Universal Design of 3D interfaces
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Three dimensional interfaces on two dimensional screens and platforms are getting more and more popular as a method to convey increasingly complex systems in an interactive, cognitively easier to understand manner (Petrobras, SpaceMaker, TechPubRolls etc.). The background for the research conducted in this paper is to try and meet this development by exposing accessibility issues and how to prevent or circumvent these. The constant goal and motivation for this thesis was formulated as the problem statement “Improving and expanding upon User Experience and Universal Design considerations for 3D interface program development”. In order to work towards this goal the question that had to be asked at every problem and consideration was “What design considerations should be emphasized in order to ensure the Accessibility of a 3D-based interface?” The problem statement and supporting research question proved to be a reliable guideline and constant problem that invited further investigation and testing as well as context for the answers uncovered. This thesis aims to figure out best practice guidelines and expand the knowledge upon the Universal Design aspect of three dimensional interfaces. The dynamic nature and deep functionality of these types of products are inherently excluding in a significant amount of aspects at core level. Due to this a critical examination at all levels of interaction must be done in order to figure out how the development and design community can meet the needs of the users before this sort of technology and interface design becomes even more spread out. The most important discovery, or discoveries, depending on personal classifications, would be that when developing and designing a three dimensional interface the utmost care must be done in order to decrease clutter and cognitive load on the screen in order to attribute as much mental attention as possible towards the 3D object and its abilities and functionality. In addition to this, and just as important, while maintaining a strong culture of interaction feedback and guidance, there should also be a tremendous amount of freedom for the user to specify and customize their interaction. The dynamic and layered functionality of a three dimensional system or interface is of such a complexity that different groups of users will have different preferred ways of interacting with it. By providing either a way of customizing user interaction or allowing the user to freely switch through different interaction modes (that are tailored to meet user needs through exhaustive research) the user may feel more comfortable and even empowered in their use and ownership of the program. Several other findings were uncovered and will be expanded upon later in the paper. This thesis can with some confidence conclude that there is immense value in a properly developed and designed three dimensional product, but that it is extremely dependent on good research and thorough problematization in order to fulfill the potential it can and should provide. The best solutions may replace and improve existing solutions and open up for faster and more efficient interaction where there previously were none, few or insufficient solutions. If the knowledge uncovered in this thesis is disregarded, the same results considering improvement and replacement will be reached, but at the cost of excluding an unknown amount of participants while resulting in difficult to learn, frustrating to use systems. The pitfalls and potential risks of three dimensional solutions are great, but developed and designed properly, the value and power is far greater. The questions uncovered and left unanswered are many and varied and will hopefully spur further investigation and research into the genre of three dimensional interfaces and its strengths and weaknesses.
Master in Universal Design of ICT