A tangible music controller for enabling peripheral interactions.
Teamwork with Sark Xing, Ferdi Zwaan, and Ward de Groot.
Course: Design for Foc. and Per. Interaction. Feb. 2019 – Apr. 2019. TU/e
In this elective, our group designed a tangible music controller, named Topplr, which is designed specifically for people to perform simple interactions with their music streaming services while working behind the computer. As working behind a computer often requires much of people their attention (e.g., writing reports, reading papers, etc.), this interface intended to interact with music without being distracted from the work-related task itself. In this elective, we aimed to design interactions that would require a minimal amount of mental resources for Topplr. Thus, these interactions could be performed in the periphery of attention while keeping most mental resources available for the working task at hand to be completed in the center of attention.
The concept of Topplr was inspired by the ‘Roly-poly toy’, a tumbling toy that straightens itself every time you knock it over. The first iteration of Topplr was created to include the following interactions: skip a song by gently tumbling over Topplr, adjusting the volume by twisting Topplr either clock- or counterclockwise, and tapping the top of Topplr to play or pause the song. These interactions were specifically designed to be performed in the periphery of attention. To illustrate how the shift towards the center of attention could be made, an additional interaction was envisioned; by tumbling down Topplr and hold it down for a few seconds, a screen activates that enables users to have more precise control over the music (i.e. changing genres, playlists, and/or albums).
The designed interactions of Topplr
Wizard of Oz Study
To evaluate whether the designed interactions (the previous three) could be performed in the periphery of attention, a wizard of oz user study was conducted. In this study, participants were asked to complete an English reading test while at the same time interact with the Topplr by following the instructions on the test paper. During this process, both qualitative and quantitative results were gathered to evaluate the peripheral qualities of our design.
Setup of the user study
Our quantitative data showed that regarding Topplr, skipping a song was considered to require the least mental effort (μ = 21.0; σ = 13.4). This action required almost the same mental effort as flipping the paper (μ = 20.2; σ = 19.7). The participants also expressed that pressing the top button required most of their mental effort, with respect to Topplr (play music: μ = 35.3; σ = 24.9, pause music: μ = 30.0; σ = 17.6). As we interpreted from the video recordings and interviews, it was hard for some participants to locate the small button of our initial design in the periphery. In comparison, participants could easily locate the interface in their periphery of attention: “You know where the interface is located roughly, not exactly, so you simply feel where it is and perform the action.” Based on these results, adjustments were made to the design. We changed the interaction of pressing the top button of the design into squeezing the design as a whole. We consider this action can be better performed in the user’s periphery of attention, as long as the user manages to locate the interface of Topplr as a whole.
The quantitative result shows the mental effort
to complete different tasks in this user study
The final design of Topplr with the entire top made squeezable to play/pause the song
This semester, I chose this elective with the purpose of better completing my research project on the same topic. Through Saskia’s explanation, literature reading, and some personal assignments, I gradually mastered the concepts of peripheral interaction and interaction-attention continuum. Also, together with the other three students, I completed the group assignment in the last four weeks, which gave me the chance to create the experience of peripheral interaction and evaluate it through a wizard of oz study. This process deepened my understandings of the concept, and also gave me the chance to take a try on skills like stimulated recall interview and semi-structured interview. Moreover, it was my first time to try the wizard of oz method to conduct user studies at a relatively preliminary stage of product design. This method worked well in this study, so maybe I could use it for other future studies. Unfortunately, due to the short course time, we only focus on the design of peripheral interactions. I hope that in my M12 research project or future projects, I could design other interactions (more towards focused interactions) together with the peripheral interactions, so that makes the interaction-attention continuum complete on one product.