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Gamifying an immersive cycling fitness experience

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Creating a group fitness experience using Immersive Design — A UX case study

Projected based augmented reality in an exhibition
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Context

What is an Immersive Experience?

An immersive experience is defined as one in which a user partially or completely immerses himself/herself by “diving” into another (artificial) world; with the help of technology.

Such experiences are unreal but if done right, the user can feel real emotional and physical sensations from the experience itself.

Type of Immersion

These are the 2 most common forms:

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR is the result of using technology to superimpose information — sounds, images and text — on the world we see. AR is prevalent in our lives and is very popular with mobile games now.

An example would be “Pokémon Go”, one of the most successful games of all time. In 2018, it was reported by Forbes that it had grossed almost $2 billion in revenue and was downloaded 800 million times.

The game gives users an opportunity to catch pokémon characters seen on their screens in real-life surroundings, evoking a sense of fun & joy.

Pokemon Go app
Photo by David Grandmougin on Unsplash

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is a technology that transports users to a highly immersive digital space, mostly using a headset filled with LCD or OLED panels inside that color their vision with realistic images. They can also hear sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment.

A kid wear virtual reality googles
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Commonly interpreted as a gaming device, it has many other applications such as medicine, training and even film making. My favorite use of VR exists in the rooms of TV production in shows like the Mandalorian on Disney+. They are currently using a groundbreaking virtual production methodology, creating environments in VR in pre-production and then displaying them on LED screens as production backdrops.

The mandolorian in a face off
Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

The Inspiration

As an indoor cycling instructor, I always had imagined myself riding on the open road, climbing steep hills and cruising back down. On a trip to Hualien City, Taiwan, I spent a whole day, cycling through the beautiful Taroko National Park with a bluetooth speaker strapped on my back.

And in that moment that I knew, I wanted to share this experience with my users.

https://medium.com/media/b533244dea6efc05af3027e1894ee86a/href

Ideation

I wanted to design an immersive indoor cycling experience synchronized to music.

I named it Cychedelia ©.

Projection-Based Augmented Reality

I was inspired by an exhibition I visited at the Singapore Art Science Museum; Future World: Where Art Meets Science. I too wanted to create an augmented reality experience by projecting artificial light onto real surfaces, much like the way a movie projector works.

Indoor cycling studio with projected visuals on walls
A Cycling Studio with a Projection Based Augmented Reality

Working closely with Vitor Mancini, a motion designer from Brazil, we began to design prototypes based on the pictures of the roads in my head and my favorite soundtracks. It was a great deal of fun playing around with motion graphics, sound and fitness design.

Lo-Fi Prototype

https://medium.com/media/b3c773dff9571536ccbe1c154d103e67/href

Hi-Fi Prototype

https://medium.com/media/c62bc59b3028abad425a6afabedce1f8/href

Visual Design

In order to capture the visual aesthetic as inspired by psychedelic experiences, the design was specially installed with key features to create an altered state:

  • Kaleidoscopic patterns
  • Bright, highly contrasting colors
  • Morphing of objects
  • Spirals, concentric circles & diffraction patterns
  • Repetition of motifs

Nevertheless, I was careful not to overuse the psychedelic elements in consideration to the user’s comfort level. Users’ brains may know they’re sitting still, but the sensory input they’re receiving from watching screens often conflicts with that information and suggesting movement. The result can be nausea, dizziness, headaches and other symptoms.

Sound Design

A 2010 study led by sport psychologist C.I. Karageorghis states that music can improve athletic performance in two ways:

“Music can either delay fatigue or increase work capacity. According to this study, the effects of music lead to “higher-than-expected levels of endurance, power, productivity, or strength.”

I carefully selected electronic music genres like psytrance, drum & bass and dubstep that encapsulate powerful emotions of strength, empowerment and euphoria, which I believe users would enjoy very much cycling to.

hands raised in ultra music festival
Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

User Testing

To test Cychedelia ©, I recruited 10 participants individually.

My original plan was to screen the experience in an immersive studio with a cinema-scale screen and sound system.

Immersive cycling studio mockup
Immersive Cycling Studio mockup

However, in interest of time & money, I adjusted screening of the prototype on just a mobile device for the usability test.

A iphone attached to a bicycle
User Test mockup

Test Findings

  • All users gave positive feedback about the sound and visual design, using adjectives such as “motivating’, “psychedelic’ & “interesting” to describe the experience
  • The experience was liken to a video game
  • 80% of the users rated the immersion level to be moderate to high
  • Most users found it difficult to follow the program accurately
  • No users experienced any sense of discomfort

Test Insights

  • Despite having a small display size, users are still able to experience a relatively high level of immersion
  • Users need visual instructions to guide them clearly on the training aspect of the experience
  • There was potential for the experience to be gamified
Cyclist on a bicycle indoors
Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

Iterations

Game Design

Using the research insights that I gathered, I began designing a user-centric dashboard with relevant training information aimed to improve the performance and gamify their experience:

  • Resistance Levels: amount of resistance they should riding with
  • Time Interval: duration of each training set
  • Revolutions Per Minute (RPM): cadence their legs should be pedalling
  • Percentage of Heart Rate Max: intensity level they should be feeling

Final Prototype

https://medium.com/media/941381ed104844a380eebb7792d966fc/href

Next Steps

Moving ahead into the future, a more accurate test would be to conduct an A/B testing with users in an actual immersive studio versus the simple set-up of using a mobile phone.

Regardless of the outcome, I have found 2 unique ways in which Cychedelia © can be experienced.

Conclusion

This project was the first one that I have ever done, even before I had taken up design full-time professionally. It was the spark that ignited my love for design.

The message that I hope to impart on my readers is design is all around us. It is in the music you hear and the things you see. If you have an idea or a thought, be bold, design! The beauty about design isn’t just about finding success or building a ready product, it is in fact that magical journey called design thinking.

Did you like or hate my project? Let me know on LinkedIn or visit my website for more projects.


Gamifying an immersive cycling fitness experience was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.