Blue Stream Farms AR is an AR game experience aiming to educate high school students about aquaponics knowledge. I am the UX Designer on the team and I collaborated with a UX researcher, a developer, and a 2D/3D artist.
Feed Hungry Fish
Starting as fish food, try to feed the hungry fish around you!
Get through Filters
Try to get through the filters and react with the bacteria inside!
Nourish Plant Roots
Now you are a nutrient. Come close to nourish the roots!
Blue stream farms is an aquaponics facility based in West Virginia. They provide onsite tours to high school students to showcase the aquaponics facility and spread the knowledge.
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a type of fish farming that uses the waste produced by fish to supply nutrients to hydroponic plants, or plants grown without the use of soil.
Our client wanted to take advantage of the newest technology to make the existing tour more attractive to high school students.
To fully understand the situation, our team went to our client's facility and observed the current onsite tour.
Fish and Bacteria are invisible
The water is so murky that students can't really see the fish inside. Let along the bacteria. Students often have to imagine what's happening in the aquaponics system.
The lecture-based tour is not engaging
Since most of the tour is just watching and listening to the tour guide, students in the back find it hard to concentrate.
How might we
Create an AR game experience that visualizes the key aquaponics concepts and engages the high school students during the onsite experience?
A Journey of Fish Food in AR
Players will start as fish food and need to go through the whole aquaponics system including the fish tank, filter, and grow bed. Between each chapter, players will watch the video about the aquaponics knowledge behind the game. At the end of the journey, players will become one of the plants in the Blue Stream Farms.
Why AR: AR allows us to overlay invisible objects (fish and bacteria) to the real environment.
Why Game: Gamification helps students engage and digest the knowledge.
How to interact?
Then, we started thinking about how players can interact with AR objects. Take the feeding fish as an example. Users could potentially tap the fish, shake the phone or simply approach the fish to achieve the goal. By analyzing the Interactivity, Intuitiveness, and Generalizability of each interaction, I believe Approach is most suitable for this game!
To make sure our game is actually working for the high school students, we conducted playtest each week to iterate our design.
Based on players' feedback, I iterated the design accordingly. Below are some key iterations that I would like to highlight.
Ignored the instruction
During the playtest, users did not pay attention to the text instruction at the bottom, since their attention is in the middle of the screen.
I moved the text instruction to the middle and changed it to a chat bubble such that it catches users' attention as well as fits the game context more.
Feed the same fish multiple times
During the playtest, many users tried to feed the same fish multiple times, even though the fish changed to gray color. Some users even thought they poisoned the fish to death due to the gray color.
I changed the fish color from gray to the theme color yellow and added a chat bubble saying: "I had enough thanks, Go find another fish".
Users need more than one type of feedbacks
To make sure users get enough confirmation for their behavior, I made each interaction include more than 1 type of feedback
Visual: During the absorption, the root is shaking, color changes and a circular timer appears. After the absorption, the root turns green and the nutrient in the middle drops one.
Haptic: The phone vibrates during absorption.
Acoustic: Sound effect plays during and after the absorption.
By sending out a quiz to users before and after the play, we found that 78% of students improved their performance on the test.
What's more exciting is that our product is fully developed and now available on both the App Store and Google Play! So more people can enjoy our game and learn aquaponics knowledge along the way!