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

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Bridging the gap between design space exploration and generative design interfaces: An exploratory study

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-14
Abstract: 

This doctoral work aims to understand designers' search behaviour when navigating through a large number of design alternatives. The motivation for this research lies in previous studies on designers’ search for design alternatives using different design media. With an increased computing capabilities and large screen displays, the opportunity to generate multiple designs has now become practical. However, due to the paucity of desired tool features, today’s designers adapt ad-hoc techniques; such as opening two files side-by-side, layering designs for comparison, and saving versions manually. These techniques are rudimentary and have limited benefits and real costs when it comes to viewing multiple designs simultaneously and making sense of the overall design space. Recently some research has presented interfaces and system features for such exploration. However, before adopting any of these solutions, it is essential to understand the act of navigating and managing a large design space. The premise of our research is that, if designers can access and work directly with a large number of designs in an environment with new representations and tools as part of the design workflow, we expect new patterns and strategies to emerge and change the design process. What though are these new patterns and strategies? To answer this, I conducted a lab experiment with ten designers who were given one thousand design alternatives of an apartment building. The alternatives were produced using generative design techniques and were printed on index cards with an intention to discover how designers would engage with these designs in a controlled lab experimental setting. The results of the experiment revealed a cycle of design tasks performed repeatedly and patterns of spatial organizations to record designers' decisions. Based on the results from the experiment, I introduce high-level spatial metaphors and develop an interface prototype to support my analysis. I also present a comparison of existing CAD interfaces with respect to the proposed spatial metaphors.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Halil Erhan
Robert Woodbury
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Designing for self-transcendent experiences in virtual reality

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-10
Abstract: 

This thesis contributes to Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research with a focus on the design of immersive experiences that support self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is defined as a decrease in a sense of self and a increase in unity with the world. It can change what individuals know and value, their perspective on the world and life, evolving them as a grown person. Consequently, self-transcendence is gaining attention in Psychology, Philosophy, and Neuroscience. But, we are still far from understanding the complex phenomenological and neurocognitive aspects of self-transcendence, as well as its implications for individual growth and psychological well-being. In reviewing the methods for studying self-transcendence, we found differing conceptual models determine different ways for understanding and studying self-transcendence. Understanding self-transcendence is made especially challenging because of its ineffable qualities and extraordinary conditions in which it takes place. For that reason, researchers have began to look at technological solutions for both eliciting self-transcendence to better study it under controlled and replicable conditions as well as giving people greater access to the experience. We reviewed immersive, interactive technologies that aim to support positive experiences such as self-transcendence and extracted a set of design considerations that were prevalent across experiences. We then explored two different focuses of self-transcendence: awe and lucid dreaming. First, we took an existing VR experience designed specifically to support the self-transcendent experience of awe and looked at how the mindset and physical setting surrounding that VR experience might better support the experience of and accommodation of awe. Second, we delved deep into lucid dreaming to better understand the aspects that could help inform the design of an immersive experience that supports self-transcendence. We put those design ideas into practice by developing a neurofeedback system that aims to support lucid dreaming practices in an immersive experience. Through these review papers and design explorations, we contribute to the understanding of how one might design and evaluate immersive technological experiences that support varieties of self-transcendence. We hope to inspire more work in this area that holds promise in better understanding human nature and living our best lives.

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

Gender stereotypes in virtual agents

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-08
Abstract: 

Visual, behavioural and verbal cues for gender are often used in designing virtual agents to take advantage of their cultural and stereotypical effects on the users. However, recent studies point towards a more gender-balanced view of stereotypical traits and roles in our society. This thesis is intended as an effort towards a progressive and inclusive approach for gender representations in virtual agents. The contributions are two-fold. First, in an iterative design process, representative male, female and androgynous embodied AI agents were created with few differences in their visual attributes. Second, these agents were then used to evaluate the stereotypical assumptions of gendered traits and roles in AI virtual agents. The results showed that, indeed, gender stereotypes are not as effective as previously assumed, and androgynous agents could represent a middle-ground between gendered stereotypes. The thesis findings are presented in the hope to foster discussions in virtual agent research and the frequent stereotypical use of gender representations.

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

Understanding everyday experiences of reminiscence for people living with blindness: Practices, tensions and probing new design possibilities

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-11-02
Abstract: 

There is growing attention in the HCI community on how technology could be designed to support experiences of reminiscence on past life experiences. Yet, this research has largely overlooked people living with blindness. I present a study that aims to understand everyday experiences of reminiscence for people living with blindness. I conducted a qualitative study with 9 participants living with blindness to understand their personal routines, wishes and desires, and challenges and tensions regarding the experience of reminiscence. Findings are interpreted to discuss new possibilities that offer starting points for future design initiatives and openings for collaboration aimed at creating technology to better support the practices of capturing, sharing, and reflecting on significant memories of the past.

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

DesignSense: A Visual Analytics Interface for Navigating Generated Design Spaces

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-10-26
Abstract: 

Generative Design (GD) produces many design alternatives and promises novel and performant solutions to architectural design problems. The success of GD rests on the ability to navigate the generated alternatives in a way that is unhindered by their number and in a manner that reflects design judgment, with its quantitative and qualitative dimensions. I address this challenge by critically analyzing the literature on design space navigation (DSN) tools through a set of iteratively developed lenses. The lenses are informed by domain experts' feedback and behavioural studies on design navigation under choice-overload conditions. The lessons from the analysis shaped DesignSense, which is a DSN tool that relies on visual analytics techniques for selecting, inspecting, clustering and grouping alternatives. Furthermore, I present case studies of navigating realistic GD datasets from architecture and game design. Finally, I conduct a formative focus group evaluation with design professionals that shows the tool's potential and highlights future directions.

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

A review and framework for designing interactive technologies for emotion regulation training

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-14
Abstract: 

Emotion regulation is foundational to mental health and well-being. In the last ten years there has been an increasing focus on the use of interactive technologies to support emotion regulation training in a variety of contexts. However, research has been done in diverse fields, and no cohesive framework exists that explicates what features of such system are important to consider, guidance on how to design these features, and what remains unknown, which should be explored in future design research. To address this gap, this thesis presents the results of a descriptive review of 54 peer-reviewed papers. Through qualitative and frequency analysis I analyzed previous technologies, reviewed their theoretical foundations, the opportunities where they appear to provide unique benefits, and their conceptual and usability challenges. Based on the findings I synthesized a design framework that presents the main concepts and design considerations that researchers and designers may find useful in designing future technologies in the context of emotion regulation training.

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.

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.