Augmentation in the Wild : User Centered Development and Evaluation of Augmented Reality Applications

Abstract: Augmented Reality (AR) technology has, despite many applications in the research domain, not made it to a widespread end user market. The one exception is AR applications for mobile phones. One of the main reasons for this development is technological constraints of the non-mobile phone based systems - the devices used are still neither mobile nor lightweight enough or simply not usable enough. This thesis addresses the latter issue by taking a holistic approach to the development and evaluation of AR applications for both single user and multiple user tasks. The main hypothesis is that in order for substantial wide spread use of AR technology, the applications must be developed with the aim to solve real world problems with the end user and goal in focus.Augmented Reality systems are information systems that merge real and virtual information with the purpose of aiding users in different tasks. An AR system is a general system much like a computer is general; it has potential as a tool for many different purposes in many different situations. The studies in this thesis describe user studies of two different types of AR applications targeting different user groups and different application areas. The first application, described and evaluated, is aimed at giving users instructions for use and assembly of different medical devices. The second application is a study where AR technology has been used as a tool for supporting collaboration between the rescue services, the police and military personnel in a crisis management scenario.Both applications were iteratively developed with end user representatives involved throughout the process and the results illustrate that users both in the context of medical care, and the emergency management domain, are positive towards AR systems as a technology and as a tool in their work related tasks. The main contributions of the thesis are not only the end results of the user studies, but also the methodology used in the studies of this relatively new type of technology. The studies have shown that involving real end users both in the design of the application and in the user task is important for the user experience of the system. Allowing for an iterative design process is also a key point. Although AR technology development is often driven by technological advances rather than user demands, there is room for a more user centered approach, for single user applications as well as for more dynamic and complex multiple user applications.