PhD Thesis

This is the page about my thesis entitled “Facilitating the Development of Location-Based Experiences”. It contains the abstract, a link to the document itself, and pointers to the experiences that I worked on.

During my time at the Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) in Nottingham (2004-2009) I was generally concerned with supporting professional designers in creating such experiences for public presentation at several occasions. My specific interest was in making the designers more aware of the invisible network infrastructures that they were using for making their experiences location-based, such as GSM and Wi-Fi.

Here is the abstract:

Location-based experiences depend on the availability and reliability of wireless infrastructures such as GPS, Wi-Fi, or mobile phone networks; but these technologies are not universally available everywhere and anytime. Studies of deployed experiences have shown that the characteristics of wireless infrastructures, especially their limited coverage and accuracy, have a major impact on the performance of an experience.

It is in the designers’ interest to be aware of technological restrictions to their work. Current state of the art authoring tools for location-based experiences implement one common overarching model: the idea of taking a map of the physical area in which the experience is to take place and then somehow placing virtual trigger zones on top of it. This model leaves no space for technological shortcomings and assumes a perfect registration between the real and the virtual. In order to increase the designers’ awareness of the technology, this thesis suggests revealing the wireless infrastructures at authoring time through appropriate tools and workflows. This is thought to aid the designers in better understanding the characteristics of the underlying technology and thereby enable them to deal with potential problems before their work is deployed to the public.

This approach was studied in practice by working with two groups of professional artists who built two commercially commissioned location-based experiences, and evaluated using qualitative research methods. The first experience is a pervasive game for mobile phones called ‘Love City’ that relies on cellular positioning. The second experience is a pervasive game for cyclists called ‘Rider Spoke’ that relies on Wi-Fi positioning. The evaluation of these two experiences revealed the importance of an integrated suite of tools that spans indoors and outdoors, and which supports the designers in better understanding the location mechanism that they decided to work with. It was found that designers can successfully create their experiences to deal with patchy, coarse grained, and varying wireless networks as long as they are made aware of the characteristics.

Core material:

Further involvements during that time include:

Parts of my thesis work have been generously funded by the European Commission through their IPerG and INSCAPE 6th framework integrated projects.

Thanks to all collaborators and colleagues, to my supervisors Steve Benford and Tom Rodden, and to my reviewers Annika Waern and Chris Greenhalgh.