At this past weekend's Design Research Conference(DRC2008), I presented on the topic of user research technologies - what's currently in use and some of the newer tools that can be applied to research (if you read this blog with any regularity then you know what I'm talking about).
One of the key points I discussed is the lack of tools that are specifically and intentionally designed around the needs of user researchers with respect to data gathering, analysis and communication of findings. To address that need, I've been working with the design team at Bresslergroup on creating a concept user research technology platform. While still under creative development, I took the opportunity of the DRC to present our work in progress.
The field-based contextual research workstation, or FieldCREW, is primarily targeted at improving data collection efficiency, particularly when studying complex, multi-dimensional work situations such as surgery in an operating room or a construction crew.
FieldCREW brings together a number of "near-future" technologies to support user research in two contexts:
- When a researcher is working by him/herself and needs to play the role of both note-taker and videographer
When a team of observers is working together and needs a way to synchronize their observations around multiple events
The Workstation consists of the tablet and several wireless data gathering components (see illustrations in the slideshow below). The components include:
- Wireless, remotely controlled tracking video cameras for audio and video recording
- Handheld wireless taggers that allow each observer to tag key events of their choosing for later review - tagging is synched to a common timeline on the tablet
- Subvocalization sensor allows the researcher to silently dictate notes that are automatically transcribed to text and stored on the tablet
The tablet manages and receives data from these wireless components and provides features including:
- Video notation (i.e. telestrator) for annotation of events as they happen
- Speech-to-text translation of recorded audio (and subvocalizations)
- Access to stored and online project and research reference materials
- Built-in storage and recharging for wireless components
- Synchronization of all input sources (video, tagging, notes) for streamlined analysis
In a research scenario the lead researcher (or an associate) can manage the data from multiple observers and utilize tagging and annotation features to prioritize key observations, speeding up the analysis process. Similarly, a single researcher, working alone, can do the work of a team by coordinating input from multiple sources.
And while FieldCREW has the capabilities to support complex field research situations, it can also be used by a single researcher conducted a one-on-one interview, much like a clipboard is used.
We'd appreciate your questions, comments and suggestions as we continue to develop this new platform for facilitating user research.