MTAGIC UI Guideline App now available for download!

One of our important missions as researchers is dissemination. We have released a new open-source app to help developers implement the design recommendations we included in our research papers. These design recommendations were based on findings from our studies on how children and adults use touch and gesture interaction differently. We developed recommendations to help increase the success of children interacting with mobile touchscreen devices. Check out screenshots, a video demo, and the source code itself for the app here.

If you use this app in your own apps or in your research, we want to hear about it! Drop us a line or post a comment here! Of course, citations to the design recommendations we make in our papers are always welcome as well.

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IDC 2013 short paper accepted!

In addition to the full paper we already announced, a second piece of the MTAGIC project will be presented as a poster at the Interaction Design and Children (IDC) 2013 conference coming up this month in New York City! This poster paper was led by UMBC Human-Centered Computing (HCC) PhD student Robin Brewer. Robin investigated ways of motivating young children (ages 5 to 7 years old) to complete activities during empirical studies. Her initial explorations showed that this age group found the tasks boring and tedious, even though they had been done by older kids and adults without a problem. ‘Gamifying’ the tasks by adding a points-based reward structure along with physical prizes encouraged the kids to enthusiastically complete the activities. We recommend considering such gamification components for empirical studies with this age group. The abstract:

In this paper, we describe the challenges we encountered and solutions we developed while collecting mobile touch and gesture interaction data in laboratory conditions from children ages 5 to 7 years old. We identify several challenges of conducting empirical studies with young children, including study length, motivation, and environment. We then propose and validate techniques for designing study protocols for this age group, focusing on the use of gamification components to better engage children in laboratory studies. The use of gamification increased our study task completion rates from 73% to 97%. This research contributes a better understanding of how to design study protocols for young children when lab studies are needed or preferred. Research with younger age groups alongside older children, adults, and special populations can lead to more sound guidelines for universal usability of mobile applications.

For more details, see the paper. Come check out our poster if you’ll be at the conference!

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Interaction Design and Children 2013 paper accepted!

We are pleased to announce that a paper on MTAGIC has been accepted to the Interaction Design and Children (IDC) conference! Over the past year, we’ve been investigating differences in how children and adults make gestures and touch targets on mobile touchscreen devices. We have designed our study tasks to reflect the designs of existing apps on the market today, and this paper presents our recent work on understanding the impact of visual feedback on gesture interaction for kids. Read the abstract:

Surface gesture interaction styles used on modern mobile touchscreen devices are often dependent on the platform and application. Some applications show a visual trace of gesture input as it is made by the user, whereas others do not.  Little work has been done examining the usability of visual feedback for surface gestures, especially for children. In this paper, we present results from an empirical study conducted with children, teens, and adults to explore characteristics of  gesture interaction with and without visual feedback. We find that the gestures generated with and without visual feedback by users of different ages diverge significantly in ways that make them difficult to interpret. In addition, users prefer to see visual feedback. Based on these findings, we present several design recommendations for new surface gesture interfaces for children, teens, and adults on mobile touchscreen devices. In general, we recommend providing visual feedback, especially for children, wherever possible.

As usual, you can find the camera-ready version of this paper here. If you will be at IDC and are interested in touch and gesture interaction for children, come find a MTAGIC team member!

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Special Issue of JPUC to appear with article on MTAGIC project!

We are pleased to announce that an upcoming special issue of the Springer Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (JPUC) on Educational Interfaces, Software, and Technology (EIST) will include an article on MTAGIC! The article is titled “Designing Smarter Touch-Based Interfaces for Educational Contexts” and is an extension of our CHI 2012 EIST workshop paper. We report our foundational studies investigating children’s touch and gesture input patterns, and how they differ from adults, with some discussion of how these findings will impact the design and development of educational apps for touchscreen devices. Here is the abstract:

In next-generation classrooms and educational environments, interactive technologies such as surface computing, natural gesture interfaces, and mobile devices will enable new means of motivating and engaging students in active learning. Our foundational studies provide a corpus of over 10,000 touch interactions and nearly 7,000 gestures collected from nearly 70 adults and children ages 7 years old and up,  that can help us understand the characteristics of children’s interactions in these modalities and how they differ from adults. Based on these data, we identify key design and implementation challenges of supporting children’s touch and gesture interactions, and we suggest ways to address them. For example, we find children have more trouble successfully acquiring onscreen targets and having their gestures recognized than do adults, especially the youngest age group (7 to 10 years old). The contributions of this work provide a foundation that enables touch-based interactive educational apps that increase student success.

If you’re interested, you can check out the camera-ready version; we’ll update this post when the special issue is officially published.

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CHI 2013 Mobile Accessibility workshop paper accepted!

The MTAGIC project will be appearing at another CHI 2013 workshop! This one is the Mobile Accessibility workshop, which is focusing on how to improve the accessibility of mobile devices to users with different abilities and to users in different contexts. We are presenting our vision of how the work we’ve been doing on MTAGIC will lead to universally accessible mobile touchscreen interaction, by highlighting some of the technical extensions we believe our work points to. For more information, check out our camera-ready paper; here is the abstract:

As the use of mobile devices by non-typical users increases, so does the need for platforms that can support the unique ways in which these special users engage with them. We posit that, by developing an understanding of patterns in input behaviors for different user groups, we can design and develop interactions that support such non-typical users. We prove this technique with children: we present findings from two empirical studies showing how interaction patterns differ among younger children, older children, and adults. These findings point to a model of how to develop touch-based interactive technologies that can adapt to users of different ages or abilities. Such adaptations will serve to better support natural interactions by user populations with distinctive needs.

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CHI 2013 RepliCHI workshop paper accepted!

We are happy to note that we will be presenting findings from the MTAGIC project at the RepliCHI workshop, which is focusing on what role replication studies can play in the HCI literature, at the upcoming CHI 2013 conference in Paris, France! We are presenting a series of empirical studies that we have run with different age groups over the past 18 months, essentially replicating a similar methodology, and we will describe how our methodology has had to be adapted to work with very young children. This will be a two-day workshop. For more information, check out the camera-ready version of our paper; here is the abstract for a quick overview:

In this paper, we discuss the challenges of conducting a direct replication of a series of mobile device usability studies that were originally conducted with adults and older children (ages 7 to 17). The original studies were designed to investigate differences in how adults and children use mobile devices to touch targets and create surface gestures. In this paper, we report on a replication we conducted with young children (ages 5 to 7). We discuss several methodological changes that were needed to elicit the same quality of data from the replication with young children as had been obtained from the older children and adults. The insights we present are relevant to the extension of empirical studies in HCI in general to younger children.

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Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2012 paper accepted!

We are happy to announce that our paper “Interaction and Recognition Challenges in Interpreting Children’s Touch and Gesture Input on Mobile Devices” has been accepted to the Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2012 conference! It continues our work on investigating differences in how children and adults use mobile touchscreen devices. Here is the abstract:

As mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone become increasingly commonplace, for many users touchscreen interactions are quickly overtaking other interaction methods in terms of frequency and experience. However, most of these devices have been designed for the general, typical user. Trends indicate that children are using these devices (either their parents’ or their own) for entertainment or learning activities. Previous work has found key differences in how children use touch and surface gesture interaction modalities vs. adults. In this paper, we specifically examine the impact of these differences in terms of automatically and reliably understanding what kids meant to do. We present a study of children and adults performing touch and surface gesture interaction tasks on mobile devices. We identify challenges related to (a) intentional and unintentional touches outside of onscreen targets and (b) recognition of drawn gestures, that both indicate a need to design tailored interaction for children to accommodate and overcome these challenges.

Here is the camera-ready version of the paper.

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MTAGIC now funded by the NSF!

We are excited to announce that the MTAGIC project has recently become funded under an NSF Human-Centered Computing grant (under IIS Core Programs). The grant, which officially began September 1st, is titled “Mobile Gesture Interaction for Kids: Sensing, Recognition, and Error Recovery“. It will fund research over 3 years to continue our investigation of differences in how children (ages 5-13) and adults use mobile touchscreen interactions (e.g., touch and gesture), as well as to design and develop new intelligent user interfaces and interactions to better support kids’ use of touchscreens based on our investigations. Keep an eye here on the site for updates on our research!

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Grace Hopper ‘New Investigator’ submission accepted!

Quincy and Lisa have had a ‘New Investigatory’ category submission accepted to the 2012 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference! Our presentation will be called “Understanding How Children Use Touchscreens” and will discuss our work so far on the MTAGIC project aiming to investigate differences in the ways that children use touch and gesture interactions differently than adults do, especially on mobile devices. Here is the abstract:

An interaction revolution has occurred since the release of the iPhone in 2007. Touchscreen interactions are quickly replacing traditional interaction methods for users of all ages. Children are using touchscreen devices as tools for learning, entertainment and discovery, but these devices have not always been designed with kids in mind. We are exploring characteristics of how children use touchscreen devices, aiming to better support children and increase their success.

Look for our presentation at 9:30am on October 3rd!

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CHI EIST 2012 workshop paper accepted!

We are pleased to announce that our paper “Toward Comparing the Touchscreen Interaction Patterns of Kids and Adults” has been accepted at the CHI 2012 Educational Interfaces, Software, and Technology (EIST) workshop! Here is the abstract:

Touchscreen interactions are increasingly more commonplace with the mainstream adoption of devices like the iPad and iPhone. Kids are using their parents’ devices for entertainment, learning, and discovery, but the interactions have not always been designed with kids in mind. In this paper we discuss the results of our explorations of differences between children and adults on a dataset of touch- and gesture-based interactions. We find evidence for significant differences and discuss how these can be considered in design.

You may read the paper here.

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