Games as a research method

Posted by Karin Slegers on Tuesday March 31st 2015 at 15:12
Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetGamification is quite a hot topic in ICT development at the moment. Game elements are increasingly seen as a useful design approach to make everyday tasks or work-related activities more fun and to improve the user experience.


In the TraPIST project, we (together with our iMinds-SMIT colleagues at VUB) have used a similar approach to spice up our research. We created a board game that was used in one of our studies to gather insights into train passengers’ needs regarding the train information system we are developing in this project. More specifically, we wanted to understand what kind of questions passengers would ask if they would have access to an omniscient information system that would go way beyond existing train apps.


For this study we took inspiration from several game principles used in existing board games. The board itself was based on the Game of Life, with a track of squares representing a journey from home to destination. As in the Game of the Goose, we used penalty squares. Landing on such a square would cause participants to skip a turn due to a delay. Similar to Monopoly, we used event cards representing real life problems that passengers may encounter during their trip (e.g. unannounced delays, a flat bike tire, bad weather, …).


During the game, players could ask questions to a mock-up of the TraPIST train information system. They could type their questions on a tablet and the system (that was in fact operated by a researcher in another room, Wizard-of-Oz style) would answer their questions.


Our main objective was to gain an understanding of the kind of questions passengers would ask to the TraPIST system, which worked quite well in this game setting. Being in a fictitious, but familiar, train travel context helped our participants to think about what it would be like to use a non-existent future application. Adding game elements to the study made participation fun and lowered the threshold for participants to speak their minds.


We will definitely use game elements in our research again, as we felt this approach was quite successful. We will present our TraPIST board game at CHI in Seoul in April.
Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 16.04.30

Studio Media – iMinds

Posted by Jeroen Vanattenhoven on Monday March 30th 2015 at 15:02

Hoe kan digitale innovatie een antwoord bieden op de uitdagingen voor het Vlaamse medialandschap? En welke mediadomeinen zijn essentieel voor een sterke, toekomstgerichte markt?

Studio Media biedt je kennis en inzichten in de vele deelfacetten van de mediatoekomst. De digitale collectie van meer dan 50 artikels vond zijn oorsprong in de markt zelf, toen 45 mediavertegenwoordigers in oktober 2014 een open dialoog aangingen tijdens iMinds The Conference. Ruim 20 iMinds onderzoekers, waaronder Jeroen Vanattenhoven en David Geerts van CUO | SocialSpaces, zochten in hun artikels kruisbestuiving en toekomstperspectieven op, geclusterd rond zes sleuteldomeinen: Advertising, Analytics, Content, Ecosysteem, Gebruikers en Innovatie.

MELoDiA: designing an educational music application together with end-users

Posted by Marije Nouwen on Monday March 23rd 2015 at 17:40

(Image by Niek Kosten)

We are happy to have been part of the MELoDiA design team that delivered a marketable product only months after the end of the project. Just as a record only holds polished songs, a game in the App Store does not reveal the iterations it underwent. Since we are proud of the end result and the research trajectory that led up to it, we want to put the user insights that formed the end product in the spotlight. Drum rolls, please!

From concept…
At the start of the project the research groups SMIT & CUO |Social Spaces, together with the partners, had worked out a concept for an application aimed at children between 8 and 12 years old. We wanted to work towards a mobile game application that provides a fun learning experience to novice music learners while learning to sing. Also, we made use of popular content that fits in with children’s personal music experiences. Furthermore, we aimed to include real-time feedback. Lastly, we wanted to make a game that keeps children motivated while learning, so they would not quit on music.

While the concept was clear to all project partners, we had questions about our targeted end users and music education. Firstly, we did not know what children (aged 8 to 12) with little to no experience with music education expect from music games. Secondly, we had to discover which practices in music education could be translated into a digital learning environment. In order to find answers to these questions we conducted user research with children and music teachers. Ultimately, the insights we gathered informed the design of this new music game.

… to educational music application
We learned that children are eager to learn. Consequently, they accept negative and positive feedback, as long as the feedback allows them to improve their performance. As such, the application gives children detailed feedback on their performance. Taking up the children’s challenge to be bold, the designers experimented with a virtual audience that appealed to the children during user tests. Also, children indicated that by obtaining scores, they could enter in competitions with their friends or siblings. In order to support the children’s motivation, we included a point system and high scores in the application. The children involved in our research also shared some concerns, for instance about the aggravating hours they have to spend practicing. Many children experience this as the least fun part about learning music. While children put in much effort, this effort usually only pays off in the long run. Therefore, we decided to score effort as well. Importantly, we learned that children wanted to be in control. So, we suggested to implement a learning path that children can decide to follow – or not. Another important insight concerned the need for children to practice in private, but share their ability with their peers. Thus, the children can record and replay the recordings they like with the application.

After talking with the children, we turned to the teachers for insights on music teaching. Teachers mentioned that they break up a song in different pieces so it is easier to learn. As such, the interface of the game clearly separates these elements. The teachers also told us they give feedback as soon as possible so children do not learn ‘wrong skills’. However, when children make many mistakes teachers work on the most important errors so children are not discouraged. To support this insight, the design team decided to ‘flag’ the most important errors children can focus on.

This was the ‘behind the scenes’ story of the design of an educational music application for novice music learners. We now welcome all children to the stage to learn to sing with K3.

(Picture by Cartamundi Digital)


Authors: Marije Nouwen & Karin Slegers

Special thanks to Pieter Duysburgh, Karen Mouws, Selina Schepers, Niek kosten & Hanne Hofkens

Project realized with the support of iMinds Media & together with Cartamundi Digital, MU Technologies (with financial support of IWT), Halewijnstichting and LUCA School of Arts (Lemmensinstituut)

Koninklijke interesse voor Bednet project

Posted by David Geerts on Tuesday March 17th 2015 at 13:16

Op dinsdag 17 maart is Koningin Mathilde op bezoek geweest in het Sint-Aloysiuscollege in Menen, waar leerlinge Ellen Bettens via Bednet Synchroon Internetonderwijs (SIO) volgt. Het Bednetsysteem is als prototype ontwikkeld in het iMinds ASCIT project (Again at my School by Fostering Communication through Interactive Technologies for long term sick children). Hierin werkte het Centrum voor User Experience Onderzoek (CUO) mee aan het ontwerpen van de gebruiksvriendelijkheid van het systeem.

Eerder won het Bednet project al de Prijs van het Europees Burgerschap 2014.