July 07, 2014

Cheryl Yu Undergraduate Fellowship Award Profile


Area of study: Interactive Arts and Technology
Faculty supervisor: Dr. Diane Gromala

How has your academic endeavors prepared you for this experience?

Various IAT courses have already been teaching me about 1) developing for specific target audiences, 2) supporting design with research, and 3) performing user studies or user testing to validate the effectiveness of prototypes. These are the three main skills (among other transferrable skills) that are required for my research project, and to be able to participate in this project will allow me to simultaneously practice and deepen those skills even further.

Give us a description of the research project and your role during your working semester.

I am currently working on Mobius Floe, one of the virtual reality (VR) projects in SFU’s Pain Studies Lab. Mobius Floe is a VR game built specifically for chronic and acute pain patients. Our goal is to provide pain distraction through the idea of immersing the patients in the game world. My role is to actively research game design concepts as well as experiment with different kinds of VR games for pain reduction in chronic and acute pain patients. I help with fleshing out our conceptual ideas, building and implementing our ideas in the virtual game space, and mapping out strategies. I will also be planning and conducting our user studies, and revising our ideas where necessary.

What do you look forward to the most?

I’m really looking forward to our finished product. Although we are currently still in the early phases of development, we have tons of ideas for what we want to eventually implement in the later phases of the game, and the team is really excited because Mobius Floe is going to be quite different from other pain distraction games currently out there. Right now we are focused on completing our prototype phase by phase to conduct user testing in between.

What do you hope to gain through this opportunity? How do you envision this experience contributing to your future academic and professional career?

I believe that research is not just about reading peer-reviewed journals or looking at data from user studies done by experts. It is important to also conduct our own user testing to validate the specific data we need to support our development goals. The FCAT Undergrad Research Fellowship has provided me with an opportunity to work with and really learn from seasoned industry professionals. Through Diane’s relationship with doctors in this field as well as with other experts, we are also able to have access to patients who are willing to user-test for us. This experience has definitely allowed me to be a part of developing a project that is not just backed by research and user studies from actual patients, but is also truly purposeful.

What would you tell a student that is thinking of applying for the Fellowship Award next year?

I would advise that doing such a research project would require a lot of self-motivation and determination. You must also really think about what you are interested in doing, and then look for the appropriate faculty supervisor who shares a similar interest. Most of the time, these professors would prefer if your research project ultimately contributes to the goals of their research lab, so don’t be surprised when you have tailor your project proposal to fit better with your supervisor’s research interest!