Monday, January 19, 2009

Touch Screen Interaction in Public Spaces: Room for Improvement if "Every Surface is to be a Computer"!

With Win7's "multi-touch" capabilities, Bill Gate's statement that every surface will be a computer might come true, but from what I can see, we have a long way to go before we get it right!

One of the concerns I have about "touch" screen interaction in public spaces is that not much thought is given to the environmental factors surrounding the system. The system that is tested for the first time after installation might work just fine, but not when it is put to use under a variety of conditions or situations.

(I've recycled a few of these from previous posts.)

Touch Screen Kiosk/Display in Upscale Shopping Area, St. Thomas(?)

I came across this system when I was walking around in St. Thomas with my husband. I wasn't sure what to make of it. There wasn't anything on the large display, and I couldn't tell from a short distance if the two smaller displays were active. I noticed that the display had an awning of sorts, so the fact that the display would be used in a sunny location had been considered. Unfortunately, the awning didn't solve this problem, as you can see from the pictures below:


As we approached the display, it was almost impossible to see what was on the screen. In fact, we weren't sure what the display was all about. It looked like something you'd see at an airport check-in, not in a lush tropical setting.

Below is a shot of my husband, trying to see what is on the screen. This photo shows exactly what the screen looked like at the time:

The next picture tells it all. You can see that there is some sort of alphabet on the right side of the screen, but the reflection of my husband is easier to see. We couldn't figure this one out.

The following clip demonstrates how environmental concerns, such as wind and "sideways" rain, can make an interactive display at a shopping center difficult to use. During this clip, you can hear me muttering about the difficulties I had interacting with the information on the touch-screen display. It is possible that the system wasn't working well because of the exposure to the elements.


You can see that the navigation system was confusing. At the end, the entire screen turned red, and I gave up.

The next video-clip is of a touch-screen map at the Cleveland Clinic hospital. I was with my elderly aunt and my sister, and we were trying to figure out how to get to a restaurant. We never found it.

Although the screen was easy to see, the application was... crazy!

In my opinion, an interactive wayfinding application should run on a larger display and support two or more people, since many hospital visitors often run in pairs or small groups.

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