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UX guidelines for VR interfaces

July 5, 2016


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My name is Sofia Fröjdman and I’ve been here at Accedo since January working on my bachelor’s thesis about how to design user interfaces (UI) in virtual reality (VR) for qualitative user experiences (UX). After some challenging, intense, but most of all really fun months I am finally done and I’d love to share some of what I’ve learned during this time. I assume no one has missed the current hype around VR and how several head-mounted displays (HMDs) for VR experiences have or will be released this year, like for example Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. Even though several simpler VR sets used together with smartphones were released years ago, such as Google Cardboard, it is not until recently they have started releasing VR sets that are comfortable enough to be used for longer VR experiences.Today, there are almost as many different input methods and devices as there are different HMDs and VR sets. One input method that works with all different versions of HMDs and VR sets, without any additional input device, is to use head orientation. It can be used by placing a floating cursor in the centre of the users’ field of views and when they turn their heads, the cursor follows and moves over the UI.

Automatic selections occurs when the users have focused with the cursor over the object they want to select for a predetermined period of time. This is experienced by most users as they are controlling the UI with their gaze.In my research, I chose to focus on what aspects should be considered when designing a UI in VR - controlled by head orientation input - for a qualitative UX. To try to answer that question I performed a literature review, did a user interface evaluation, interviews, usability tests, and a survey. For a big part of the research, I used Accedo’s video service VR prototype, as some of you might recognise by the name Himalaya.The result of my research clarified the users’ pragmatic and hedonic goals, behaviour, experience, knowledge, needs, preferences, and context of use. Moreover, it showed current UX problems in the prototype. Some were that the users’ experienced a lack of control, a shortage of information and were forced to do non-ergonomic head orientations. Many unintentional, accidental selections occurred and the users were often left confused, frustrated or stressed. Based on the results I decided to develop seven UX guidelines that all represent different important aspects to consider when designing UIs in VR controlled by head orientation input for a qualitative UX.

The 7 UX guidelines

  1. Place the UI so it is comfortable to interact with
  2. Place visual feedback to selections within the immediate interaction area
  3. Keep information dense areas interaction-free
  4. Use dwell times of various lengths
  5. Avoid using time-limited information
  6. Never force users to interpret information in movement
  7. Use standards and affordances

In the thesis, I describe these guidelines more in detail, such as the first guideline that has certain horizontal and vertical degrees and distances that creates a comfortable interaction zone where the UI should be placed for a qualitative UX. However, these guidelines still need to be validated and much more research needs to be done to truly answer my research question. I can only conclude by saying that it has been a really interesting topic to work with and I can barely wait to see how the VR UIs and experiences will continue to develop in the future.

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