Designing for Curiosity in a SciFi Touch Table Application
In his Master's project, a student in Interaction Design designed an application aimed at inducing curiosity. This post summarizes his work and discusses the resulting touch table application.
How to induce curiosity about Science Fiction in a touch table application? This was one of the questions tackled by Yaron Okun in his Master’s project, supervised by Alma Culén at the UiO Department of Informatics.
Yaron spent the previous months at the Science Library, designing an application for the Science Fiction collection of the library.
After a number of iterations of design, prototyping and user testing, Yaron arrived at the application depicted in Figure 1 and 2. It contains Science Fiction books (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey), authors (e.g. Isaac Asimov), keywords (e.g. androids), movies (e.g. Blade Runner), and so forth.
By touching elements within the highly visual user interface, a user can embark on a journey through the world of Science Fiction, and learn more about various topics. Moreover, a user can elect to be “surprised”, by clicking on the green button in the middle of the interface.
The 'Surprise' button
In his application, Yaron included and tested three types of surprises: engaging movie and book quotes, related videos, and games. These all had implicit and explicit connections with a topic selected in the application. For instance, a surprise related to the book "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott is a two-dimensional physics-based game, for the topic "Mathematics" it is a math game, and clicking "Surprise" within the topic "Cybernetics" leads to a video of a related TED talk. There may be multiple surprises for one element, in which case a subsequent press on the surprise button will lead to another surprise.
In the final weeks of preparing his Master’s thesis, Yaron evaluated the resulting application in a user study with 6 test participants. Via this study, he gained more insights into the usefulness of the application in practice. His study showed, for instance, that the first interactions were quite important: a user disappointed with the surprise did not touch the button again, but others had more positive experiences and chose to be "surprised" more often.
After this user study, the touch table with the application was left unattended for three weeks in the Science Fiction area of the library. Via the analytics module of the application, we found that more than a hundred persons used the application during these weeks. The majority of them tried out the “surprise” button. We will take a further look at the usage statistics in a future news article, and also discuss the findings from Yaron's Master's thesis in more detail.
The road ahead
After creating and evaluating the application, the lessons learned during Yaron's explorations will be incorporated into a new version of the SciFi exploration application. The first step is to extend the number of topics and items in the application. This is followed by further development and improvement of the interface, based on found usability issues.
All in all, our first experiences with this application have been quite positive, with engaged users exploring new depths of the Science Fiction collection.
The SciFi Explorer application was designed and evaluated by Yaron Okun; the main application development was performed by Kyrre Traavik Laberg at the Science Library. Read more about our other touch table projects.