Create an ubiquitious product that enhances the hiking experience.

Role: UX Researcher and Designer
Project Type: Pervasive Interaction
Team: Jason Lam, Sina Haghani, Diane Pham, Jonathan Timma
Contribution: Interviews, Diary Studies, Cultural Probes, Sketching, Brainstorming, Storyboarding, User Enactments, Hardware Prototyping
Deliverable: Product concept


As part of our class on "Pervasive Interaction Design", we worked to create a product for hikers. TrekGlance employs Augmented Reality in bringing users information at a glance in a national park or national forest setting. It utilizes a GPS location service and displays information about various paths in the park or forest. TrekGlance also detect the direction a user is facing and provides information about the route that lies in front of them. 
TrekGlance has 3 main features:

  • Information display: TrekGlance will show the user relevant information to their location, time, and hike, such as weather, route difficulty, route length, percentage of route completed, etc.
  • Preview path: Not only does TrekGlance provide the user with information about various hikes and trails, TrekGlance will also show a short video clip of the upcoming paths to allow the user to make informed hiking decisions.
  • Detour suggestor: TrekGlance encourages hikers to explore by suggesting detours to alternative routes or attractions.

TrekGlance makes use of the following three elements to enable the above features and form the informational layer of our system:

  • Preview database: Stores the pictures and videos that pop up when users want to preview an upcoming path
  • Location service: A location service (such as GPS) allows the system to detect the user’s location in the area and display information based on that location
  • Orientation detector: Detects the movement of the user and triggers certain information based on the movement.


To begin our user research, we created a formative study that included interviews, a photo diary study, and a cultural probe. All our participants were young professionals or graduate students from the ages 23-40. These participants were recruited through our personal connections and had expressed they had a previous history of hiking. The following questions helped guide our research:

  • What gets you excited about hiking?
  • What environmental triggers remind people of hiking?
  • How do groups of hikers get together and go hiking?
  • What issues do hikers face while hiking?


We interviewed 7 people. We interviewed 7 different people. Our interviews were used to better understand hikers, their past experiences with hiking, and their thoughts on hiking. Interviews lasted around 30 minutes. Our interview questions can be grouped into the following themes:

  • General hiking experience, preparation, and thoughts
  • In-situ hiking
  • Equipment
  • Social aspects of hiking

Photo Diary

We conducted a photo diary study with 4 different people who were planning on going on a hike of at least one hour during the time of our study. We chose to do a photo diary study because it would allow us to understand both visually and verbally what the participants experienced on their hike. Participants were asked to take at least 10 photos in total and at least one of the following prompts:

  • A picture of the equipment, if any, that you bring or use
  • Any activities you do (e.g. camping, cooking, water activities, etc.)
  • Anyone accompanying you on the trip (if they’re comfortable with that)
  • Your surroundings

Cultural Probe

The cultural probe participants were the same 4 people from the photo diary study. Our cultural probe consisted of two parts. The first part was to have participants make a drawing of an imaginary device that would help them on their hike. The second part was to have participants write a postcard to someone to tell them about their hike. Participants did the cultural probe after they completed their hike. The cultural probe allowed us to better understand hikers’ thoughts, needs, and values and gain inspiration for ideas from their input.

Key Insights

  • People find GPS services to be unreliable while hiking and wish they could be improved.
  • Having information about the hiking trails and routes is important to hikers. Hikers usually look up information beforehand or rely on trail markers on site.

We then ideated and came up with some beginning design concepts, such as a pair of glasses that allows people to preview different hiking trails and a bracelet that would help people find lost people in the group.


After analyzing the results from the formative study and ideating, we revised our research questions to help narrow down our focus and explore different tensions that appeared from our research, such as comfort vs exploration, capturing vs enjoying moments, and controlled planning vs impromptu planning. From these tensions, we created the following research questions to help guide our user enactments for this milestone:.

  • What are factors that influence people to take a certain hiking path? (eg. scenery, difficulty, time, other people)?
  • What levels of intrusiveness from technology can people tolerate while hiking?
  • How do people want to record and share their hiking experiences with others?
  • How do people react when they are constantly having their hiking experiences recorded?

We designed five user enactments in order to explore the tensions and research questions mentioned above. We first brainstormed different ideas and design concepts based on the tensions and research questions. We then turned our ideas into scenarios and scenes. We narrowed down our initial User Enactment ideas by determining how feasible in terms of available resources, how realistic we could make the enactment (participants should be able to easily picture how they could enact the scenario), and how much potential insights the enactment could reveal (UEs should be answering our research questions and shedding light on potential design opportunities). We recruited our participants through our personal networks. All participants are in their twenties and Master’s students at the University of Michigan. All of the participants fell under our target audience of past casual hikers. 
For an in-depth look into our user enactments, please refer to our project website milestone: here.

Key Insights

  • Participants were concerned with the concept of shared, public memories.
  • Participants were willing to tolerate a certain level of intrusiveness from technology
  • Participants were interested in exploring and learning about different paths they could take.

Based on all research and previous ideation, we developed an idea for TrekGlance, glasses that will allow people to navigate hiking locations, access information regarding the local environment, and discover new trails.

We created a storyboard of our proposed design concept. For our storyboard, Ben and his two friends are hiking around Banff National Park. Ben was in a hurry to plan the trip, so he had a general idea of where to go, but wasn’t too sure on what the actual trails were like. The whole group decides to put on their TrekGlances to help them better understand the local environment and where to go. The system is based on augmented reality and AR markers. After wearing the glasses, they are able to access the display markers left by the state park which shows what the paths will look like. While looking around they see a tree with a code, and they are able to get information regarding the local plants and learn more about the different seasonal vegetation. An hour in the hike, they were able to find a marker that showed new potential paths that would interest them. Ben and his friends feel safe in navigating the different trails and leave feeling that they explored all the different areas.


We then set about creating a hardware prototype of TrekGlance. We focused on the experience of accessing and displaying information. To simulate the experience, there are 3 main functions that we expanded on: sensing the trigger, displaying the information, and interacting with the display. We used the following materials and process to create our protoype:

  • Glasses - wood, laser cutting tool, USB camera
  • Display - particle serial monitor, LED display, acrylic container
  • Augmented reality - NyAR Tool Kit, AR marker

Key Prototype Features:

  • Visualizations: In our system proposal, the visualizations would be triggered by location. However, since current location services are not always accurate and sometimes difficult to work with, we created AR markers as our triggers. Whenever our camera detected an AR marker, the corresponding visualization (information display) and video (preview path / preview detour) would appear. To replicate how the information would display from the glasses, we created a HUD with an LED display that shows different information visualizations based on the AR marker.
  • Form factor: We created the physical sunglasses using a laser cutting tool. Adjustments had to be made in order to attach the camera and HUD.

learning lessons

This project was challenging because it introduced a lot of research methods I was not familiar with or had used before - diary study, probes, speed dating, user enactments - and also advanced prototyping tools. Although the project was difficult, I appreciated the opportunity to learn about these methods and get more in-depth experience with user research. I also thought there was an excessive amount of required ideation throughout the class, but in the end, I realized that this is more reflective of the real world. Rarely do people stick with their original idea without considering other design concepts. If we stuck with our original design ideas, I do not think our final product would have been as good or as satisfying to develop.