SPROUT & ABOUT (2019)
An augmented reality mobile app enhancing experiences with nature.
About the App
Sprout & About seeks to engage the community through learning about the plants around the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) campus by employing augmented reality (AR) mobile technology. This project was created as part of the Advanced Media Design Technologies course within the Masters of Science of Biomedical Communications program at UTM.
Meet The Team
Lead Researcher || Support Developer
Maurita took the lead on researching and finalizing the scientific content of the app; she liaised with UTM biology and ecology professors. She also helped with Unity development.
Lead Designer || 3D Modeller
Shirley took the lead on look development and creating design documentation, as well as 3D modelling the AR plants and 3D printing the sprout locator.
Lead Developer || Project Manager
I took the lead on developing the prototype of the app in Unity and establishing the AR functionality. I also acted as project manager, creating an organizational system for our team to work smoothly.
1. Defining the Scope & Brainstorming an Idea
For this project, our faculty advisor gave us the following parameters to work within:
• Must be a mobile AR app utilizing a 3D printed component
• We only have a production team of 3 people
• The app must be developed in Unity and use the Vuforia plug-in
• We only have 6 weeks to design, develop, & evaluate the app
Our team held a live ideation session where we came up with ideas broadly and then narrowed it down to the top 3 ideas that seemed feasible under the given parameters. For each idea we collaboratively wrote a brief description of its purpose, the intended audience, what the 3D printed component would be, and why an AR solution is particularly useful for this context. We proposed these ideas to our faculty advisor, and he approved the concept for Sprout & About.
2. Divvying up the Labour and Creating a Production Schedule
Based on our past experience and interests, we took the lead on a different component of the app production to ensure we could complete the project within our deadline. As the project manager, I took the lead on creating a detailed production schedule, colour coding the items based on task and status, and formally assigning team members to tasks.
3. Creating a Low-Fidelity Prototype & Pre-Visualization Documents
After a team discussion of some of the design requirements and features of our app, Shirley created a low fidelity prototype and shared it with Maurita and I for feedback. This initial prototype informed Maurita of the research content she needed to collect and which professors might be helpful content advisors; this prototype also helped me draft a minimal viable product description. We pitched this to our faculty advisor and received feedback before continuing on in production.
4a) Learning Unity and Testing a Vuforia Workflow
Since none of us had made an AR app in Unity before and I was lead developer, I created a catalogue of Unity skills required in order to create our minimal viable product with links to online resources (videos, forums, or documentation) to help learn those skills. I also included learning these skills and testing them within the context of our app in our production schedule. Maurita acted as a support developer and offered to help with some of the UI related programming. This process of learning included a few independent studies and note taking before implementing these components to our app.
4b) Refining a Medium/High Fidelity Walkthrough
Simultaneously, Shirley worked up a higher fidelity walkthrough, providing our faculty advisor with a clearer idea of a potential context scenario for Sprout & About. We received feedback on this from him and Shirley executed the design solutions we came to a consensus on as a team that addressed his concerns.
5. Creating Prototype V01
Shirley worked on modelling the plants required for our virtual plant and the plant pot required for our 3D printed component; Maurita finalized and finished writing the scientific content for the app; and I implemented the 3D models and AR functionality to our app and exported it onto an android phone. We presented the app to our faculty advisor and our student biomedical communicator peers for feedback. I created a document for all of the feedback we received, and our team collaboratively organized the feedback in order of priority and feasibility to address in our deadline of 1 week prior to testing.
6. Creating a Usability Test Plan and Evaluating Prototype V02/V03 with End Users
After creating V02 of Sprout & About based off of the feedback we received, we created a usability test plan to which we would employ with potential end users. This guerilla usability test plan was task based and involved a success/partial success/fail, time, and path to completion description components. After conducting the test with 3 participants, we made minor revisions to the app and then tested V03 with the remaining 3 participants. A formal usability test report was written as well summarizing our results from the user testing. This test will help inform any future design iterations of the app.