Two screenshots of the MR Gathering prototype overlayed on an image of AR glasses. The first screenshot shows a red calligraphy scroll being traced. The second screenshot shows a home screen with a "family activities" button in the middle, labeled both in English and simplified Chinese.

MR Gathering

AR/MR Design

Date

October - December 2021

Duration

10 weeks

Team

Simon Sun, Helen Ling, Catherine Most, Sheen Jin

Tools

Miro, Figma

Overview

Language is an important facet of communication, and particularly is a source of closeness and cohesion between parents and children. Studies have shown families that do not have the same preferred language are not as close or communicative as those who do. Additionally, many immigrant parents view language as an important cultural cornerstone and that their children may lose touch with their heritage as their native (parent) language fluency decreases.

Design Question

How might we facilitate communication within families who may not share the same preferred language?

MR Gathering is a mixed-reality gathering space that aims to build family bonds and vocabulary through various cultural activities.

Understanding the User

To better understand the problem space and stakeholders, we gathered data on parents and children with different preferred languages. I was responsible for the literature reviews as well as observing the interviews.

Research Questions

  • What are the difficulties when the parents and kids are communicating?
  • How are families currently communicating?
  • What strategies or solutions are currently being employed to navigate the divide?
  • What issues are there beyond language, i.e. culture?
  • Within families, what role does language play?
  • What concerns might there be about child(ren)’s learning a language?

Research Methods

37

Survey responses

6

Interviews

14

Literature reviews

Affinity diagramming

We coded and organized our research data based on user type in order to identify common goals and challenges.

Some key insights:
  • Users across the board had a need for connection with family members.
  • Not being able to share thoughts or communicate led to feelings of alienation.
  • Parents feared a loss of culture intertwined with loss of language fluency for their children.

Crafting the Concept

Using the personas as a guide, we rapidly drew up design requirements for our solution.

Design Requirements

  • The solution should facilitate communication and develop the relationship between the user and their family members through shared vocabulary. 
  • The user should be able to learn parental language(s) and culture.
  • The system should consider the settings of the usage environment, as different families have different challenges and dynamics (ex. within a messy home, or loud environment).
  • The solution should provide an encouraging and engaging experience to help them through the challenges of learning.
  • The experience should be trackable and manageable.
  • The solution should accommodate different ages and literacies of users.

Making the decision

After a lengthy discussion, the team agreed to move forward with the MR gathering space idea due to its novel platform and its wide applicability to various cultural activities. As in our research we found that connection is just as, if not more, important than language learning, this solution matched the user needs the best. We decided to also incorporate the watch party idea as an activity. Storyboards drawn by the wonderful Sheen Jin.

Exploring Design in the MR Space

Early in the design process, we were quite stumped for how to design a user experience in mixed reality compared to a platform such as web or mobile that have an established design language. Although we initially wanted to rapidly test a Wizard of Oz paper prototype, the inability to properly administer such a prototype due to the pandemic prevented us from being able to try any prototyping in person. As one of our two principal designers, I opted instead to emulate "snapshots" of what the user would see and design the UIs that the system would use. This would allow us to conduct usability tests remotely while still giving users an idea of the space around them. These would be further fleshed out in fidelity as we understood the language of the space more.

Design recommendation #2: Optimize information architecture

Certain user flows did not make sense for the participants, particularly the calligraphy activity and accessing the saved vocabulary.

Design recommendation #3: Explain interaction functionality (user education) and increase discoverability

Some functionalities, such as the vocab lookup, were unable to be found by the test participants.

Presenting the Product

Our final prototype shows the three core cultural activities as well as a vocabulary lookup and saving feature. Due to time constraints, we were unable to create full interaction fidelity. However, even with the linearity, our prototype is able to demonstrate the functionality and usage of the product.

For the presentation, I wrote and edited the video sketch seen in the overview of this project.
Note: you may need to full-screen the Figma prototype then adjust the zoom level in options.

Reflections

Next steps

Next steps could include fleshing out the fidelity of interactions, creating additional user flows, and exploring the technical limitations and possibilities of mixed reality.

Takeaways

This was my first project in the University of Washington's Human-Centered Design & Engineering masters program. As the most junior member of my team and working alongside established UX researchers and designers, I learned a ton about industry standards and the design process. Another takeaway is learning about how to approach an unfamiliar technology. None of our team members have experience designing for mixed reality interfaces, so we chose to take on the challenge to push ourselves in a classroom setting. While at first we had hesitancies about how to begin prototyping resulting in a few delays, once we conquered the initial fears and dove in we gradually figured out the design language. I am immensely proud of the work we produced for this project.