The system has been delivered to the site. We spent a day there with heritage centre staff, and although it was good to see it being tried out, it was ulimtately a frustrating day for all concerned.

Good news

The team were able to see some portals and give initial feedback on content. The sequence of interactions seemed to work well and we’re hopeful of an engaging experience for users.

Bad news

There were several issues with the technology that need to be resolved before this can be called a functioning system. Some of these are about user experience. Others are more fundamental, and had not shown up in our off-site tests.

User experience: lessons learned

  1. Even when the user is in the correct place to see a portal, it takes too long to be able to find it; and the guides were concerned that visitors may not feel sufficiently engaged due to this delay.

  2. At present there is no way to tell that the device is switched on and functioning (once it has started up). When users did not immediately find a portal, this caused them to question whether the system was working properly (even when it was) - and in at least one case whether their own eyes were working properly!

  3. It appeared that for some there was a perceptual issue - when presented with bright surroundings the relatively low contrast of the portals made them difficult to see.

To resolve points 1 and 2 we think a new system of on-screen arrows could help. The arrows could point in the direction of the next portal, and the colour/appearance of the arrows could be different depending on whether the portal is in visible range. Also at the moment portals ‘fade in’ which means that when looking in the correct direction they still take time to appear. This was by design and can be changed.

Point 3 can be resolved by using the darker version of the sunshades which are included - but whoever administers the system to visitors would need to be aware of this.

Technology: lessons learned

We know that the system relies on consistent orientation information being generated using on-board gyroscope and magnetometer. Unfortunately, this system appeared unstable when tested on-site. Whilst we had thought early location/orientation problems were purely due to GPS, it seems this is not always the case. This had not been picked up in our off-site tests using the development unit.

More work is needed to track down and remedy the cause of this issue.