Iterating on Our Sphere Prototype – TIDESS Museum Deployment

As part of our ongoing studies with the PufferSphere spherical interface, the TIDESS team has decided to create a prototype that implements many of the same features present in our tabletop prototype, which we’ve discussed previously. This will allow us to directly compare the two platforms and see how the spherical nature of the interface affects how users interact with and learn from the device.

One of the primary additions to the prototype that we had to build is the creation of a new gesture library. A gesture library is a set of gestures that our sphere will recognize, and which will trigger relevant actions. Our tabletop prototype was developed using the built-in GestureWorks gesture library to allow users to manipulate objects in the prototype. However, the Puffersphere PufferPrime API does not currently have an existing gesture library for us to use. This means that, in its default state, the sphere does not allow for objects to be dragged and does not support other basic gestures (zooming, swiping, long-tap). These gestures were all supported by the tabletop form of the prototype, so we chose these as the main four gestures for our gesture library.

To support the same set of gestures available on the tabletop, we defined each gesture in the following way:
• Drag – user moves an object while maintaining contact the entire time
• Swipe – user moves an object, and after they release contact the object continues to move
• Zoom – user enlarges an area by pinching outwards (from two contact points)
• Long-Tap – user holds their finger(s) in one place for an extended period

To create this gesture library, we looked at existing gesture libraries for flatscreen interfaces (including the one we used for our tabletop prototype) and determined how we can implement our own versions of these gestures on the spherical display. For example, to implement the long-tap gesture, we added a timer to determine how long a user had kept their finger in one area and a radius to define this area. If the timer reached a certain threshold and the user had not moved their finger outside the radius, then we considered that a long-tap.

We tested this prototype at the Florida Museum of Natural History as a part of an unstructured study, where we recorded people naturally interacting with the sphere. The sphere was deployed for a week, during which we recorded participants’ interactions with the sphere through audio, video, and touch logs.

As a third-year undergraduate at the University of Florida, I have been able to work with many new and innovative technologies during my involvement on the TIDESS project, such as the PufferSphere spherical display. Developing applications for the sphere has allowed me to further improve my programming skills, especially my ability to work in a large, existing codebase. When we analyze the data, I look forward to seeing how users interacted with the prototype that we developed!