Citation
Leveraging Virtual Reality to Create Empathy in Interior Design

Material Information

Title:
Leveraging Virtual Reality to Create Empathy in Interior Design
Creator:
Walsh, Kyle G.
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Notes

Abstract:
Interior designers rarely personally experience the issues that people with disabilities face. This can result in personal biases regarding accessibility going unnoticed in their designs. To solve this issue, I propose a solution that would allow interior designers to experience their evolving designs firsthand so that they may identify and address accessibility issues. Specifically, this paper discusses the use of a wheelchair character within virtual reality that allows interior designers to move through their environments during the developmental stage. By immersing 17 undergraduate interior design students within their environment and having them recognize accessibility issues firsthand, I was able to identify issues that are commonly overlooked and examine the shifts in interior designers' perspectives. I found that there was a significant change in the participants' perception of their environment after the experience. I also determined that the most common issues overlooked by participants were furniture/equipment height, spacing, and social exclusion. These results suggest that virtual reality can provoke unique insights in interior designers and provide a more holistic approach to design. This research illustrates the potential of virtual reality as a practical tool within interior design and can be used for the development of other empathy tools. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, summa cum laude, on May 8, 2018. Major: Computer Science
General Note:
College or School: College of Engineering
General Note:
Advisor: Benjamin Lok. Advisor Department or School: CISE

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Kyle G. Walsh. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

UFDC Membership

Aggregations:
UF Undergraduate Honors Theses

Downloads

This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text

PAGE 1

HONORS THESIS LEVERAGING VIRTUAL REALITY TO CREATE EMPATHY IN INTERIOR DESIGN Submitted by Kyle Walsh Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering In partial fulfillment of the requirements For Honors with the Degree of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Engineering University of Florida Gainesville, Florida Spring 2018 Thesis Committee: Chair : Benjamin Lok Jason Meneely Jaime Ruiz

PAGE 2

1 Abstract Interior designers rarely personally experience the issues that people with disabilities face. This can result in personal biases and assumptions regarding accessibility going unnoticed in their designs To provoke empathy in interior designers and solve t his issue I propose a solution that would allow interior designers to experience thei r evolving designs first hand so that they may identify and address accessibility issues. Specifically, this paper discusses the use of a wheelchair cha racter within virtu al reality that allow s interior designers to move through their environments during the developmental stage. By immersing 17 undergraduate interior design students within their environment and having them recognize accessibility issues first hand, I was able to identify issues that are commonly overlooked and examine the shifts in interior designers perspective s I found that there was a accessibility of their environment after going th rough the experience. I also determined that the most common issues overlooked by participants were furniture/equipment height, spacing, and social exclusion. These results suggest that virtual reality can provoke unique insights in interior design ers and provide a more holistic approach to human centric design. This research illustrates the potential of virtual reality as a practical tool within interior design and can be used for the development of other empathy tools.

PAGE 3

2 Contents Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 1 1. Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 3 1.1. Problem ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 3 1.2. Solution ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 3 1.3. Goal ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 2. Related Work ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 4 3. Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 5 3.1. Subjects ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 5 3.2. Equipment and Software ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 6 3.3. Procedure ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 7 3.4. Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 10 4. Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 11 5. Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 14 6. Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 17 7. Referen ces ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 18

PAGE 4

3 1. Introduction 1.1. Problem Interior d esigners are tasked with designing accessible environments throughout the world H owever, many of these individuals have never personally experienced the issues t hat people with disabilities encounter This lack of experience can lead to personal biases and assumptions that go unnoticed in designs. Without an empathetic understanding that comes from walking in someone e m any interior designers end up creating environments to meet codes, rather than end user needs While codes can help guide design, 1.2. Solution To address th e design issues that arise due to a lack of empathy, I propose a solution that allows interior designers to experience their design from the perspective of someone with a disability during its developmental stages. As such, I will be discussing the implications of using a wheelchair character within virtual reality to allow interior designers to explore their evolving space designs from a new vantage point. This tool will enable interior designers to discover any i ssues within their design first hand and devise appropriate c hanges while still in the design phase thereby leading to more accessible end designs To provoke empathy in users, an immersive technology such as virtual reality is appropriate. V irtual reality has been used to provoke empathy in a variety of games lik e A Breathtaking Journey and Through Pink and Blue Glasses Studies have even explored the impact of these Kalyanaraman, Penn, Ivory, & Judge, 2010 ; Kors, van der Spek, Ketel, & Schouten, 2016; Muller, v an Kessel, & Janssen, 2017). Virtual reality enables users to take the perspective of someone else and truly walk in their shoes. In addition, with the recent improvements in the affordability of virtual reality equipment it has never been more accessible Therefore, it serves as the ideal foundation for the creation of a practical empathy tool

PAGE 5

4 1.3. Goal In this paper, I will be examining how virtual reality influence s the thinking and design decisions of interior designers as they explore their designs from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair By looking at the shifts in perspective that occur during the virtual reality experience, I will analyze whether virtual reality can serve as a thought provoking tool and generate meaningful insights that m ay have been otherwise overlo oked while designing wheelchair friendly environments I hope to determine whether this application can serve as a practical tool within the field of interior design and improve the accessibility of end designs. The main resea rch questions I will be trying to answer are: 1. Does the perceived wheelchair change after they explore their environment from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair? 2. What wheelchair accessibilit y issues are commonly overlooked by interior designers? 3. identify issues within their environment? 2. Related Work This research lies at the intersection of interior de sign and virtual reality. Related works in both fields have presented findings on how empathy can influence perceptions and decisions. A few of these works are discussed in this section. As previously mentioned, the effects of virtual reality and empathy games have been studied in several works ( Kalyanaraman, Penn, Ivory, & Judge, 2010 ; Kors, van der Spek, Ketel, & Schouten, 2016; Muller, van Kessel, & Janssen, 2017). By exposing participants to foreign experiences and allowing them to walk in someone else

PAGE 6

5 researchers were able to gauge the shifts in the perceptions and actions of participants. I will be utilizing this same empathetic approach to study the shifts in the perceptions of interior designers. However, virtual reality is not the o nly way to provoke empathy. One work sought to collect a wide range of people based information and present it to interior designers in an online resource. This work would allow designers to interrogate the needs of a variety of individuals and gain new in sights. I will instead be exploring the use of immersive technology as a practical solution that allows designers to investigate accessibility issues first hand. Another work even used a virtual reality workshop to allow interior designers to experience an environment under emergency conditions that n ormally would no t be possible ( Neubauer, Paepcke Hjeltness, Evans, Barnhart, & Finseth, 2017 ). After being exposed to this new experience, the interior designers were able to empathize better and generate solut ions that were previously overlooked. I will be expand ing on this work and test ing whether a similar method can be used to provoke empathy and insights regarding the accessibility of designs Although many of these solutions leverage virtual reality to in still empathy, they do not propose everyday work flow In addition, none of these solutions attempt to identify accessibility issues within designs. T herefore, t his research is the next logical step extending the use of empathetic virtual reality toward practical applications regarding accessibility in interior design 3. Method s 3.1. Subjects Seventeen participants were recruited from the undergraduate population within the Department of Interior Design Each participant had previously

PAGE 7

6 created a design (retail store, corporate office, or hotel restaurant) using modeling software, such as 3ds Max or Revit. The ages of the participants ranged from 20 30 ( M=22.24, SD=2.56 ), 16 w ere female and one was male. 3.2. Equipment and Software The main software used in this study was Unity. In addition, the Oculus software development kit for Unity was added to power the virtual reality experience. The experience was run on a gaming laptop The tools used for virtual reality were the Oculus Rift headset and touch controllers. A camera and microphone were also used to record participant answers and insights throughout the study. The application itself utilizes a whe elchair character that ca n move using the Oculus Rift touch controllers. A user can reach down on both sides of their chair and grab the virtual wheels using the grip button on the controllers They can t hen swing their arms forwards or backwards to rotate the wheels and move the wheelchair. This movement was refined to try and accurately reflect movement using a real wheelchair. Figure 1 Application user

PAGE 8

7 Figure 2 First person view of wheelchair character 3.3. Procedure Participation was divided into two sessions as it was necessary to collect and configure In the first session, participants were asked to provide a virtual environment ( F BX file ) that they had created using their modeling software prior to the study I imported the s e environment s into Unity and configured them to be explorable in virtual reality using an Oculus Rift During the later session, participants were recorded while they completed the rest of the st udy. First, participants were asked two questions to gauge their perceptions on the accessibility of their design and determine what things they consider when designing wheelchair accessible environments. The questions were as follows: 1. On a scale of 1 7 with 1 being the least accessible and 7 being the most accessible, how wheelchair accessible do you believe your design is? 2. What types of things do you con sider when designing wheelchair friendly environments?

PAGE 9

8 After determining the participants initial perceptions, they were asked to equip the Oculus Rift headset and touch controllers. The basic controls for the virtual wheelchair were explained and then participants were asked to explore the environment they designed They were asked to verbally articul ate any thoughts or insights they ha d about anything that might be difficult for someone using a wheelchair moving through their environment. Once participants visited all areas of their environment which usually took between five and 10 minutes they re moved the Oculus headset and answered several more questions to gauge any changes in their perceptions after the experience. The questions were as follows: 1. On a scale of 1 7 with 1 being the least accessible and 7 being the most accessible, how wheelchair accessible do you now believe your design is? 2. After completing the experience, what things, if any, would you change in your design? 3. What new things if any, would you now consider when designing w heelchair friendly environments ? Finally, part icipants were asked to complete the Slater Usoh Steed (SUS) questionnaire (Slater, Usoh, & Steed, 1994; Usoh, Catena, Arman, & Slater, 2000) to gauge their perceived level of presence during I am referring to the sense of 1. Please rate your sense of being in the virtual environment, on a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 represents your normal experience of being in a place

PAGE 10

9 2. To what extent were there times during the ex perience when the virtual environment was the reality for you? 3. When you think back to the experience, do you think of the virtual environment more as images that you saw or more as somewhere that you visited ? 4. During the time of the experience, which was the strongest on the whole, your sense of being in the virtual environment or of being elsewhere? 5. Consider your memory of being in the virtual environment. How similar in terms of the structure of the memory is this to the structure of the memory of other places you you have a visual memory of the virtual environment, whether that memory is in colo r, the extent to which the memory seems vivid or realistic, its size, location in your imagination, the extent to which it is panoramic in your imagination, and other such structural elements.

PAGE 11

10 6. During the time of your experience, did you often think to yourself that you were actu ally in the virtual environment? 3.4. Data Analysis Once all participants had completed the study, I reviewed the videos to extract the relevant data. I first collected t he answers from the interview questions in a spreadsheet so that shifts in perception could be studied For example, I searched for the addition of any items that would be considered when designing wheelchair friendly environments. To statistically measure the shift in perceived wheelchair accessibility and det ermine if it changed I used a paired t test on the differences between the perceived wheelchair accessibility score s from before and after the experience. My null hypothesis was that the perceived wheelchair accessibility score before the experience is eq ual the perceived wheel chair accessibility score after the experience. My alternative hypothesis was that the perceived wheelchair accessibility score before the experience is not equal to the perceived wheel chair accessibility after the experience. Nex t I performed content analysis of each participant s virtual reality experience For this analysis, I categorized the different types of issues that were identified by participants into themes. For example, a participant that noted they could not reach a shelf would have identified a reach issue. While performing this content analysis I also recorded the quotes that identified each issue so that I could gain a deeper understanding into any shifts in perception between the two sets of interview questions I then analyzed t he questionnaire responses to determine each participant s presence during the experience I found a SUS C ount like the one used in (Usoh, Catena, Arman, & Slater, 2000), based on the number of questions answered with a value of or This count is considered to be the number of responses that indicate high presence, where the

PAGE 12

11 participant perceived the virtual world as their reality. In addition, I calculated a M score across the six questions for each participant. These presence values were used to gauge the participants perceived level of presence while using the application. 4. Results I asked p articipants to judge the wheelchair accessibility of their design ( both before and after the virtual reality experience ) This accessibility rating was on a scale of one to seven, with one being the least accessible and seven being the most accessible. The results are provided in Table 1. The mean rating before the experience ( 5.41 ) was higher than the m ean rating after the experience (4.06). No participant gave their environment a higher wheelchair accessibility score after the experience. In fact, only three participant s gave their environment the same wheelchair accessibility score afterwards. The p va lue for the difference between the scores (0 .00002 ) was also smaller than 0.05. This means that these results were statistically significant and I reject my null hypothesis that the perceived wheelchair accessibility score before the experience is equal to the perceived wheel chair accessibility after the experience. Table 1 Perceived Wheelchair Accessibility Before and After Experience Rating Before (M | SD) Rating After (M | SD) T Value P Value 5.41 | 0.87 4.06 | 1.03 5.6 0.00002 Note: Min rating was 1 (least accessible) / Max rating was 7 (most accessible) I also asked participants about the types of things that they consider when designing wheelchair friendly environments before the virtual reality experience. After th e experience, I asked participants what types of things they would now consider. Several of the most common responses are listed in Table 2. Before the study, the most common responses related to American Disability Act ( ADA ) codes and requirements, howeve r some responses included additional items. After the experience, the most common

PAGE 13

12 considerations were the height of furniture, additional spacing for wheelchairs, and the inclusion of open spaces near conversation groups, but several other considerations a rose as well. Table 2 Common Considerations for Wheelchair Friendly Environment Before and After Experience Considerations Before Consideration After ADA codes Clearance Doorway widths Restroom requirements Flooring transitions Table heights Ability to perform normal tasks Ramps Height of furniture Additional spacing Open spots near conversation groups Reach Display positions / Sightlines Wheelchair circulation Alternative seating Knee space under counters During the virtual reality experience, I asked participants to verbally articulate any things that may be difficult for an individual in a wheelchair as they moved throughout their environment. I then used content analysis to categorize t hese issues into v arious themes. The themes and relevant quotes from several of the participants are shown in Table 3. In addition the percentage and number of participants that identified each issue is also included in the table. The most common issues identified were fur niture height, spacing, and social exclusion.

PAGE 14

13 Table 3 Environmental Issues Identified by Participants During Experience Theme % Participants # Participants Furniture /Equipment Height 94.12 16 "These seats are lower, but the table is still higher so I probably couldn't use this [table] well either, and this was one of the main meeting rooms." "I guess next time, at the bar, I would add a lower area. I didn't think about that." "This touch screen is pretty high. Maybe other side lower." Spacing 76.47 13 "This corner is kind of tight. Maybe I could have made the benches thinner." "I don't know if I can fit anywhere honestly... I didn't even think about it being hard [to move through here]. There's a different flooring condition here too where their wheels would get caught." "It's a little hard to turn, the space might be tight... Maybe a little more [spacing], just so I can turn because there's furniture around that's mak ing it a little difficult." Social Exclusion 52.94 9 "Maybe I 'd remove this side so that the person could be a part of all this seating." "It kind of stinks because there's not a spot for someone in a wheelchair to sit... You'd feel out of place." Rea ch 35.29 6 "I definitely could never reach the shelves and the printer would be difficult as well. To fix this I would put the printer and the shelves lower on that side." "That's really hard to grab up there. So, if there's a different item up there, [it would be hard to reach]. These [fruit stands] are actually very large so I'd probably shrink them in a bit... I didn't realize how large these actually were, so it's good to see it up close." Steps 23.54 4 "Obviously the stairs [are a problem], I couldn't go up there at all and there's a meeting space up there." "My booths... they have a step. So that would be difficult to access." Counter Knee Space 17.65 3 "I can't reach that. Maybe I'd have the counter come out farther and then h ave the bottom part go in more, so that you can roll up to it." "I would make this desk open all around in the bottom... so that I could pull in, rather than get stuck." Sightline 11.76 2 "This is a little claustrophobic for wheelchairs... Maybe I wou ld lower the half wall so that it's not as enclosed for me in a wheelchair. I would also try to widen it a little bit." "[It is] not easily accessible if you want to get to the left hand side where the windows are. So, i f you want to get a nice window view that [would be in the way]."

PAGE 15

14 I also analyzed the results from the SUS questionnaire to determine the participants perceived level of presence the average response across the six questions. The resulting values are presented in Table 4. Table 4 Means and Standard Deviations of Presence Questionnaire Scores SUS Count ( M | SD) SUS Mean ( M | SD) 4.12 | 1.83 5.78 | 1.01 Note: SUS Count m in was 0 (no high presence responses ) / SUS Count m ax was 6 (all high presence responses ) SUS Mean m in was 1 (low presence ) / SUS Mean m ax was 7 (high presence ) 5. Discussion As mentioned in the results section, the difference in the perceived wheelchair accessibility scores from before and after the experience was found to be statistically significant. This suggests that the virtual reality experience did have a significant impact on how participants viewed the wheelchair accessibility of their environment. Such a shift in perspective could help participants rethink certain aspects of their design to help improve its wheelchair accessibility. The specific areas of improvement are also indicated by the issues they identify while using the application. One notable discovery was that the difference in wheelchair accessibility scores was relatively small (M = 1.35 SD = 1.0). This could be partially due to the conservative rankings participants gave their environment before the experience. Even if the participant could not identify any accessibility issues beforehand, they usua lly gave their environment a medium score (the mean score was 5.41) This could indicate that they had not considered wheelchair accessibility closely enough to be confident scoring their environment any higher. This assumption is also supported by a quote thought about [wheelchair accessibility] a little bit, but probably not enough.

PAGE 16

15 The experience also brought up many issues within each environment that had previously gone unnoticed, as seen in Table 3. The most common issues were furniture height (94.12% identified), spacing (76.47% i dentified), and social exclusion ( 52.94 % i dentified). By sitting in a virtual wheelchair, participants were able to see just how tall the furniture within their scene truly was. The difficu lties participants had maneuvering the wheelchair through certain areas helped them identify where additional spacing was needed. By maneuvering towards to conversation groups and being unable to get in, participants were able to identify where social excl usion was occurring. The se issues were not necessarily hard to remedy, but they had been previously overlooked because the participant had never encountered the is sue themselves In fact, af ter encountering each issue, many participants were able to quickly provide a solution. designers, enabling them to improve the accessibility of their designs. Man y of the issues identified by participants contradicted the things they said they con sider when designing wheelchair friendly environments. This is especially evident with the issue of spacing. Participants mentioned that they considered ADA code s, such as clearance when designing wheelchair friendly environments, but many still identified spacing as an issue when experi encing it first hand. Some relevant quotes regarding this issue are provided below. Our guidelines are that walkways should be about four feet wide, but being in a wheelchair noticing, I f eel like it really needs to be five to six feet wide. I guess that goes to show just because it's three fee t doesn't mean it's easy. still kind of

PAGE 17

16 This could indicate that the codes interior designers are adhering to ma y not provide a holistic approach to human centric design s Although these codes serve as basic guidelines and may help enable individuals i n wheelchairs to move through a resulting environment, there may be still be difficulties maneuvering through certain areas. By providing interior designers with a practical tool that enables them to explore their environments from the perspective of an individual in a whe elchair, they can look past the codes and think about the end user These interior designers can then identify issues within the design first hand and correct them before they are moved in to the real world. The SUS questionnaire scores indicat e that a participants perceived presence was relatively high. One factor that may have contributed to this high presence was that e ach environment was made to look very similar to the initial concept. However, a few participants had much lower presence sc ores. These low presence scores could be a result of differences between the original design and the model within the experience. Several of to the original material s had to be manually added. Despite their low perceived presence, these participants were still able to identify issues within their environments. This may indicate that the tool can be effective even without a participant feeling fully immersed in their d esign. If that is the case, the tool could be used even earlier in the design process, such as before the addition of lights or materials, and still help provoke unique insights within interior designers. By implementing the tool early in the lifecycle of the design, interior designers would be able to incorporate changes much more easily One limitation of this study lies in the gender distribution of the sample Males were not well represented However, approximately 89.5% of interior design graduates from the five institutions that graduate the most interior designers are female Therefore, the results could still provide an accurate representation of the field Further resea rch should be conducted to verify my findings with male interior designers. Another limitation lies in the size of the sample Only 17 interior designer students were recruited for the study Due to time constraints and the amount of time required to prep are

PAGE 18

17 students could be recruited. Further research should be conducted with a larger sample to verify my findings and provide more statistical power. Several participan ts also indicated that they experienced some motion sickness while using the application. This is not uncommon while using virtual reality, but it does present a significant issue regarding the implementation of a practical empathy tool. Even if the tool c an help interior designers identify accessibility issues that had been previously overlooked, it is meaningless if they become motion sick and refuse to use it. The most common causes of motion sickness were found to be turning the wheelchair and moving ba ckwards in the wheelchair. To remedy the issue of motion sickness further work is required to refine the movement within the application. 6. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the members of my committee for their support and guidance on this thesis T hanks to Benjamin Lok who introduced me to virtual reality and agreed to chair my committee despite being on sabbatical. Thanks to Jaime Ruiz who provided feedback on my methodology and additional insight into the research process. And special thanks to Jason Meneely who provided continued assistance throughout the course of the research and helped coordinate with the Department of Interior Design. W ithout him this thesis would not have been possible

PAGE 19

18 7. References Anon, (n.d.). Data USA: Interior Design [online] Available at: https://datausa.io/profile/cip/500408/. Kalyanaraman, S., Penn, D., Ivory, J. and Judge, A. (2010). The virtual d oppelganger: Effects of a virtual reality simulator on perceptions of schizophrenia. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 198(6), pp.437 443. K ors, M., Ferri, G., van der Spek, E., Ketel, C. and Schouten, B. (2016). A Breathtaking Journey. Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer Human Interaction in Play CHI PLAY '16 McGinley, C. and Dong, H (2011). Designing with Information and Empathy: Delivering Human Information to Designers. The Design Journal, 14(2), pp.187 206. Muller, D., van Kessel, C. and Janssen, S. (2017). Through Pink and Blue Glasses. Extended Abstracts Publication of the Ann ual Symposium on Computer Human Interaction in Play CHI PLAY '17 Extended Abstracts, pp.599 605. Neubauer, D., Paepcke Hjeltness, V., Evans, P., Barnhart, B. and Finseth, T. (2017). Experiencing Technology Enabled Empathy Mapping. The Design Journal 20 (sup1), pp.S4683 S4689. Slater, M., Usoh, M. and Steed, A. (1994). Depth of Presence in Virtual Environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 3(2), pp.130 144. Usoh, M., Catena, E., Arman, S. and Slater, M. (2000). Using Presence Questi onnaires in Reality. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 9(5), pp.497 503.