A Technical Account Behind the Development of a Reproducible Low-Cost Immersive Space to Conduct Applied User Testing

Document Type : Original Article


1 Cardiff School of Art & Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, Western Avenue, Cardiff, CF5 2YB - Wales - UK

2 School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales, UK

3 School of Design, Royal College of Art, London, UK.

4 Llandaff Campus, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales, UK


Both laboratory and field experiments are flawed in their appropriateness for Human-centered design (HCD) user testing. Simulated Task Environments (STEs) offer a viable alternative, enabling researchers to recreate realistic conditions and immersive environments whilst controlling variables under laboratory conditions. This paper details the design process and technicalities used by a multi-disciplinary HCD research team to develop a reproducible low-cost immersive STE called the Perceptual Experience Laboratory (PEL). The research and development of the PEL in its three distinct stages is outlined to share the lessons learnt for the benefit of researchers and practitioners. In its current form, cylindrical media is surface-mapped on a bespoke 2m-high, 200° video wall to deliver seamless 12K enhanced field-of-view content around the user to visually recreate environments not normally accessible to researchers. The staging area can be configured with props and multisensory cues, simulating an in-context approach for HCD product testing. Additionally, immersive and realistic soundscapes are created via a 20.4 audio system equipped with spatial panners which provide directional sound. A growing number of commercial and academic research projects have been delivered using the PEL with research validating the user testing environment and its ongoing success attracting research and enterprise capital investments to advance immersive capabilities.