A1 — Paper Prototype

Smartwatch Controller for Google Cardboard VR


I decided to do my prototype on the Google Cardboard VR, so that I could tie it into my capstone project. My team is looking into indirect controls for mobile VR, so it made sense to try out a watch concept, which is something we had discussed.

I started by simply jumping into it, using what I already knew about VR from doing capstone research. The following video is a quick demo of how it works:

Design Decisions

I made some conscious design decisions before even hitting user testing (a sort of proto-heuristic evaluation).

  • Watch strip went horizontally so that it wouldn’t impede the hand and wrist movement
  • Having the paper strip horizontal introduced issues with holding the VR scene, but it made more sense because I wouldn’t have been able to progress the screens during the user testing if it were orientated vertically through the watch viewer.

User Testing

I got my brother as a user tester. He has not used VR before and my capstone’s primary user group is people who haven’t used VR before, so he fit the profile. He requested that I not take video or pictures, which is unfortunate, because it makes it seem as though I didn’t actually run through the test with him. However, he did give me some very good feedback on my design, though:

Direct mapping with the watch to the screen is best

Potentially-awkward hand positioning

My primary concern was with how to best map the choices on the screen and on the watch. Given the odd hand positioning, it wasn’t immediately clear how the watch images should correspond with the arrangement on the screen. My brother said it made perfect sense to have them lined up in the same way, despite the weird hand arrangement.

Pause button may be too spartan during usage

Spartan pause screen

My brother didn’t like the simple pause button that was shown on the watch during normal VR usage. He suggested adding the time or something similar.

System Usage

Finding: Users wouldn’t like deconstructing the headset, but have no problem taking it off for a second to use the smartwatch directly

I started with the assumption that it’s unreasonable to take a VR headset off during a session to answer a push notification. Since Google Cardboard places the phone in a holder, it’s difficult to switch between programs to attend to an urgent notification.

However, it’s entirely reasonable to simply pause the VR session to answer a call or text on a paired smartwatch. The email in my scenario could have been answered on the smartwatch, instead of relying on in-Cardboard speech-to-text

This may have been affected by the fact that the paper prototype was not actually VR. It may still be unreasonable to leave the app to answer a notification in an actual VR setting.

Paper Prototype Issues

Finding: Adding an additional VR scene with the push notification at a slightly different angle would make it clear that the notification is fixed positioned

It was difficult for the user to understand that the push notification icon was in a fixed position (that is, it was locked in the top left area, regardless of where you were looking in the VR world). It was also difficult to convey that the icon disappeared after a few seconds.

The user suggested that I create an additional scene for the ‘in-VR view’, with a slightly different head angle. This would show that the icon is fixed in the left, despite head movements

However, this seems to be a limitation of paper prototyping for VR — it’s simply unreasonable to make a different scene for each interaction possible in VR.

‘Resume’ versus ‘Exit’ symbol

Original exit symbol
Revised resume symbol

I originally had the dialogue to exit the pause screen as ‘Exit’ (as seen below). However, the user thought it meant to exit the VR program. Exiting the program is done via the Google Cardboard control of turning the phone/viewer vertically.

I changed it to ‘Resume’, as to correspond to the ‘Pause’ action.

Peer Critique Feedback

From the feedback/critique session among my peers, I received the following feedback:

  • Use darker colors for the video than pencil
  • I used pencil for the ability to erase and edit quickly. However, my peers said that the pencil was both too dark and too reflective in my video, which made it difficult to understand.

Lessons Learned

  • Voice or video record demo sessions for feedback, instead of scribbling down
  • I didn’t record the demo session, which turned out to be very necessary — the video was supposed to be on the user testing
  • Practice paper prototyping demos before presenting it to users
  • VR is so dynamic that it’s hard to properly paper prototype
  • The line between paper prototypes and experience prototypes is blurry
  • I realized about halfway through when making my cardboard watch that my work could have qualified as a spatial experience prototype.
  • This isn’t really bad, but it could mean that the user is evaluating the hardware instead of the software.

Originally published at prototyping498.blogspot.com on April 29, 2015.