The effects of tactile feedback and movement alteration on interaction and awareness with digital embodiments
Collaborative tabletop systems can employ direct touch, where people's real arms and hands manipulate objects, or indirect input, where people are represented on the table with digital embodiments. The input type and the resulting embodiment dramatically influence tabletop interaction: in particular, the touch avoidance that naturally governs people's touching and crossing behavior with physical arms is lost with digital embodiments. One result of this loss is that people are less aware of each others' arms, and less able to coordinate actions and protect personal territories. To determine whether there are strategies that can influence group interaction on shared digital tabletops, we studied augmented digital arm embodiments that provide tactile feedback or movement alterations when people touched or crossed arms. The study showed that both augmentation types changed people's behavior (people crossed less than half as often) and also changed their perception (people felt more aware of the other person's arm, and felt more awkward when touching). This work shows how groupware designers can influence people's interaction, awareness, and coordination abilities when physical constraints are absent.