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Spacebull Nova

A neuroscience game that trains prospective brain computer interface users in the eye tracking skills and provides the researchers with proficiency statistics for each patient.

Client
Mount Sinai Hospital, New York
 

Role
UX/UI Designer 
Producer 

Timeline
15 weeks, Sep-Dec 2021

Team
with Ryan Eckert, Arianna Gong, Ebrahim Karam, Leo Lin, Rui Xi

Platform
Tobii Eye Tracker
Unity Game

 

Responsibilities
Research 
Playtesting
UI Design
VFX Art
Pipeline Development
Daily Scrum Master 
Development Documentation

Tools
Unity 3D
Figma
Maya
AfterEffects
Illustrator
Github
G-Drive

Project Trailer

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The logo depicts a gaming controller made of neurons with an eyeball as the only button on the controller. The neurons depict the brain computer interface and the eye ball depicts the eye tracker.

Team Website: https://projects.etc.cmu.edu/eye-deal/

Logo

Team Branding Design

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Poster

Project Overview

A brain computer interface (BCI) have been identified as a feasible technology for enhancing independence and participation in various activities for individuals living with severe paralysis. Many BCI technologies must be paired with accessory adaptive technologies such as eye-tracking in order to be truly functional in the intended population. Much of this required training could easily be performed in a gamified environment online, allowing prospective BCI users to become proficient in the skillsets that they require to operate a BCI before undergoing an invasive implantation surgery.

Prompt

  1. Create a fun eye tracker game, paired with a click or keystroke command that can eventually be controlled by brain signal.

  2. The game environment progressively trains precision and speed with the eye-tracking technology and click command. 

  3. Design a dashboard back end that allows the science team to view eye tracking proficiency statistics for each patient.

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Demographic

  1. Quadriplegic patients of all ages like people suffering from severe paralysis.

  2. Abled people of all ages interested in eye tracking games.

 

Design Process

Research

Analyze

Design

Prototype

Test

Polish

Research

Research Methods

Research Goals

  • Are people with disabilities playing games?

  • What makes games important to the quadriplegics?

  • What is an inclusive digital game?

  • Interviews with BCI researchers at Putrin Labs and accessible design consultants at the AbleGamers Foundation.

  • Online research

  • Research Papers


 

Players with Disablities

There are at least 46 million potential players who identify as having a disability within the US. platform manufacturers and game studios are responding to this potential market by adapting both hardware and software to accommodate diversity.

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Source - Research papers provided by the AbleGamers Foundation

Player Motivations

Connecting: a way of bringing people together both as friends and family but also to build communities.
Diverting: a distraction from problems and a way to relax and unwind from day-to-day stresses and to enter different worlds.
Beneficial: games can bring about benefits to players outside of the world such as developing skills or learning about the world.
Art: games are of intrinsic value to players because they are a form of creative expression for both developers and players.
Fun: games are to be enjoyed.
A way of life: players play games because that's something that they have always done and always want to do.
Universal: players felt that games have something for everyone.
Enabling: for the players with disabilities games were a way to be on an equal footing with everyone else.

Player Needs

Autonomy: the need for personal agency under voluntary control
Competence: the need to feel effective
Relatedness: the need to be connected to other people

Inclusion in Digital Games​

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First, users need access. They need to be able to operate systems, and consume information that is presented to them.

Players need to be able to shape the challenge so that it better suits them and have options around the challenges presented in games.

Developing deep understanding of how players experience as digital games provide opportunities for diverse experiences for people with disabilities, beyond 4 walls.

Our Takeaways

Mechanics should define the limits, not the disability

Short play sessions for more engagement and wider appeal 

Control personalisation like alternative inputs and subtitles

Pain Points

Solution?
Playtest! Analyse! Iterate! Repeat!

 

Frustration of wonky controls in adaptive technology ​

Solution?
Design all the actions and UI centred to the screen

Current eyetracker interfaces require some neck movement

Solution?
Keep the characters and actions abstract to make them non relatable.

Some fantasy worlds and content may not be appropriate 

Solution? 
Give incentives and rest to eyes without interrupting the experience 

Long term engagement can be tiring for the eyes

Problem Statement

Current eye tracker experiences are not engaging and tiring which makes people not want to interact with the eye tracking technology making it difficult for the researchers to train the patients with the same.

 

 

Goal Setting

Investigation

Project Goals

Experience Goals

Team Goals

Inspiration 

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Design Pillars

High engagement
for all players

Grabs attention and immerses

Removes action-interaction dissonance

Attracts broad demographic

High engagement

for all players

Simple to pick up,
hard to master

Accuracy, Precision, and Reaction Time

Guests explore the edge of the screen

Multiple moments of explicit evaluation

Simple to pick up,

hard to master

Provide analytics
to BCI researchers

Low barrier of entry

Designing objectives for mastery

Encouraging replayability

Provide analyticsto BCI researchers

 

Ideation Process

80 ideas

5 mechanics prototypes

Playtest to discover

3 core prototypes

Final Product SpaceBull Nova

Playtest to refine

Campaign Mode

Arcade Mode

+

 

Ideation

Brainstorming

We kicked off our brainstorming with a dump of 80 or so ideas, which we consolidated and ranked into what excited us the most.

Following in faith of the playtesting spiral we refined our ideas in whatever simple way we could, including writing out designs, making storyboards, and discussing with clients to get their initial reactions.

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Mechanics Prototyping

We took our best ideas and turned them into extremely simple prototypes. We explored mechanics like gazing, chasing, flinging, and shooting

We designed around animal and Space themes to avoid any action or interaction that could be offensive to people with disability and give them a world full of imaginations and fun. 

Throughout week  2 & 3 we were able to show our demos to clients and they were able to tell us which prototypes met their requirements.

Requirement Matrix

Following our client responses we analysed each prototype for how well it aligned with their requirements, interests of the players, and production opportunities for the team. We trimmed our scope to the 3 ideas, and identified the major concerns with each prototype.

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Design

Iteration 

Addressing concerns like motion sickness, depth analysis of 3D space, training for precision, accuracy and reaction time, and artistic, and narrative scope and combining the fun mechanics and other pros like simple UI, fun eye lasers, ease of attaining analytics, wider demographic appeal, and look away/restful mechanics we built them into 3 new prototypes which were later realized into our final product SpaceBull Nova.

3 Core Prototypes

Spaceship

+ Freedom/Exploration

+ Tracking the enemy 

+ Wider range appeal

 

- Confusion about enemies / targets

- Disorientation

Hero Bull Runner

+ Flinging is awesome

+ Minigames

 

- Sharp turning feels bad

- Get lost w/ the objective

Endless Runner Bull

+ Rewarding Combos

+ People felt excited about it

+ Very replayable

 

- Easy to get tired by the fast pace

Playtest to Discover

To decide our final direction we playtested the 3 prototypes with the paralysed patients at Putrino Lab. We also playtested with the abled players using an unintuitive large enter button triggered by foot. We wanted to discover which of the games provided-​​

We used Google survey and observation methods to collect data.

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  • which game engaged players for a longer duration for training purpose  

  • which mechanics provided an easy and effortless eye tracking experience

  • which worlds and characters the players enjoyed the most

Final Direction - SpaceBull Nova

The playtest results suggested how the players enjoyed parts of all 3 prototypes which led us to combine those into our final product SpaceBull Nova. Upon several playtests and design iterations we divided the game into 2 modes campaign and arcade.

SpaceBull Nova - Campaign Mode

  • Introduction to the Fantasy & Mechanics (Gaze, Chase & Fling)

  • Introduces Shooting MiniGame (provides necessary analytics)

SpaceBull Nova - Arcade Mode

  • Gradually introducing more challenge by level design. 

  • Reinforcing a sense of mastery so players want to keep playing.

Playtest to Refine

Playtesting was our decision maker. We conducted playtests with the quadriplegics assisted by the doctors on a monthly basis and received feedback through quantitative surveys. We also conducted weekly playtest with surrogate playtesters and recieved feedback through interviews, observation and surveys.

UX Iteration

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Visuals Iteration

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Mechanics Iteration

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UI Design

Goals

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For easy understanding and readibility

Simple and Intuitive

For ease of access in patients with no neck mobility

Centred to the Screen 

For bringing the game to life and more engagement.

Visual Rich and Juicy

Theme

The UI is designed to look like a part of a futuristic spaceship.

  • Campaign mode UI has a more intense feel as it is visually clean and subtle.

  • Arcade mode is stylised and vibrant with a carnival like feeling to attract the younger population.

Color Palette

Arcade Mode

Game View Design

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Early Version

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Playtest feedback

Iteration

Hard to identify objects due to ​lack of visual clarity.

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Hue

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Saturation

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Campaign Mode

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Fonts

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Normal State - 66ffff

Hover State - ffffff

HUD

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Game Screen Design 

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Game Screen Design - Campaign Mode

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Game Screen Design - Arcade Mode

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Button Design

Campaign Mode

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Arcade Mode

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(Hover on the button images)

Visual Effects

To make our game a visual treat for our players, I was took up the task to create juicy and satisfying visual effects in Unity. 

Making

 

Impact

" We hope to use this game to introduce quadriplegic patients to assistive technologies including eye-tracking itself and brain-computer interfaces that might benefit from the addition of eye-tracking while learning to use the technology. Our expectation is this fun game will increase patient engagement, which is so important to achieving successful outcomes. "

- Dr. Adam Fry, Mount Sinai Hospital

- Dr. Dev Sharma, Phd Researcher at CMU