Towards Understanding the Design Space of Tangible User Interfaces for Collaborative Urban Planning

This paper provides an analysis of the long-term, iterative design process of the ColorTable, a complex tangible user interface (TUI) supporting various stakeholders in collaboratively envisioning and discussing urban projects through constructing mixed reality scenes. The TUI has been iteratively designed, evaluated and redesigned in a series of real-world participatory design workshops over a 4-year period. We reflect on the most prominent redesign decisions related to (a) the sensing technology, (b) the physical objects, (c) the places for interaction and (d) the visual representations, in order to identify a series of 10 dimensions describing the design space of the ColorTable. Our aim is to provide new insights to the elaboration of design strategies of TUIs by describing the scope and complexity of the design space of a feature-rich TUI designed in a long-term, iterative process.


A Design Approach for Tangible User Interfaces

This paper proposes a mechanism to design Tangible User Interface (TUI) based on Alexander’s (1964) design approach i.e. achieving fitness between the form and its context. Adapted to the design of TUIs, the fitness-of-use mechanism now takes into consideration the potential conflicts between the hardware of the artifact (electro-mechanical components) and the form of the user’s control (Physical-ergonomics). The design problem is a search for an effortless co-existence (fitness-of-use) between these two aspects. Tangible interface design differs from traditional graphical interface design as unsolved conflicts between hardware and ergonomics can deeply affect the desired interaction. Here we propose a mechanism (in the form of eight questions) that support the design by defining the boundaries of the task, orienting the hardware (electro-mechanics) and ergonomics of the design space for various sub-tasks and finally fitting the different components of the hardware and physical-ergonomics of the artefact to provide a component level fitness which will delineate the final tangible interfaces. We further evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of our approach by quantitative user evaluation

A Programming Library for Creating Tangible User Interfaces

Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) bring digital interfaces to the real world by using specific devices to achieve a task. They can be more intuitive, allowing the user to take advantage of a computer tool which is associated to the real world. One problem is that creating a TUI for each piece of software is expensive. For instance, devices such as the mouse, keyboard or touchscreen have become more popular. Indeed, it is cheaper to adapt the users to the interface than creating an adequate interface for each program. We present VirtuaOM, a library which allows creating low cost interfaces where the users can communicate with an application in a tangible manner. Additionally, an application using this library can allow several users to communicate collaboratively among them and with the system within the interaction space. In order to build our library, we combined the Design Thinking and Software Engineering methodologies. We tested VirtuaOM creating an interaction space inspired in the Sensetable device developed by Patten [9] that permits programmers to create applications where the system can track users and tangible wireless objects in a tabletop surface, but we moved the interaction area from a table to the floor to increase it and to give users the freedom to move through it. This made it easier for multiple users to interact with each other and with the system collaboratively.


Educational games based on distributed and tangible user interfaces to stimulate cognitive abilities in children with ADHD

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience behavioural and learning problems at home and at school, as well as a lack of self-control in their lives. We can take advantage of the evolution of new technologies to develop applications with the aim of enhancing and stimulating the learning process of children with ADHD. In addition, these applications may help teachers and therapists to track the progress of the children. In this paper, we present a novel software system with new interaction mechanisms with the aim of improving memory and attention in children with ADHD. The system is based on a set of collaborative games developed in a novel multi-device environment applying the distributed user interface paradigm together with tangible user interfaces (TUIs). The interaction with the system is very intuitive and simple as children interact directly with known physical objects used as TUIs instead of using the mouse and the keyboard. In this way, children can play while moving around the room and interact with the games that are projected on the wall.

Design-based research on the use of a tangible user interface for geometry teaching in an inclusive classroom

This design-based research study was conducted to identify what importance of a tangible user interface (TUI) can add to teaching and learning. Over a 2-year period, teachers (n = 39) and students (n = 145) participated in the study. The identified problem for investigation was how students, including those with low fine motor skills and those with learning difficulties, develop geometry concepts combining cognitive and physical activity. A didactical application was designed during the first iteration and implemented in inclusive classrooms during the second and third iterations. Qualitative research methods were applied. A relationship between diverse students’ needs and geometry concept learning in relation to computer-supported learning by TUI was discovered. Two dimensions were identified: (1) TUIs support concept development, with physical and virtual representations based on dynamic geometry assisted by TUI; (2) TUI manipulative properties support students who have low motor skills and difficulties in their geometry learning as well as in their inclusion in classroom activities. The study outcomes contributed to the design process of the TUI didactical application and its implementation in inclusive classrooms, and to the body of knowledge in teaching and learning geometry concepts applied for computer-assisted learning environments supported by TUI.

An integrated way of using a tangible user interface in a classroom

Despite many years of research in CSCL, computers are still scarcely used in classrooms today. One reason for this is that the constraints of the classroom environment are neglected by designers. In this contribution, we present a CSCL environment designed for a classroom usage from the start. The system, called TapaCarp, is based on a tangible user interface (TUI) and was designed to help train carpenter apprentices. A previous study (Cuendet and Dillenbourg 2013) showed that the tangible nature of TapaCarp helped integrate it in the classroom environment, but that this did not guarantee a meaningful learning activity. In this article, we describe the process that led us to design a new learning classroom activity for the particular context of dual carpentry apprenticeships. One innovative aspect of the activity is that TapaCarp is used only for a small part of it. This contrasts with the mainstream CSCL approach that assumes that the system must be used from beginning to end of the activity. This new activity was used in a classroom study with 3 classes of carpenter apprentices over two days for each class. Despite its many steps, the activity proved usable and fostered many connections to the workplace, which was one of its main purposes. The teacher and the students were positive and showed high engagement in the activity. The learning gain results were mixed: the performance of the students improved from day 1 to day 2, but the learning gain measured with a pre-test/post-test mechanism did not show any significant difference compared to that of a control group.

Emerging frameworks for tangible user interfaces

We present steps toward a conceptual framework for tangible user interfaces. We introduce the MCRpd interaction model for tangible interfaces, which relates the role of physical and digital representations, physical control, and underlying digital models. This model serves as a foundation for identifying and discussing several key characteristics of tangible user interfaces. We identify a number of systems exhibiting these characteristics, and situate these within 12 application domains. Finally, we discuss tangible interfaces in the context of related research themes, both within and outside of the human-computer interaction domain.