An Independent and Interactive Museum Experience for Blind People
Role: Principal UX Researcher
Project Type: Multi-phased Qual Research
Timeline: Jan 2018 - Apr 2018
Client: IBM, CMU & The Andy Warhol Museum
This is an academic research project at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with IBM Research (Japan) and The Andy Warhol Museum. It was also my first project as a UX researcher. I was also a project lead in this project and in charge of leading communication in the cross-functional team.
Museums are gradually becoming more accessible to blind people, who have shown interest in visiting museums and in appreciating visual art. Yet, their ability to visit museums is still dependent on the assistance they get from their family and friends or from the museum personnel.
Saki Asakawa (CMU / Principal UX Reseacher)
João Guerreiro (CMU / Researhcer)
Dragan Ahmetovic (CMU / Researcher)
Kris Kitani (CMU / Supervisor)
Daisuke Sato (IBM / Engineer)
Hironobu Takagi (IBM / Supervisor)
Desi Gonzalez (THe Andy Warhol Museum / Collaborator)
Chieko Asakawa (IBM + CMU / Project Manager)
On-site Usability Testing
Quant & Qual Data Analysis
How might technology help people with visual impairments enjoy visiting museums more independently and interactively?
1. Secondary Research
Understood what has been done and not in the area through literature review and competitive analysis, especially focusing on the current efforts of museums.
3. Prototyping & Installing
Developed an iOS application based on interview results, and installed at The Andy Warhol Museum.
2. User Interview
Got in-depth insights from blind people. Recruited participants on-site during CSUN (industry-focused accessibility conference). Then, published a paper about interview findings at ASSETS'18.
4. Usability Testing
Evaluated the system in the real environment (museum). Then, published a paper about the system and testing at W4A’19.
Understand the previous experiences, motivations, and accessibility challenges of visiting museums
Get the insight into system requirements to support their experience
Evaluate if a user can enjoy museums and appreciate artworks more independently with the system
Validate if the system is easy to use, especially switching between Navigation mode and Art Appreciation mode
Evaluate the effectiveness of the system to motivate users to visit museums more often by themselves
Seamless Interaction between Navigation Mode and Art Appreciation Mode
We adopted an open-source smartphone-based navigation app, NavCog, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy beacons and a smartphone's built-in accelerometer and gyroscope.
Users receive turn-by-turn instructions to explore museums while getting notifications when it's close to artworks.
Art Appreciation Mode
It is activated when the users are next to the artwork and turn their bodies to face it. Navigation Mode is resumed after turning their body to the previous orientation.
Huda and Ken are both eager to have a way to visit and enjoy museums more independently without asking for help.
Huda loves artworks and likes to learn about the stories and histories behind them. She is now totally blind but enjoys visiting museums to feel the atmosphere and hear echoes at museums. She appreciates tactile tours or specialized tours for blind people guided by museum docents, but she is eager to have a way to enjoy visiting museums by herself without making a reservation or negotiation.
Ken used to go to museums a lot before he lost his vision. He cannot follow his interest at the museum because he needs to rely on his companion. Also, a device for audio description is not often accessible and he needs to ask someone to input a corresponding number on a device every time. Because of inaccessible artwork and the inability to explore freely, he stopped going to museums.
Participants showed interest in visiting museums because they want to gain knowledge and learn about artworks and histories on-site by feeling the atmosphere. However, 74% of them have never visited museums by themselves because of mobility issues and inaccessible contents/artworks. Even though they are with other people, their experience depends on how companions describe exhibitions to them.
If [I] go to a museum, it’s because I wanna learn what’s there and I want a firsthand experience on site. I don’t wanna dry reading a book.
Participants showed high satisfaction and are motivated to use the system when visiting museums. The ability to explore independently and be in front of artwork when listening to audio description is a huge benefit.
It’s good because I never experienced something like this. I never had this level of accessibility. So that’s why I think it is amazing and great!
People with visual impairments want to get audio descriptions in front of the artwork and enjoy feeling the atmosphere in museums.
Offering specialized tours is super helpful, but they want to have a way to enjoy museums without limitations such as following predetermined paths, making reservations in advance, finding companions, and asking for help.
It is effective to combine an indoor navigation system with an audio description so users can appreciate the artwork in front of artwork.
Using gyroscope and accelerometer (built-in sensors in iOS) enable users to interact with two nodes seamlessly, which results in more natural museum exploration.
This project helped me build my foundation as a UX researcher and I refer to this research process a lot.
Usability testing would not go as planned.
Ensure the accessibility of the research itself.
Each user is different.