MIXED REALITY

FINALIST

LEADERSHIP

NASA AR 
CHALLENGE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Overview

NASA SUITS (Spacesuit User Interface Technology for Students) is a contest hosted by NASA that challenges students to create interfaces on Students AR ( Augmented Reality) as a visual and interactive tool to support and automate the process of performing major tasks in space.

Duration

Sep 2022 -
May 2023

Tools

Hololens 2 Mixed Reality Tool Kit
Figma
Unity

Team

Co-lead (Micheal, Jess)
Advisor (Lye)
14 Members

My role

UX design lead
User flows
Information architectures
Functional prototypes
Onsite user testing
Design system

The Hackathon

NASA created the Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) Challenge to design Augmented Reality interfaces for future manned mission to the moon.

Out "RISD SUITS AR" team

As a junior at RISD, I found and recruited students across RISD, JHU, and Brown to compete (consisting of 17~ members including my co-lead Micheal Wang and Jess Chen)

Team Members: Bryce Yao, Linlin Yu, Bill Xi, Ryan Lee, Martin Ma, Felix Arwin, George Xu, Keya Shah, Dan Luo, Julius Beberman, Danielle Kim, Jamie Chen, Pei-Jung Hsieh, Dong Yoon Shin

My as UX design lead and PM

As a founder of an engineering club at a design school, at times I needed to take on the role of an Experience Designer as well as a Project Manager.

Result

Awarded finalist- As finalist, I took our designs to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston for on-site field testing with NASA Evaluators and delivered findings to astronauts and field experts.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

How might we make the experience of completing critical mission tasks frictionless despite environmental and physical constraints?

Overview

Hence...What exactly are the critical mission tasks astronauts must do?

The purpose of the Artemis mission is to study the landscape for scientific research. Astronauts are tasked with:

01/ Safely navigating to the dedicated geological sampling site

02/ Documenting samples to recording important scientific findings

03/ Maintaining constant communication with Mission Control and Crew Members.

Solutions

Provide AR tools that reduce cognitive load to efficiently assist and automate the process of major tasks in Space.
01/
Intuitive Navigation

Smoothly navigate on the moon with an immersive, real-time, navigation path optimized to avoid obstacles.

02/
Hands free documentation

Document geological samples using voice/video recordings and follow along with geological sample station-specific instructions.

03/
Quickly check health status

Check vitals at a glance with intuitive graphs and metrics.

OUR PROCESS

Double Diamond Design + Agile Planning

I drove our team with curiosity and close collaboration between engineering, design, and research. By including cross-disciplinary perspectives early on to our research and brainstorming our team was able to stand out with an MVP that was not only functional and fluid, but also technologically innovative.

DISCOVERY 

Gaining context about the problems

My team and I organized group interviews with three major subgroups: Astronauts, Field Geologists, Augmented Reality Specialists. We watched previous lunar missions and read NASA documentation. From our responses we grouped common themes and identified the 3 following pain points:

01/ Pain-point
Astronauts are at risk for cognitive overload.

Due to multitasking under high pressure and the tight schedule of lunar missions, astronauts may feel overwhelmed and struggle with processing information.

02/ Pain-point
Navigation is disorienting and risky on the lunar surface.

Because the unfamiliar lunar surface appears homogeneous under the harsh lighting conditions, identifying hazardous craters and sharp rocks is laborious and intensive for astronauts.

03/ Pain-point
Locomotion is restricted by their highly pressurized suit.

The highly pressurized astronaut suit makes mission tasks tougher to complete because it's more difficult to grip, walk, and move.

04/ Pain-point
Limited field of view.

Current Augmented Reality headsets have small view ports that require users to use precise movements to interact with the interface, making goals such as documenting geological samples for difficult for astronauts.

DESIGN IDEATION

Potential ideas

Based on Astronaut's challenges & tasks, the teams went through lighting rounds of brainstorming. For each pain point we generated sketches for our initial concepts. View our initial concepts by clicking through the Pain Points.

01/ Pain-point
Astronauts are at risk for cognitive overload.
01/ Potential solution
Utilize navigation direction, mini map, primary navigation map and a pace tracker.
02/ Pain-point
Locomotion is restricted by their highly pressurized suit.
02/ Potential solution
Implement voice to text notes and automate geo tag process.
03 & 04 / Pain-point
Astronauts are at risk for cognitive overload.
03 & 04 / Potential solution
Floating widget that is customizable and adjustable.

User Journey Map: Emotional & Cognitive Landscape

The team was having difficulty designing for usability, to create alignment I created this journey map as a tool to build empathy and help the team get in the mindset of what it's like to be an astronaut during a spacewalk.

User Flow

To narrow down our collective brainstorming we mapped out the information architecture and separated the designs into user flows.

DESIGN CHALLENGE

These designs are great, but how can we test if these designs are viable under the lunar environment condition?

Iteration

How was our design backed by data and evidence?

To tackle this I have brainstormed 3 different designs to approach this problem.

Feature prioritization

Due to students schedules and NASA timeline, we had a short dev cycle. This meant I had to prioritize design to maximize utility and feasibility. Identify the priorities and defining the bare bone MVP Experience enabled my team to stay on same page and tackle challenge with confidence.

Iterated changes: the Navigation Mode

Iterated design decision

01/ Design decision
Attention is a limited resource.

Participants indicated confusion when there are multiple free-floating interfaces in the physical environment.

This is because the human attention span is limited to one plane of distance at a time.

Prototypes pre-iteration
Prototypes redesign

This redesign reduces the amount of free-floating interfaces and mimics natural human behavior which increases workflow efficiency.

02/ Design decision
The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.

In the older version of the design, when users need to navigate to a specific beacon location:
1. They need to select the map to show possible options.
2. Then select the location.
3. Click start to start the navigation.
4. Click the map to open the map again to see where the destination is.

I minimized the flow by
1. Showing all locational selections once the map is open.
2. Having a map automatically open following the start of a navigation.

This redesign automated the navigation process that initially involved 4 action triggers to needing only 2 triggers.

FINAL DESIGN

01/

Multiple Modes of Interaction

02/

Navigation System

User select navigation

Line populates in the environment.

03/

Geological Sampling Tools

Select a station to view cheet sheet.

Sampling procedures for the 3rd station.

Photograph a sample.

FINAL DESIGN

Key takeaways

01/ Learning
Finding Common Ground.

I learned that when working collaboratively with different knowledge areas its normal to butt heads. It’s when both parties understand each other’s logic, then they are able to find a common ground resolve to a solution.

02/ Learning
Forming Interpersonal Relationships

I found that to be a good leader of my team it was important for me be personable. Delegating work takes not only an understanding of people’s strengths but an ability to personalize tasks based on their interests.

Next steps

01/ To do
Design Emergency Cases.

Our developing team was not able to connect to the telemetry stream and we did not get the chance to test our messaging system. If I were to continue this project, I would design for emergency scenarios.

02/ To do
Conduct Usability Testing.

I found that to be a good leader of my team it was important for me be personable. Delegating work takes not only an understanding of people’s strengths but an ability to personalize tasks based on their interests.