The aim of the project, which was submitted in November 2013, Call No. 3.4 - Infrastructure support for education related to research, priority axes (PA) 4, OP RDI (Operational Program Research and Development for Innovation), was to create an environment for increase in quality of education, to enable the realization of new research projects including the possibility of collecting primary data, bring new trends into education, promote multidisciplinarity by linking existing fields of study with the field of information technology and create a platform for FEM cooperation with enterprises in the area of knowledge transfer.
Wide range of research activities and technical support of the lab will create a significant opportunity of the results commercialization as well as interconnection FEM with practice. It will be possible to measure e.g. the impact of advertising on humans, to verify end products or vendor marketing strategies. It will be possible to implement highly sophisticated Focus groups with selected measurable attributes associated with perception - ie objective data (not based on subjective proband´s statements).
The most important output of the project was the construction of 2 laboratories - a collaborative usability lab and a virtual reality lab. Both laboratories are supported by mobile sets for measuring biometric data - eye tracking and biofeedback. And last but not least, nothing would work without the support of high-capacity network, server and data infrastructure to provide very demanding data transfer, storage, processing and distribution.
The idea of collaborative testing is original and was created at the Faculty of Economics and Management - specifically at the Department of Information Engineering. The specific feature of collaborative testing is that the given task is solved by several test participants at the same time. Each participant is measured as an individual but he is also part of the team. Several attributes are recorded during the research. For example: the path through the given test, verbal expressions, facial mimics, body language, user dialogs including their questions, and other biometric data. With its unique architecture, the Usability Lab can track up to 10 test subjects at the same time, reducing both time and cost of testing.
The lab's testing room is equipped with state-of-the-art technology including high-end computers with passive cooling systems, monitors equipped with a participant's face webcam, large-screens on walls, wireless headphones and microphones, Eye Tracking technology and a portable video camera. The entire room is monitored by 4 environmental Dome cameras that capture image and sound within the whole workspace. Speakers or wireless headsets are used to communicate with participants. The supervisor room for moderators and test administrators includes audio and HD video strings, a central server storage system, image sharing administration, and comprehensive management. There is also a soundboard, directional microphones, active speakers for the test room, and many other equipment. There is also a small observatory, equipped with modern projection equipment, allowing for controlled monitoring of the testing process.
The laboratory's capabilities are not only classical usability studies, but also collaborative usability tests, real-world user experience, behavioral research, testing of commercial products and services including mobile applications, media testing (online, offline media, print and POS materials, TV commercials), focus group research and testing of teaching quality and examination tests.
The lab will be used not only by academic staff but also by students. Students of Human and Computer Interaction have already been involved in the first research. There is also a great interest from the professional sphere - many companies are eager to cooperate. Since it is the first laboratory of its kind in the world, it is necessary to develop a methodology for collaborative testing.
The virtual reality lab is used to create an illusion of presence or movement in a "different" reality transmitted by an AV record or created by a computer program. The main use of the laboratory is to create real-world simulations and capture the behavior of an individual in a given situation, along with the recording of selected biological parameters.
The basic technology of the virtual reality lab is called CAVE (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment). CAVE consists of four projection walls (front, left, right and bottom), special mirrors with a front reflective layer for rear projection, four 3D HD projectors with image processor and control and tracking computer. Other features are special 3D glasses, tracking system for user positioning and movement, surrounding sound system, behavior monitoring technology, hardware for creating 3D video and 3D modeling and development software. First usage of the CAVE was to simulate the control of a motor vehicle.
Mobile eye-tracking devices and biofeedback sensors are available for both stations.
The eye-tracking system is a set of eyeglasses with identification of the targeting of the eye on surroundings (real, projected or on-screen), including recording equipment and software support for processing of the results. Glasses are designed to not limit the peripheral view and the free movement of the head and the whole person. At the same time the device is recording the visualization of the surrounding area, including the focusing of the vision. The recording device is mobile, does not require direct communication with the control computer. By its size and weight it does not limit the experimental person in motion.
A system of sensors and modules ensures the recording of biological parameters and the transfer of the information to a computer. A supporting software enables recording and analysis of data. It includes simulation programs, enabling the projection of own photographic files or video sequences. The specific physiological functions can be projected, such as conductivity of the skin, temperature, blood pressure, 3D motion acceleration. All above is done by combined sensor located on the wrist or head. Furthermore, the detection of skin conductivity, temperature and blood pressure are measured on the finger of a hand with one sensor. It is also possible to scan the function of muscles by scanning their electrical biosignals (electromyography). Human physiological functions are recorded and visually displayed at the moment they appear.
HUBRU is equipped with a high-speed 10 Gbit network infrastructure, servers for virtualization of various desktop environments, and a data warehouse currently with 51 TB capacity - easily expandable in future. The chosen solution is based on the university standards and does not allocate additional human resources for its administration.
Project preparation was launched in November 2013, and its own realization ran from September 2014 to November 2015. Total costs on technologies and equipment exceeded 32 million Czech crowns.
The project team, with high professionalism, designed the project of this unique workplace and, despite all the pitfalls (for example in the Public Procurement Act), put it into operation.
The design of the laboratory is based on the current focus of research activities of the Faculty's staff. Until now, employees in various fields have been working with secondary data. HUBRU Laboratory equipment will allow primary data collection in applied disciplines where this is not quite common. As a minor but not negligible effect, the structure of laboratory equipment will support the emergence of interdisciplinary teams at the faculty and will allow the development of a synergies between the views of various scientific disciplines. The simulation will also allow research of possible IT threats for humans, or other areas that could not be explored in a real world environment for ethical or security risks.
Detailed information about the project and the possibilities of using the laboratories for studying human behavior are available at http://hubru.pef.czu.cz.