Retrospective on the MTAGIC project’s 5 years of studies of children’s touchscreen interactions now published at IJHCS!

For five years, the INIT lab (and our past and present collaborators!) was engaged in an NSF-funded research project to study physical dimensions of children’s touchscreen interaction use, e.g., what happens when they try to acquire onscreen targets or make onscreen gestures. The project, called “Mobile Touch and Gesture Interaction for Children,” or “MTAGIC” (magic) for short, ended in August 2017. Recently, as PI of the project, I have published a retrospective article that synthesizes our findings across the six studies we ran for this project and identified elements that were consistent or varied across contexts, and the article is now available online at the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (IJHCS). The full article title is “Physical Dimensions of Children’s Touchscreen Interactions: Lessons from Five Years of Study on the MTAGIC Project,” and one part I am particularly keen to see addressed in future work extending our work are three open areas of research that I identify in Section 5: (1) children’s interaction with emerging technologies like bendable displays and spherical displays; (2) support for children with disabilities; and (3) children’s interactions in multiple simultaneous modalities like speech and gesture together. Here is the abstract of the paper:

Touchscreen interaction is nearly ubiquitous in today’s computing environments. Children have always been a special population of users for new interaction technology: significantly different from adults in their needs, expectations, and abilities, but rarely tailored to in new contexts and on new platforms. Studies of children’s touchscreen interaction have been conducted that focus on individual variables that may affect the interaction, but as yet no synthesis of studies replicating similar methodologies in different contexts has been presented. This paper reports the results across five years of focused study in one project aiming to characterize the differences between children’s and adults’ physical touchscreen interaction behaviors. Six studies were conducted with over 180 people (116 children) to understand how children touch targets and make onscreen gestures. A set of design recommendations that summarizes the findings across the six studies is presented for reference. This paper makes the entire set available for reference in one place and highlights where the findings are generalizable across platforms. These recommendations can inform the design of future touchscreen interfaces for children based on their physical capabilities. Also, this paper outlines the future challenges and open questions that remain for understanding child-computer interaction on touchscreens.

Download the preprint here, or check out the journal’s definitive version. For those interested in this space, the cumulative set of 24 design recommendations from the five years of the MTAGIC project are available for download here.

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