Evaluating HCI and digital media technology while trekking at high altitude.

Field testing media and HCI technologies during a trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp 

We field-tested a range of devices to examine the usability of commonly available technologies for supporting high altitude adventure activities. We trekked a popular route from Lukla 2840m to Mt. Everest Base Camp at high altitude of 5380 m and returned over 17 days, performing a range of interactions with media and sports-HCI technologies while documenting interactions and discussions about these technologies.

We know that increasingly smart technologies are coming on to the market to support adventure activities, for example smart phone apps utilising accelerometer and location data for down-hill cycling, wearable computers for high altitude or deep diving, action cameras such as the GoPro used by surfers and skiers and interactive robotic systems such as drones and ROVs chasing golf balls and filming skater performance. These technologies are popularly adopted in reliable or controlled environments, yet design knowledge of how to support adventure activities in extreme environments is still limited. User groups such as extreme sports enthusiasts and athletes have attempted to fill this gap in knowledge by ad-hoc self-publishing hacker tips about how to get the most functionality of existing technologies, and sharing how to use technologies under more extreme conditions during adventurous activity.

Our goal was to evaluate and make recommendations to adventurers and film-makers considering adventure technologies and to establish a set of field results for discussion with designers of the field of media and extreme sports-HCI to improve future design parameters for this large market group.

The equipment we tested included 2 x GoPro Hero+ 4K HD plus mounting accessories, 4 x ScanDisk Extreme Plus microSDXC USH-I Card (64GB), 4 x huhnel Lithium Ion Battery HL-GP401 Go Pro Type, 1 x hahnel Duo Charger, 2 x 1T WD Elements Disc drives, 1 x BRCK, MacBook 15″, MacBook Air 13″, HP EliteBook 8570w, Jawbone UP, the complete NeXUS Mk II UK Biomind System, Theraya Satellite Phone, iPhone 5, LG Mobile, Zoom H2next Handy Recorder, SolarMonkey Adventurer, Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Solar, and leads, adaptors and accessories.

L1040913-2
Emily Harridge and Sarah Jane Pell field-testing GoPro media technologies at altitude, Namche Bazaar, Nepal 2015. Photo Sarah Jane Pell.

Our field work conditions included experiencing limited access to power, WiFi and satellite bandwidth, shortages and a range of natural daily temperatures from -10 degrees C to +40 degrees C during early 2015 Spring in the Everest region of Nepal. Such challenging conditions are well documented in this region but the impact on digital media and HCI interactions is not specified, rather implied:

“Telecommunications facilities in Nepal are limited and can be unreliable. Mobile phone services may be suspended without notice. Electricity supplies are unreliable and there is frequent load-shedding during the winter months and in the lead up to the monsoon. Shortages of essential supplies (including food, water, fuel, gas and kerosene) can occur with limited notice. Businesses, including hotels and guesthouses, can be affected.”[1]

Technology evaluations and videos of field conditions and user responses will be uploaded here over the coming weeks. As noted, telecommunications here in Nepal are unreliable and bandwidth is limited so it will take time. Please feel free to request, suggest or ask questions of our experience as we relate our interactions as this will be helpful in framing useful results for a wide range of users.

First findings will be published at CHIPlay’15 with excerpts of the Bending Horizons documentary. Further evaluation of results by Pell and A/Prof. Floyd Mueller, Director of Exertion Games Lab, Melbourne Australia will be presented at CHI’16.

[1] http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Nepal

by Dr. Sarah Jane Pell  & Emily Harridge, 2015. 

http://www.bendinghorizons.com http://www.twitter.com/bendinghorizons or email everest [at] sarahjanepell.com

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