Team Sauron: Where are they now?

If you have not yet read our previous stories, go ahead and catch up with the developments our project went through and see what problems we encountered during our first sprint online! In this article, I would like to take you on our journey by talking about ups and downs throughout the process, changes we, as a team, went through and solutions we implemented in order to provide visually impaired people (VIP) with an inclusive fan experience at the Johan Crujiff ArenA.

To quickly recap the first two months of our project, let me describe the main aspects and milestones of the first two sprints. At first, we were researching and discovering our possibilities: who is our end-user, what are their needs, what kind of assistive technology would help them, would it be multisensory experience or only audio… We were asking these questions in order to arrive at a coherent conclusion on what our prototype should be. When we still had the freedom of accessing the office, playing around with different technologies and visiting ArenA, we came to an idea of working on a physical multisensory prototype, a 3D maquette of ArenA with touchpoints that each have a description, where haptic and audio feedback create an immersive experience for VIP. You can read more about it in our first article on Medium!

After a month of working together, the lockdown began so we had to adapt to a new way of working and collaborating on the project. Moreover, we had to change the way we see our prototype and give it a slight makeover. We worked on the idea of a digital prototype while simultaneously collecting user feedback on their experience in public spaces. The idea was based around making a type of virtual tour that can be accessed at the ArenA as well as at home with the help of the user’s voice command. Here you will find the details of the pivots made in our ways of working as well as our new prototype.

Moving onto a more recent change of events, after the prototype with voice command and visual stimulation, we have received a lot of feedback from the ArenA and made changes to our prototype according to the client’s advice. Referring back to our first sprint, we established that one of our tasks will be balancing out the interests of the ArenA and the interests of end-users. Now we were more concentrated on the hotspots of the tour (the opponents’ room, Ajax dressing room, player’s tunnel, and the field).

Four hotspots and sounds associated with them
Hotspots of the tour: the opponents’ room (1), Ajax dressing room (6), player’s tunnel (2), and the field (3)

Moreover, we started exploring 8D sound, however, after investigation online and after a few questions to VIP found through social media, we have decided that 8D sound would not be a good fit for our project.

“I don’t know why it would be desirable for music to be panning around and around. It’s a cool effect but I got over it by the second song.”

Starting Sprint 3 we have thoroughly worked on the guidebook that we decided to create in order to help public cultural venues be more accessible. The guidebook would include our suggestions for improvement based on the research that we have done, a description of the different conditions of visual impairment, and the needs of these different groups.

As to our prototype, we have decided to implement indoor localization instead of voice command. The location of the user would be determined by their phone and the beacons installed at ArenA. Once the user changes his or her location, it is detected by the beacons and a certain sound starts playing, depending on where you are in the tour.

What is more, our previous research has shown that visually impaired visitors would like to be independent during the tour, which led us to adding Navilens to the prototype. Navilens is an application that is based on a system of artificial markers, which combines high density with long-range. The requirements needed for its implementation are the posters with markers of certain places (toilets, reception, elevators etcetera) and an application on one’s phone in order to scan the code (https://www.navilens.com/). In order to visualize the steps that the user would go through with this prototype, we have created a UML use case — a diagram describing user interactions with the prototype.

UML Use case — steps that our user goes through when interacting with the prototype

But…There is always a ‘but’. We faced a lot of problems with regards to Interop Services of C#, which would require a lot more time and research to find a solution. Moreover, since we decided to build a real-time map and predict the exact position of the user in the ArenA, we needed to receive an RSSI signal, which is an accurate signal in real-time. When checking the dB of the signal by downloading the official app of the iBeacon, we realized that the dB of the signal was not stable. One of the experts present at our demonstration pointed out the same problem with the implementation of the iBeacons in crowded places. Thus, in the next sprint, we had yet to solve these issues and come up with a new, improved idea.

Even though we were perfecting our prototype, we have yet had to work on the storyline of our users and the emotions they go through when interacting with the prototype. Working on these aspects of the project was our main focus in the fourth sprint. You can see the emotional map that the user goes through in the picture below.

Emotion map

Moreover, we were finishing up the guidebook in order to have it ready by the end of the project. Putting all the advice together and creating the design of the guidebook were our main goals. Here is a result of our work on the guidebook:

Guidebook

Our next and final prototype idea required users to have a phone and a pair of headphones. The main idea is that the user comes to the ArenA, puts on his headphones, and, while he/she walks around different hotspots, the cameras, which would be installed in ArenA throughout the tour, would detect a person and activate a sound on the phone. The sounds would be associated with a certain room, for example, the Champions League anthem sound would play, when someone enters the pitch. Here is a video to demonstrate our home testing of this prototype.

To sum up, we went through quite a journey in these past five months. We made mistakes, learned from each other, listened to criticism and perfected ourselves. This project was a great opportunity to develop our skills, knowledge and discover new things about ourselves and each other. We learned how to collaborate in difficult times with limited resources and how to solve conflicts, when they came our way. We hope that our efforts to spread awareness about the lack of accessibility for the VIP were not in vain and we have passed on the knowledge and solutions to others.

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