Implementing an augmented reality-enabled wayfinding system through studying user experience and requirements in complex environments
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Background: Wayfinding is an exceedingly complicated cognitive process, especially in complex environments such as hospitals, shopping centers and airports. Inhabitants of such large environments can become lost very easily if they are unfamiliar with the environment. Although they may eventually be able to discover the route to a specific destination, interacting with conventional wayfinding aids, such as consulting a map, understanding signs, and asking people for directions, can be very time-consuming. Methods: The research presented in this paper developed a customized instrument (questionnaire) with factors identified as influencing the cognitive process of wayfinding, and conducted an explorative study to investigate user experience and requirements of wayfinding in complex environments; in this paper, a hospital was chosen as the context. Results: The results demonstrate that current wayfinding aids are insufficient to support a person's natural navigational behaviors in the environment. Augmented Reality (AR), which is an innovative concept of enabling digital information to be superimposed onto a real view in real time and context, has great potential to supplement current wayfinding aids. Therefore, we also conceived, developed and implemented an AR-based wayfinding system based on the user requirements identified by the aforementioned instrument. Conclusion: The AR-based wayfinding system was partially validated through case studies, which concluded that AR significantly reduced the time and cognition workload of human wayfinding behaviors.
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