I have finished implementing the animations required to trigger particular form fields where users can type to query data from Europeana. When the fiducial object is placed, it triggers the animations and focuses on that particular form. There is a wide range of combinations that users can perform that need to align to Europeana’s API console. While the physical objects can assist with the logic of the query, the affordances of the objects can assist the input of the data. At this stage I have designed all the data objects for the queries required to test my hypothesis and identify particular strengths and weaknesses of the interface and objects. These query objects are:
Start / End
image, text, audio, video, 3d
These data elements allow users to produce a wide range of complex questions by using the tangible tools.
Besides producing tools for users to perform the queries, some tools have been designed to perform navigation actions such as scrolling results, clear, and perform the query. This means that the only keyboard action will be used to input text on the fiducial objects. Here is an video of the interface.
The next stage will be to mount and adjust the interface in the interactive table and perform the final usability and UX tests.
Here is the code to join the URLs. Special thanks to @WillFyson
In order for users to identify when the active object (field) is active, I have decided to animate the placeholder background. For this I have used JQuery and CSS3 to animate them. Therefore, if the fiducial enters, it triggers the animation, if it’s updated, it focuses on the particular field so users do not have to click. Arguably, under this approach, users only have to worry about linking the things they are looking for and the name of the object that they are looking for. Once the query has been formed, it retrieves the data in JSON, and it is further visualised by using a JQuery UI list element. The video below shows how the animations work once the object is placed on the camera range and how objects are retrieved through Europeana’s API and visualised on the website.
Querying With Tangible User Interfaces. A User Centred Design Experiment.
I have been investigating how users ask question to navigate and explore content (data) of museums and other Cultural Heritage (CH) organisations. This might seem more straightforward when a specific museum collection has been set up. Nevertheless, when integrating data from the different CH organisations, the way people see the content and how it’s hosted might be different. Users will approach libraries in a different way they approach museums. Under Europeana, many of these organisations are integrated in the Europeana Data Model (EDM). This way we can describe people (creators), places, dates, date periods, objects and many other descriptors to produce more accurate answers. Despite all the effort and the sturdiness and accessibility of the data, it is still very complex not only to t to query it, but is also difficult to grasp the complexity and extent of the knowledge encompassed under it.
As mentioned above, Europeana as an organisation has integrated into a single space in the data model. Therefore the data and information is there. Despite this, it can be argued that there is not yet an optimal tool to produce knowledge from it. My research aims to find out most optimal ways to engage with such information so users can produce knowledge from it. In previous post and academic publications, I have discussed the different approaches that can be taken to develop such engagement tools thus arguing for the use of Tangible User Interfaces as a possible solution. Therefore, to understand user needs, I devised a User Centred Design experiment where I designed over 50 different tools (icons) that users potentially require to ask questions to a data repository such as Europeana’s.
I realised that this produces the same amount of complexity as if working with a common Graphical User Interface (GUI). For this reason the study aimed to identify particular personas based on their digital generation, digital skill, and cultural heritage background and web tools knowledge among others. It is important to keep in mind that these icons represented TUIO actions, query actions and logic operators as well, that is the reason of performing such experiment, to reduce such complexity.
Participants were asked to find particular artefacts such as: Picassos (things) that were not made by Picasso, or XVII Century objects from France. These questions might seem simple but arguably, there is a certain level of complexity that might hinder engagement with the content when querying for those results. These question can be asked in through Europeana’s API’s access or through the SPARQL Endpoint. But many users will find complicated to query through those particular approaches and even more complicated to learn all the particular query syntax to perform the query. Moreover, the brain has to figure out the logic complexity on top of the syntax and interaction processes. Tangible Interaction can help segmenting those thinking processes and facilitate querying with a particular syntax.
After performing the statistical analysis, the experiment showed most meaningful approaches that users followed ant their experiences when taking part in the experiment. This provided me with the information of what artefacts (tools), logic procedures and particular user requirements that needed to be implemented in the Tangible Interface to query cultural heritage data.
During the last weeks I have started developing what I would like to call DFPs short for dynamic-fiducial-pyfos. With the help of some friends I have now a basic skeleton to extend my interactive experiments. Here is a video of the result:
Tangible Interaction and Pyfos
After I submitted my upgrade draft, I realised that I was going to encounter some issues when working with pyfos when using them as part of the fiducials for the TUIO system. Since users have to combine different concepts (e.g. Roman + pottery or painter + 1800) this will result in a numerous amount of pyfos. The interface already has several objects that can not be removed since they are part of the basic interactions such as: map navigation, box dragging, etc… Therefore, I decided to explore a little bit further. I need to find a way to extend the capabilities of pyfos.
Pyfos have three main states: token, constraint and token+constraint. The TAC (Token and Constraints) paradigm in Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) offers a set of constructs of how these objects react. Nevertheless, it can be argued that technology can offer pyfos that can self adapt or expand the constraints that bound them. This due to the fact that physical objects such as pyfos cannot morph or change according to user needs.
Other researchers are exploring how these TAC approaches can be expanded. It is this search that directed me to explore with mini-displays and sensors. Since I had worked with some Internet of Things and Arduino, I thought of designing some display that detected two different RFIDs to make the combinations and display a specific result. That result display presents the final combination in a form of fiducial so the TUIO interface can detect it. This way, users can pre-design a concept combination thus integrating it in a final dynamic-fiducial-pyfo (DFP) that encompasses that prior combination. Most importantly, DFPs can also produce other display results on the table-top without clustering tools or options.
There are some alternatives to produce DFPs out there. Many of them require to be built from scratch, but there are some products that can be adapted to our needs without having to fiddle or hack any of the electronics. Although there is a wide variety of tools out there, these are the most ‘approachable’ tools that I encountered.
Since I had worked with Arduino and Internet of Things before, I thought of building a mini-display with either RFID or any other type of sensor. I found the Educubesproject that presented a good opportunity to start developing for this idea. This might also prove to be beneficial since there are some TFT mini-displays that support touchscreen actions as well.
Although this presented a good opportunity to develop, I needed to start producing tools that could work straight away instead of focusing on the electronics. Moreover I thought that the size of the electronics is still quite big for them to be used on the prototype. But it was mainly the issue of working with a wide range of electronics and hacking them so they can do what I wanted.
After searching I encountered Sifteo Cubes. These cubes already provide a very nice presentation that encompasses a wide range of electronics and a mini-display. Moreover these cubes can be programmed through an SDK provided by the same company. I decided to jump ahead and ordered a second generation Sifteo Cubes.
My surprise was at the moment of using the SDK. I was not the first user to be put down by its complexity. The Sifteo SDK works with C++ with other command tools to run installations and device management. Moreover, through the forums I encountered that the released SDK contained some bugs, which made some of the tutorials not to work.
Nevertheless, I encountered some compiled SDK in GitHub such as Investio and Sifteo Blickets. They provided me with some hints into how to actually start using and managing the cubes. I still had to learn how to program what I needed. So I started first learning how to make interactions. There is a base of few interactions that are supported by the sensors in the cube that include: tilt, pair, shake and press.
Although it seems quite nice in pictures, the task was not so simple. Since I do not come from a programming background, working with C++ was a huge challenge. First I did a tutorial on neighbouring. Here is the video:
A few days after, I started working with other actions such as tilt and press. It is relevant to mention that I worked using the examples that came with the SDK so, the interactions were pretty much pre-designed and I was just learning a few basic commands that might be used. Here is a video of this stage.
The problem started when working with my specific requirements. I needed an array of options per cube that could be combined between them. This so the final combinations could be applied in the Europeana TUIO system. Using C++ this was not so straightforward. In a nutshell, this is what I needed to create:
It took me a lot of time and effort to find a way to program this interaction. I could program something like this with other languages but not with C++. Therefore I asked for some help to develop this. Kevin Lesur from One Life Remains gave me a hand with this. So this is was the basic skeleton built for the interactions:
Two cubes are required to make the combination through neighbouring. When they are combined a third cube presents its combination that will eventually show a fiducial making it a DFP. To navigate between the cubes options, users can tilt the cubes in either direction.
This way I am hoping to now carry on and go back to the TUIO experiments and see how these DFPs work on the tabletop system.
Updates on the Interface
When users make queries, they will be retrieving vast sets of information. This will prove to be a complex task. For this reason, I need to find a way on how they can be able to sort such content. One of the ways that I have envisioned is by providing an area where results can be sorted and then manipulated by assigning them to a fiducial item. Users should be able to offload that information thus simplifying the process.
The dropboxwill serve the function of holding the result that the user wants to select. When he or she puts it back into the original results panel, the item will be highlighted in a different colour, otherwise the user can clear the result and remove the item from the interface. By highlighting the returned item, users can be able to identify the ones that they found particularly relevant.
The returned element has a heart icon that shows that the element was kept from the drop box.The box on the other hand just contains a lightbulb showing that it is highlighted. Moreover, I have also added clear buttons so users can be able to remove unselected elements from the specific panel.
I should be able to create a fiducial with a screen, or perhaps a framewhere the visual can be contained. When the user drags the frame, the drop boxmoves along with it. The physical object should allow users to literally grasp specific datasets so they can be compared or used for further queries.
JQuery and JQuery UI
There is a huge potential that JQuery has to offer to these type of interfaces. The challenge will be on transforming common graphic user interface tools into the physical tools. My previous post indicates some of the many possibilities of making the queries and navigating once the result has been made. This dropbox should be able to help the querying process along with the data navigation.
Here is a video of the table top system still using TUIO as the interactivity connection.
I have been working with TUIO for the main interface in between Europeana’s API and a user. One of my main research questions is how to can users make questions through tangible interfaces. In this case, users should be able to make questions about cultural heritage content from different organisations. In this case users can be to access data from over 30 million metadata records that include books, photos, art, audio and artefacts among others. On one hand having access to all this content may benefit users since they will have vast sets of information to answer their questions. On the other they might get lost with all the data that is available for them.
When working with vast sets of information, users can benefit by dissecting specific items of the information that they are looking for. Nevertheless, this process might prove difficult might require a lot of concentration. By offloading this mental process onto physical objects, users might pace their thinking process and assist themselves by using the physical objects as an aid.
My intention is to produce such objects that can help users solving questions and finding information from a data portal such as Europeana. For this I have created a starting skeleton of essential objects that can then be transformed to queries on the API.
Who – What
Some of the most essential queries might include who or what are looking for. These will be represented individually.
query = who:"string"
query = what:"string"
By positioning the fiducials on top of a map, users can be able to add geoCoordinates on to the query. This can be used by adding two values either by tapping or by using two fiducials.
Countries are different to geoLocation. Countries are defined by name that are part of a human perception and not a geographic one. This way this fiducial will detect it’s x and y position and add the name of the closest place to the query. There will be several of these fiducials for adding more places to the query.
query = COUNTRY:string
Another value that can be added to the query are the dates for the time period that you want to constrain the data to. Time being abstract, its very difficult to represent and manipulate. Europeana provides a starting year and an ending year. For this reason this will be using two ‘dials’ to forward or rewind starting or ending year.
query = YEAR: 0000 TO 0000
Basic boolean operations can be added to the query to produce a more specific question. Operations such as AND, NOT and OR can be used. This fiducial has to be used in addition of the fiducials previously mentioned otherwise there will be no values to compare to.
This marker commonly will require one of the three options. Nevertheless, users might benefit by looking at all the options to analyse what they are asking.
query = where:(Paris NOT France)
To put everything together, users might benefit of structuring their thoughts on a template where they can finalise their sentence or question. This does not mean that they must place artefacts in such order but is merely a starting point to give an approach of how they might structure questions.
There is still a wide variety of query options that can be added, but this is the essential information that users will require to input at a specific time in order to retrieve meaningful results.
The Google Maps API allows users to populate data on maps powered by Google. Google provides an API where a wide variety of settings and technology implementations can be used.
This certainly brings a huge potential when using museum and archaeology data. For example Europeana provides latitude and longitude coordinates as part of their data model. In order for me to use this, I started playing with some visualisation tools in gMaps.
Styling the Map
The first thing I had to learn was to apply styles to the map. This is quite straightforward, especially using a styler assistant such as theGoogle Maps Style Wizard. This will generate the JSon so you can just apply it on your map. Moreover, there are repositories where the community deposits their own designs and colour schemes so you can just implement them on your map. Snazzy Maps is a good place to start.
I also had to learn how to place markers and icons on the map. For this, instead of using the classic gMaps marker, I generated my own set of 8bit icons. I used Illustrator and exported them as .png format.
Use Some GeoData
Finally I started using some geoData and placing the markers in the map. For this I used a map that contained information about textile designers of indigenous Mayan communities from Chiapas. I created arrays of info and coordinates according to their ethnic group.
Each one of the arrays contain each ethnic group. The rest was just repeating the same process until I had them all organised into colour-groups.