• The Implementation and Validation of a Virtual Environment for Training Powered Wheelchair Manoeuvres

      John, Nigel W.; Pop, Serban R.; Day, Thomas W.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Headleand, Christopher J.; University of Chester; Bangor University; University of Lincoln (IEEE, 2017-05-02)
      Navigating a powered wheelchair and avoiding collisions is often a daunting task for new wheelchair users. It takes time and practice to gain the coordination needed to become a competent driver and this can be even more of a challenge for someone with a disability. We present a cost-effective virtual reality (VR) application that takes advantage of consumer level VR hardware. The system can be easily deployed in an assessment centre or for home use, and does not depend on a specialized high-end virtual environment such as a Powerwall or CAVE. This paper reviews previous work that has used virtual environments technology for training tasks, particularly wheelchair simulation. We then describe the implementation of our own system and the first validation study carried out using thirty three able bodied volunteers. The study results indicate that at a significance level of 5% then there is an improvement in driving skills from the use of our VR system. We thus have the potential to develop the competency of a wheelchair user whilst avoiding the risks inherent to training in the real world. However, the occurrence of cybersickness is a particular problem in this application that will need to be addressed.
    • An Information-Theoretic Approach to the Cost-benefit Analysis of Visualization in Virtual Environments

      Chen, Min; Gaither, Kelly; John, Nigel W.; McCann, Brian; University of Oxford; University of Texas at Austin; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-08-20)
      Visualization and virtual environments (VEs) have been two interconnected parallel strands in visual computing for decades. Some VEs have been purposely developed for visualization applications, while many visualization applications are exemplary showcases in general-purpose VEs. Because of the development and operation costs of VEs, the majority of visualization applications in practice have yet to benefit from the capacity of VEs. In this paper, we examine this status quo from an information-theoretic perspective. Our objectives are to conduct cost-benefit analysis on typical VE systems (including augmented and mixed reality, theatre-based systems, and large powerwalls), to explain why some visualization applications benefit more from VEs than others, and to sketch out pathways for the future development of visualization applications in VEs. We support our theoretical propositions and analysis using theories and discoveries in the literature of cognitive sciences and the practical evidence reported in the literatures of visualization and VEs.
    • Sketching Designs Using the Five Design-Sheet Methodology

      Roberts, Jonathan C.; Headleand, Christopher J.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Bangor, University of Bangor, University of Chester (IEEE, 2015-08-12)
      Sketching designs has been shown to be a useful way of planning and considering alternative solutions. The use of lo-fidelity prototyping, especially paper-based sketching, can save time, money and converge to better solutions more quickly. However, this design process is often viewed to be too informal. Consequently users do not know how to manage their thoughts and ideas (to first think divergently, to then finally converge on a suitable solution). We present the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology. The methodology enables users to create information visualization interfaces through lo-fidelity methods. Users sketch and plan their ideas, helping them express different possibilities, think through these ideas to consider their potential effectiveness as solutions to the task (sheet 1); they create three principle designs (sheets 2,3 and 4); before converging on a final realization design that can then be implemented (sheet 5). In this article, we present (i) a review of the use of sketching as a planning method for visualization and the benefits of sketching, (ii) a detailed description of the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology, and (iii) an evaluation of the FdS using the System Usability Scale, along with a case-study of its use in industry and experience of its use in teaching.
    • VRIA: A Web-based Framework for Creating Immersive Analytics Experiences

      Butcher, Peter; John, Nigel W; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Chester and Bangor University (IEEE, 2020-01-09)
      We present<VRIA>, a Web-based framework for creating Immersive Analytics (IA) experiences in Virtual Reality.<VRIA>is built upon WebVR, A-Frame, React and D3.js, and offers a visualization creation workflow which enables users, of different levels of expertise, to rapidly develop Immersive Analytics experiences for the Web. The use of these open-standards Web-based technologies allows us to implement VR experiences in a browser and offers strong synergies with popular visualization libraries, through the HTMLDocument Object Model (DOM). This makes<VRIA>ubiquitous and platform-independent. Moreover, by using WebVR’s progressive enhancement, the experiences<VRIA>creates are accessible on a plethora of devices. We elaborate on our motivation for focusing on open-standards Web technologies, present the<VRIA>creation workflow and detail the underlying mechanics of our framework. We also report on techniques and optimizations necessary for implementing Immersive Analytics experiences on the Web, discuss scalability implications of our framework, and present a series of use case applications to demonstrate the various features of <VRIA>. Finally, we discuss current limitations of our framework, the lessons learned from its development, and outline further extensions.