Field Study: Drones, VR and UX

It’s clear to all UX agencies that understanding the users’ needs is crucial for designing seamless user experience. Despite this fact only a handful of them puts field studies in their work schedules. That’s a pity. Leaving the office and immersing into the users’ environment is a great opportunity to get to know them well and look at the project from a new perspective.

Leaving the office and immersing into the users’ environment helps to look at a project from a new perspective.Faced with designing a social network for a community of drone and VR enthusiasts we knew that the information we could find on the internet and online user interviews will not suffice. We needed to learn more about the future members of the community: about their goals, their passions, their needs. We felt field study is necessary in this case to fully understand the objectives of the project.

As soon as we learned that our client has a Research & Development department whose employees are not only people responsible for the project per se but also drone and VR enthusiasts who can help us understand the matter and give us a deep insight into the community we’re designing for, we knew it’s time to pack our bags and set off on a 350 km journey.

Our UX team ready to set off on a journey.

Our UX team ready to set off on a journey.

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by R&D team who was supposed to guide us through the world of drone and VR technologies. As soon as we shook hands and introduced ourselves, we sat in a conference room packed with VR equipment. Though we all had some experience with it before, talking with the experts was a chance to gain a more comprehensive knowledge about the arcana of virtual reality. How does it actually work?, What type of equipment is on the market already?, What are the predictions for VR future development? Answers to such questions enabled us to better understand the product which was one of the fundaments of the community for which we were to design a website. They also drew us closer the main aspect of the project: the combination of VR technology with drones and, more importantly, the experience the users can get with such a mix.

samsung-vr

Samsung Gear headset

Our team testing Samsung Gear.

Our team testing Samsung Gear.

To fully comprehend the drone-VR combination and the experience it will offer the users, we needed also to familiarize ourselves with the second component of that combo: drones. We left the conference room then and got ready for our first close encounter with quadcopters. First drone we’ve seen didn’t look like those we were used to: tangle of cables, bare radio receiver, and Electronic Speed Controller fastened with adhesive tape. Since our hosts were not only advanced drone users, but also engineers with vast construction knowledge, they explained us in detail what each part of the drone is responsible for and how it all works.

Custom-constructed hexacopter.

Custom-constructed hexacopter.

Next step was to compare the custom-constructed drone with the market leader – Phantom DJI. This time we had a chance to see it in action. Automatic landing, object tracking, GPS autopilot – R&D team showed us multiple features of the drone and explained how one can make use of various drone-related applications. Seeing the live view from the camera and talking with the pilots, helped us to understands the drone-flying experience.

One of the most popular quadcopters on the market – DJI Phantom.

One of the most popular quadcopters on the market – DJI Phantom.

Equipped with information about drones, we came back to the conference room to learn more about drone racing. We had a chance to test Fat Shark Dominator V2 – a headset which, as we were informed, offers great possibilities to professional drone pilots. With these FPV googles one can watch the live view from the drone camera, which is a real treat for drone racing enthusiasts. Together with drone flying and VR session we had experienced earlier that day, testing Fat Sharks provided us with a clear vision of the experience the combination of drones and VR can provide the users.

Drone pilots favourite - Fat Shark Dominator V2

Drone pilots favourite – Fat Shark Dominator V2

Fat Shark Dominator V2

Fat Shark Dominator V2

Having gathered comprehensive knowledge about the product and the community we are designing for, we said goodbye to our hosts and set off in a journey home. The 4 hours of our return trip abounded with intense discussions about what we’ve learned and experienced. No wonder, it wasn’t a typical form of research: we experienced the projects’ fundaments for ourselves, gained knowledge directly from experts and talked to real users in their own environment. There’s no point in comparing honest conversations and first-hand experiences with emails, Internet research or online user surveys. Hadn’t we left the office for a field study, we would never learn as much as we did.

Author: Anna Kulawik