Design and development of immersive interactions for serious games

Starting: 01/10/2014
PhD Student: Guillaume Loup
Advisor(s): Sébastien George (LIUM - IEIAH)
Co-advisor(s): Audrey SERNA (LIRIS - SICAL)
Funding: ANR

This thesis is in the field of Virtual Environments for Human Learning (VEHL). It was funded by the JEN.lab national ANR project, which aims to create Digital Epistemic Games (DEG), a category of Serious Games dedicated to solving complex, multidisciplinary and non-deterministic problems. The objective of DEGs is to propose authentic learning situations in terms of interactions so that learners can construct and anchor knowledge in their context of use.

In the first part of this thesis, we propose a methodology for designing pervasive DEGs (i.e., DEGs with spatially, temporally or socially enriched interactions). Several experiments we conducted in ecological environments showed the educational benefits of DEGs through an increase of the learner’s engagement. However, the design of these DEGs put forward the fact that the development of immersive interactions for VEHLs currently requires the skills of Mixed or Virtual Reality (MVR) experts.

In the second part of this thesis, we therefore propose a development environment named MIREDGE, intended for developers who are not MVR specialists. A visual programming interface allows developers to model interactions without specific knowledge, by using predefined blocks. The main blocks represent a functionality or an algorithm of a MVR device. The logical blocks allow developers to create an algorithm for a specific interaction. Finally, other blocks can be used to connect these algorithms to the existing methods of the project that will integrate these interactions. We led experimentations in order to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of MIREDGE for MVR specialist and non-specialist developers.

The two developer profiles are complementary in MIREDGE. Indeed, the MVR specialists create new interaction blocks for the whole community, and the MVR non-specialists, much more numerous, assemble these blocks in optimal ways. As MVR specialists need to define the algorithms in the visual blocks in detail, MIREDGE automatically generates the corresponding code scripts that can be edited in their game engine. The MIREDGE approach, in general, offers a software architecture that allows sharing interactions according to a meta-model. Its software independence ensures wide compatibility with development environments and MVR devices. This opens perspectives for the study of universal interactions.