This was my capstone Project as a Masters candidate in the HCI program at Georgia Tech. The goal was to build a context based experience for reading complex narrratives.
Stories and narratives are an integral part of our lives, for education and for entertainment. I wanted to explore the idea of an application to provide contextual information while reading.
However, most of these readers provide the books in the form of static content. With the exception of a few children’s books, they haven’t leveraged the technology available to make these books interactive.
I chose 'A Song of Ice and Fire' as my subject for the exploration. It is a series of epic fantasy novels written by American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin.
As the story has progressed, it has become difficult to keep track of the multitude of characters. The HBO show 'Game of Thrones' based on the story deviates from the books significantly, contributing to this.
While there are different devices available for the purpose of reading such as the Kindle and Nook, most of these devices do not provide any interactive features or enhancements. I conducted a competitive analysis to understand the gaps in the current market, and to understand what my prototype should aim to address.
The X-Ray feature on Kindles lets you explore the "bones" of the book. For example, you can see all of the passages in a book that mention specific ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, and places or topics.
This is the official companion app for the books, to help readers get character bios and spoiler free information.
To move forward with the design process, it was imperative to analyze the users and find their requirements.
To understand the general behavior of readers of a A Song of Ice and Fire, I distributed an online survey in forums and discussions groups revolving around the novels and received 969 responses.
After I analyzed the survey results, I conducted 5 interviews with participants who were familiar with A song of Ice and Fire series and had read them. These interviews helped me gain a deeper understanding of user behavior. Some of the key findings from these interviews were:
Once I had a list of requirements and considerations ready, I moved on to the design phase. The focus of the design was a glance-able guide to story elements, and a way to provide contextual information about story elements which updates based on reader's knowledge.
My initial sketches, generating as many concepts as possible.
My next series of explorations focussed on the two modes from the interviews.
I conducted an evaluation of the prototype with 10 participants. I included a variety of participants, some were familiar with the books and the TV show and some had never seen or read either. The goal was to understand how useful the app would be for any kind of audience.
The participants liked the character information, they could put a face to a name, they could see where they left off. They liked the split screen view since it helped their experience in analysing the events of the book.
Some of the participants had mixed feelings about the split screen view, they wished there was a way to collapse it. They also wanted more explorations so they could follow the journey of a character.
This project is very close to heart, since I love reading and collecting books. I want to continue working on different aspects on making books interactive. I'm currently working on an interactive children's books around Indian mythology.