One of the challenges we faced during the user testing of ALADIN was the testing of home automation features, which is one of the most important functions ALADIN will have to fulfill. While it would have been possible to use an already automated home, this meant users would have to make the trip to our lab, which is not easy for a lot of the people in our user group. It's also not easy to quickly move through the different functions, from curtains to an automated bed to changing the thermostat.
To solve this problem, we created a 3D model of a home, based on a real adapted home for people with disabilities, and presented this home on a laptop to our test users. We created the home using SketchUp and then animated it (with the help of someone's teenage nephew, of course) in Unity 3D, allowing us to control the doors, curtains, lights, thermostat, and bed from the software itself. We then created a path for the camera to follow based on our scenario, allowing us to walk a user through a home and seeing how it would react to their input.
Screenshot of the 3D home
During the first tests, we included a rudimentary interface that was shown on a second monitor, so that a researcher could imitate the ALADIN system using those controls. This is called the "Wizard of Oz" method, allowing us to see how user would interact with the system before it's been built (with the second researcher operating behind the curtains like the eponymous wizard).