthcare with large amounts of data.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Brian Fisher
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Connecting family members across time through asynchronous audio stories

Date created: 
2020-04-06
Abstract: 

This dissertation studies the exploration of asynchronous audio technologies and the design, creation, and evaluation of a system created for connecting family members in different time zones. The related literature on domestic technology for families in different time zones is mainly focused on synchronous usage of different mediums for connecting family members or using video for asynchronous communication. In this doctoral work, my goal was to explore and gain insights on design factors which are important in designing systems for connecting family members across time and over distance through shared audio-based media. This dissertation consists of two studies that I conducted during my doctoral work which is presented in a cumulative format. For my doctoral research, I first conducted a qualitative study which explored the usage of a successful asynchronous audio technology called Podcasts through semi-structured interviews. Results pointed to the characteristics that made podcasts suitable for supporting people’s ability to be alone yet still feel like they were connected to others. Second, I designed and built an asynchronous media sharing web application called Mimo that allowed family members to capture and share moments with each other using audio narratives as a way to connect together. I conducted a study of Mimo and found value of connecting family members in a one-to-one, private fashion and how personalization was necessary in such system. Third, I conducted an iterative design process for a system called FamilyStories that contained three different computational artifacts which allowed family members to share activities and experiences over distance in different time zones. The three technology probes connected family members through sharing asynchronous audio messages with different playback features specific to each of the devices. I evaluated the usage of FamilyStories with a five-week field deployment with four participants. The methods used includes semi-structured interviews, diaries, and data logs for data collection. Results showed the value of slow, flexible, and non-suggestive interfaces for asynchronous audio communication. Overall, my work illustrates the importance of delayed communication; ephemerality being helpful in expressing emotions; the specialness of dedicated in-home devices; and, how time delayed messages can ‘synchronize’ time zones in asynchronous audio communication. This work holds value in exploring design features that have potential to be beneficial for family communication across different time zones.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Carman Neustaedter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

How’s that sound? Co-designing neurofeedback game audio with children

Date created: 
2020-04-20
Abstract: 

Many children struggle with mental health challenges such as anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurofeedback games, like Mind-Full, use portable brain-computer interfaces to help children cope by developing self-regulation skills. These games work by receiving electroencephalographic (EEG) input and relaying that information to users. In theory, feedback may be visual, auditory, tactile, or some combination. In practice, most games are visual. As users gain focus, the game visuals respond on-screen in real time. The reliance on visual feedback can create difficulties in the field—schools are often noisy and filled with distractions, and some children are uncomfortable sitting in silence with adults. Incorporating sound into neurofeedback games could improve usability and, potentially, outcomes. However, there is a basic problem–adult researchers cannot assume to know what sounds might appeal to young users. This prompts important questions: How can children contribute to the co-design of sounds for a neurofeedback system? What sounds do children think would be suitable for each game? In this thesis, I look to children to guide the development and evaluation of sounds for neurofeedback games. I report findings from a co-design study to create sounds for Mind-Full. I worked with 16 children as design partners over five sessions at a school in Vancouver, Canada. I present results from each session, discuss limitations, and review theoretical implications. In this work I find that children can participate in the co-design of sound via ideation, clarification and elaboration of ideas, and evaluation of sounds. The contributions of this work are a set of practical guidelines for co-design with children, an enhanced version of Mind-Full Wind, a summary of the ways in which children can contribute to the co-design of sounds, and insight into the tension between teacher's roles as design partners and facilitators. This work may be helpful for future researchers and designers interested in running co-design studies related to sound.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Alissa N Antle
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Exploration of students’ perception and usage of personalized reminder feedback in their time management

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-20
Abstract: 

Time management is one of the important components involved in self-regulated learning (SRL). It becomes more important in the context of multi-week assignments where students need to adopt regulation strategies to reach their goals and finish their tasks. Feedback may help students in adjustment of these strategies during this process by enhancing their self-reflection. While many systems have designed to support students’ self-reflection and awareness, there is a lack of empirical research about the real effect and usefulness of these systems. In this study, I introduced a trace-data driven personalized reminder feedback system to support time management of students during multi-week assignments by providing insight about their behavior and recommendations. I conduct in-depth interviews with students and use qualitative methods to evaluate how this system helped students with their metacognitive processes involved in their time management. Implications for future research and guidelines for practice are provided.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Marek Hatala
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Eye-hand coordination training in virtual reality

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-12-12
Abstract: 

Reaction time training systems are being used to improve athlete performance for different sports, including boxing, football, and even the Formula 1. Until now, such setups used physical, flat surfaces, such as a 2D touch screen or buttons mounted on a wall or frame. Here, we investigate a Virtual Reality version of such an eye-hand coordination training system and also show that Fitts' law can be used to assess user performance more accurately. We conducted three user studies to investigate different aspects of such VR-based training environments for sports training. In the first one, we explored different target arrangements and showed that user performance is maximized with the dominant hand and a vertical target plane. In the second, we studied different combinations of visual and haptic feedback and how they affect user performance for different target and cursor sizes. Results illustrated that haptic feedback does not increase user performance when it is added to visual feedback. We also used the effective throughput measure of Fitts' law and the associated throughput measure to show that user performance in eye-hand coordination tasks can be accurately assessed with this method, independent of user behaviors. In the third experiment, 12 participants performed an eye-hand coordination reaction test in three conditions: in mid-air with or without a VR controller as well as with passive haptic feedback through hitting a soft-surface wall. We also altered target and cursor sizes and analyzed user performance again with the throughput measure. According to the results, subjects were slower and their throughput was lower when they hit a solid surface to interact with virtual targets. Our results show that Fitts' model can be applied to VR-based eye-hand coordination training systems to measure and assess participant's performance. We believe that our work will inform system development for professional and amateur athletes' performance assessment systems.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Wolfgang Stuerzlinger
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.