Improving the virtual flame experience and engagement with an electric fireplace at home

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Human Interface Technology
Degree name
Master of Human Interface Technology
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Qiao, Han

Techniques for electrical flame effects have been around since at least 1981. Since then, various faux flame techniques using smoke and mirrors have been applied in electric fireplaces to achieve more realistic visual effects. However, two main issues, (1) the low visual appeal of fake flames and (2) the lack of interactions, are still seriously affecting the user experience. This research is about the design and evaluation of an electric fireplace system that uses 3D display technologies and interactive methods to address the above issues.

The goals of this research are twofold: 1) to evaluate the visual experience of different 3D display technologies 2) to explore innovative methods for the user to interact with an electric fireplace and evaluate the user experience. For that purpose, we developed two prototypes and an electric fireplace system. In addition, a within-subjects design user study was conducted to evaluate the visual experience and the user experience in different conditions. Firstly, we explored the possibility of combining two different 3D display technologies (Pepper’s Ghost Illusion and Persistence of Vision technology) with an electric fireplace.

Secondly, we collected and analysed visual experience data to compare the effect of virtual flames created by our prototypes with real flames. For the purpose of exploring the user experience, we explored the usage of different interactive methods, gesture control and remote control, on an electric fireplace. Finally, we collected user feedback through questionnaires and analysed the results.

Results indicated that there was a significant difference between virtual flames and real flames. Although 3D display technologies provided more interactions and visual effects to the user, which had stimulated the user’s interests, the experience they created were far away from the experience of using a real wood-burning fireplace. In terms of the comparison of interactive methods, gesture control performed better on all scales of the user experience than the remote control. Therefore, we concluded that the user would obtain a better user experience when using gesture control to operate an electric fireplace.

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