Remote User Experience Laboratory (RUSL) Project

4 August 2021

by Tim Storer, University of Glasgow

The original objectives of the project were to construct a facility in which user experience experiments could be deployed in a remote setting. It was envisaged that the facility would utilise remote desktop technology deployed in virtualised cloud infrastructures, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon EC3. A virtualised desktop image would be created that would be preconfigured with user data gathering tools, such as keystrokes, mouse movement, video and audio recording. The image would then be deployed by researchers as a remote desktop virtual machine instance that could be additionally configured to support specific experimental requirements.

The funding awarded by SICSA, was used to hire a student software developer within the Glasgow University Software Service (GUSS), supporting 20 weeks of development work, at 10 hours per week. The work by the student was supervised by the Service Software Engineering Manager.

The following objectives of the facility were met:

  • Creation of a SICSA resource group on the Microsoft Cloud Infrastructure.
  • Review and selection of tools for capturing user behaviour on a virtualised desktop.
  • Creation of a Microsoft Windows virtual desktop with administrator and user accounts.
  • Configuration of the virtual desktop with software for keystroke tracking.
  • Configuration of the virtual desktop with screen, webcam and audio recording during experimental settings.
  • Capture of the virtual desktop as a re-deployable virtual machine image for sharing with project partners.

The procedure for deploying the virtual desktop was captured in documentation for sharing with researchers wishing to conduct virtual experiments.

The developer and service manager completed three evaluations of the virtual desktop with researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Abertay and Robert Gordon Universities.

The end result of the project is a complete image suitable for use in remote experience laboratory work. The next steps will involve further development of the facility. The strong basis provided by the SICSA RUSL provides the basis for further work.

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