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

Receive updates for this collection

And then you hit play: Investigating players’ responses to wayfinding cues in 3D action-adventure games

Date created: 
2017-02-21
Abstract: 

This research is concerned with wayfinding, one of the most basic interactions of 3D action-adventure games. Even though players are required to move from point A to point B to progress in games, there is little research on the difficulties, needs, and preferences of players regarding wayfinding in 3D game worlds. It is well known that to alleviate wayfinding issues, designers add wayfinding cues to the game world. However, little is known about how those cues affect players’ in-game behavior and, more importantly, the player experience. This research addresses those issues by investigating players’ responses to a variety of wayfinding cues. To this end, I developed two research tools resembling commercial 3D action-adventure games. Both games (i.e., The Lost Island and A Warrior’s Story) presented several wayfinding cues and tasks, purposefully designed to make players move from one space to the next. I investigate the player experience through mixed method and user-centered approaches, collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data. In the first study, all participants played the same version of The Lost Island, and I emphasized the differences between the experiences of more and less skilled players. For the second study, I categorized wayfinding cues into three groups that worked as my independent variables. Participants played one of the three versions of the game (i.e., experimental conditions) and reported on their experiences. Through concrete examples, this work demonstrated how wayfinding cues had an impact on players’ wayfinding behavior and attitude towards the games. Design implications are also discussed. I hope this work will assist wayfinding researchers in their future investigations, and assist wayfinding system designers in creating and ameliorating their systems for a more profound user experience.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Lyn Bartram
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Soundscapes as therapy: An innovative approach to chronic pain and anxiety management

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-04-11
Abstract: 

Chronic pain, which can last months to years, is considered to be a progressive and multifactorial disease that has been the subject of study for centuries. Chronic pain emerges long after the process of tissue healing might have occurred, and results from complex interplay amongst several antecedents. Because the disease is incurable, the primary approach is that of “managing” chronic pain, which includes both short-term and long-term forms of neuroplasticity enabled by non-invasive therapeutic practices. It is not a surprise that the strong mind-body connection has inspired researchers and practitioners to use music and environmental sounds as a tool for healing. The approach for using music and environmental sounds in clinical settings has begun to grow, yet the focus of its use is limited when it comes to chronic pain management. Emphasis on the act of listening rather than simply hearing has been shown to have therapeutic effects in a number of contexts, such as traumatic brain injuries, and dementia. As part of this research, we are examining the potential effects act of listening has on patients suffering from chronic pain. This research explores an approach of using soundscapes as therapy to help chronic pain patients manage their pain and anxiety. A review of literature in pain studies, auditory perception, music therapy, acoustic ecology, and immersion was conducted in developing a systematic approach for using soundscapes as a form of therapeutic intervention. In addition, three separate experiments were conducted with chronic pain patients to support the findings of this form of therapy, including future directions for improvement.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Diane Gromala
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Collaboration and awareness amongst flight attendants

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-03-24
Abstract: 

Collaboration is a core component of work activities amongst flight attendants as they work to promote onboard safety and deliver a high level of customer service. Yet we know little of how flight attendants collaborate and how we can best design technology to support this collaboration. Through an interview study with flight attendants, we explored their collaborative practices and processes and how technology aided such practices. While technologies like interphones and flight attendant call buttons acted as collaboration tools, we identified instances where the usability and functionality of these devices were the main barriers for maintaining efficient communication, situation awareness, and information exchange. Our findings inform the design of future technologies for enhancing communication and collaboration in an aircraft setting. As a proof of concept, we developed “SmartCrew”, a smartwatch application allows flight attendants to maintain an awareness of each other and communicate through messaging with haptic feedback. It is designed with an emphasis on real time information access and direct communication between flight attendants regardless of their location.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Carman Neustadter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Framing effects: The impact of framing on copresence in virtual theatre

Date created: 
2017-01-19
Abstract: 

Virtual theatre (enacted dramatic narrative performed live online) is an emerging form of theatrical mediation. One of the biggest challenges faced by this growing media practice is the management of audience experience. This thesis attempts to address the uncertainty around virtual theatre audiences by focusing on the framing of performances that take place in virtual worlds. Strategic approaches to framing and audience preparation are suggested based on literature-based research, case studies and experimental approaches to understanding the role of context and information to audience experience. The core research of the thesis involves a mixed-methods approach to understanding the impact of framing on virtual theatre. The first phase is theoretical, using existing theories of framing drawn from many disciplines in order to create analytical framework to establish the functional features of audience preparation. This framework is then used to analyse the audience preparation strategies of three Vancouver-based live art companies using both interviews and document analysis. Finally, framing strategies from both stage theatre and commercial cinema are used to create framing conditions that are tested using a controlled experiment on a virtual theatre production. The research findings are the basis of a series of recommendations for theatrical events presented in various media. The consequences for virtual theatre are emphasised in an attempt to expand the scope of this emerging form of theatrical expression.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Thecla Schiphorst
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Exploring the Design of a Tangible System Supported for Learning to Read and Spell in At-Risk and EFL Children

Author: 
Abstract: 

Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) have been suggested to have the potential to support learning for children. While several tangible reading systems have been developed for children, no systems have been designed that explicitly target early reading acquisition of English at the level of phonological awareness (i.e., the ability to manipulate sounds in speech) and the alphabetic principle (i.e., a set of rules that explain how graphemes are associated with phonemes) that are important for children with or at-risk for dyslexia (i.e., a specific difficulty in language acquisition skills) and children who learn English as a foreign language (EFL). By grounding on the theories of reading and reading instructions for dyslexia and EFL, best multisensory training practices, and existing research on TUIs that support learning to read for children, I worked as a design lead to present a tangible reading system called PhonoBlocks that uses embedded dynamic colour cues and 3D tangible letters to support children learning the alphabetic principle in English.In my dissertation, I explore the use of PhonoBlocks through two mixed-methods case studies—one with eight at-risk monolingual English-speaking children in Canada and the other with 10 Mandarin-speaking children who learn English as a foreign language in China. My findings show that both groups of children achieved significant learning gains after PhonoBlocks instruction and the at-risk children also maintained their progress one month later after post-test. The results also point to design features of our system that enabled behaviours that are correlated with learning. I also compare similarities and differences between the results of the two studies, identifying the common and unique behaviours for the two groups of children. I conclude by suggesting a set of recommendations and guidelines for designing the tangible reading systems for both at-risk and EFL children.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alissa N. Antle
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Transcoding place through digital media

Date created: 
2016-12-16
Abstract: 

Over the past decade, non-profit organizations have used alternate reality games (ARG) to raise awareness on the risks of climate change. This new form of content creation leverages the mass adoption of mobility and real-time access to social networks, tools and resources that have previously been unavailable to technologists, designers, and artists who produce ARGs. This dissertation explores how advances in Human Computer Interaction can be applied to the design of these ARGs. Focusing on the narrative structure, this multiple case study asks, what are the considerations alternate reality game designers have (if any), when designing the games, they make? The validity and utility of this research is presented through three cases: Future Coast (2014) explores the future of climate change, supported by the National Science Foundation; The Disaster Resilience Journal (2014) catalogued forty-two days of journal entries emphasising emergency preparedness, supported by the European Commission’s Department for Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection; and Techno Medicine Wheel (2009) teaches aboriginal values as living history, supported by The Aboriginal Media Lab in Cyber Space. Within each case I analyze two units of data 1) the designers’ interviews and 2) the game’s trajectory. Previous research on mixed reality experiences (Benford et al. 2011) focused primarily on the trajectory of plot points through the duration of the game. This study contributes a unique focus, addressing characteristics such as plot points that engage fans in and out of collective problem solving activities. The study also includes a clear description of the benefits of working under the guiding influence of a non-profit organizations. Finally, this study provides methodological strategies to collect and analyze ARG design, post-mortem. Thus, findings provide certain substantial characteristics that demonstrate how the practices of designers are transcoding place through their creative use of digital media.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dr. Ron Wakkary
Dr. Carman Neustaedter
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Shiro - A language to represent alternatives

Date created: 
2016-12-21
Abstract: 

When people solve problems they explore a variety of potential solutions. Parametric systems have been added to the interaction models of design tools to make it easier to change a design. Just as a cell is changed in a spreadsheet, when a parameter is changed all parts of the design that depend on that parameter update. While tools with parametric systems are powerful, users are limited to single state solutions and are forced to use workarounds like using layers and file naming conventions. These improvisations are caused by tools whose user interface and document models only support a single state. Single-state document models are only designed to represent a single artifact. In this work, I describe Shiro, a declarative, dataflow language for expressing alternatives in parametric systems. It provides a multi-state document model for parametric systems. To make this possible, I introduce the concept of subjunctive nodes, nodes that contain options. Options allow users to vary property values and computations. I demonstrate Shiro with a variety of examples from the designs of design and data analysis. Finally, I discuss what I learned while designing and implementing the language and provide a set of recommendations for future research.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Chris Shaw
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Effectiveness of mobile virtual reality as a means for pain distraction

Date created: 
2016-12-06
Abstract: 

Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) has been shown to work as a non-pharmacological analgesic by enabling cognitive distraction in acute pain patients, including burn patients, dental patients, and chemotherapy patients. However, little research literature exists on the effectiveness of VR for chronic pain patients who suffer from longer-term pain. This thesis aims at contributing to this research gap regarding VR and chronic pain by examining the viability of Cardboard VR– a Mobile VR device. We have conducted two research studies to understand the effectiveness of Cardboard VR in the management of pain. First, we studied how Cardboard affords immersion and its underlying factors compared to a high-end traditional head-mounted display (HMD) – the Oculus Rift DK2, and, the results showed a lot of promise because the difference between the two HMDs was not significant. Next, we conducted a randomized crossover study in a clinical setting with thirty chronic pain patients to understand Cardboard’s effectiveness in pain distraction. We asked the patients to play a VR game on both Cardboard and Oculus Rift. The study results showed that Cardboard VR, coupled with a smartphone, is capable of reducing the patients’ perceived pain intensity significantly compared to the control (pre-VR) condition. However, despite the early findings from the previous studies, Oculus Rift was found to be considerably more effective with pain patients than both the Cardboard and the control condition. The results of this study encourage future research inquiries of Mobile VR in the management of chronic pain. Mobile VR, because of its affordability and ease of use, shows the potential to become an effective tool for pain management for the patients.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Diane Gromala
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Focal Point: Analyzing the Shift Of Focus When Prototyping

Date created: 
2016-12-02
Abstract: 

Prototypes are at the core of many interaction design projects. They not only allow designers to formally evaluate their design, but also to explore their project's design space, generate ideas, and discover new design opportunities. This requires the designer to engage in a reflective conversation with her prototypes - closely listening for feedback, combining ideas, and discovering new qualities. This thesis analyzes the prototypes developed for an outdoor light installation, the Urban Data Posts, in order to gain a better understanding of the interplay between designer and prototype. Using a framework to track intentionality and unintentionality in prototypes, this thesis aims to understand how individual prototypes informed the design process and the final design of the Urban Data Posts project. This will provide a better understanding of what prototypes do and exemplify what impact unintentionality in prototypes can have in design. The main contribution of this research is the Focus Framework, which captures intentional as well as unintentional design aspects in a prototype.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ron Wakkary
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

A Computational Framework for Expressive, Personality-based, Non-verbal Behaviour for Affective 3D Character Agents

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-12-13
Abstract: 

Badler defined virtual humanoid characters as computer models of humans that can be used in several applications such as training and entertainment. For the humanoid characters to be credible and human-like, they must exhibit realistic and consistent nonverbal behavior. It is this consistency that ultimately instills in human users a sense that the characters have distinct personalities. Despite this importance, relatively little work has so far been done on the consistency of a 3D character’s behaviour during interaction with human users and their environments. Current 3D virtual character systems lack the ability to maintain the consistency of their behaviour during real-time interaction which can lead to users’ frustration and resentment.This thesis presents the design, implementation, and evaluation of a system named “RealAct” that controls the non-verbal behaviour of virtual characters. To make the virtual characters behave in a believable and consistent manner, the system controls non-verbal behavior such as gaze, facial expression, gesture and posture to give the impression of a specific personality type. The design and development of different modules of the RealAct system, e.g. for controlling the behaviour and generating emotion, is directly modelled from existing behavioural and computational literature. In addition to these core modules, the RealAct system contains a library of modules that are specifically geared toward real-time behavior control needs such as sensory inputs, scheduling of behaviour, and controlling the attention of the character.To evaluate and validate different aspects of the RealAct system, four experimental studies using both passive video-based and presential real-time paradigms were performed. The results of these experiments show that the amount of extraversion and emotional-stability that participants attributed to virtual characters depended on a combination of facial expression, gaze and posture and gestures that they exhibited. In summary, it was shown that the RealAct is effective in conveying the impression of the personality of virtual characters to users. It is hoped that the RealAct system provides a promising framework to guide the modelling of personality in virtual characters and how to create specific characters.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Steve DiPaola
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.