Terça-feira, 27 de Outubro de 2009

So, after discussing with my colleague about wether we should write our dissertations & blog posts in English, we've estabilished that for developing purposes it would be better for our posts to be written in english, altough my dissertation itself will be written in portuguese. If all goes well, then after everything is done I might do a paper (in english) about the project. For now, don't mind a few typos.


Ambient Displays: Design Principles

The problem


Taking in mind the concept of "information everywhere" that public interactive displays is all about, it's essential to define the parameters of data transmission to the user within this context. This means that the kind of information the user can retrieve from the system shouldn't be too sensitive, at least when concerning the user's privacy. The users should be able to interact with the public display in a none intrusive manner, but this becomes somewhat of a challenge when the display is large enough for passers-by to take a peek.

Also, studies have shown that in these type of interaction, users may feel pressured by whoever is behind them waiting to use the system, kind of like what happens nowadays with ATM machines (I know I do). So it's imperative that the interface is fluid and straight forward enough when accessing information.


The solution


With this in mind, I've been searching for a set of principles to correctly design a proper interaction model for public displays. Daniel Vogel and Ravin Balakrishnan wrote a few rules based on a case study of their prototype, and they are easily adaptable to any kind of public display interaction point. These are obviously not a solution per se, but they represent an excellent starting point to avoid any future interactive problems.


I've quickly made a summary of these principles.


The principles

Calm Aesthetics: the ambient display should be placed within the context of it's purpose, in order to become part of the environment. Thus, the asthetics of the display itself should suit the kind of interaction and state changes experienced by the user: an overly reactive display may be too distracting, but a static one may seem overly unresponsive.


Comprehension: the information within the display must be comprehensible as quickly as possible, no matter how it is displayed. This doesn't mean immediate understanding, but users should learn how to browse that information through subtle and quick actions.


Notification: the display should provide notifications to users and passers-by in a non-intrusive manner, but perceptable enough to provide decent feedback. The authors refer something called "user interruptibility tolerance" which must be measured in order not to be disrupted.


Immediate Usability: prior training should not be required to use the system. There isn't much margin to learn how to effectively manipulate a public interaction display, so learning by exploration should be encouraged with proper display techniques and responses.


Combining Public and Personal Information: Instead of showing exclusively public information, users should be allowed, but not forced to, to access some of their personal information through the system. But not all kinds of personal information should be displayed in public, so only "harmless" information should be viewable.


Privacy: Even harmless information can often be considered as private, so users should have the ability to hide this information quickly and at any time. The interface itself should be rendered in a discrete way to avoid any kind of voyeuristic atention.




All of these principles must be taken into account when designing our display system, so it should be a tough challenge along with the design of the hardware arquitecture itself. Since we're not sure about how the system will be display to users, and how large it will be, we need to define those variables in order to play a little bit with these principles.




Vogel, D., & Balakrishnan, R. (2004). Interactive Public Ambient Displays: Transitioning from Implicit to Explicit, Public to Personal, Interaction with Multiple Users. 10.

1 comment:
De Luis Pedro a 27 de Outubro de 2009 às 15:06
Good synthesis effort Ricardo. I would stress the usability and privacy issues as the most important ones when designing it.
Go for it :)

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Ricardo Magalhães, taking a master's degree in Multimedia Communication (08-10)
PontoUA: Interaction and Interface in a Public Interactive System, oriented by Prof. Luis Pedro
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