Field Study on Multitouch Tables at Vancouver Aquarium

Over on the Open Exhibits website, Jeff Heywood of Vancouver Aquarium has just shared a comprehensive field study on two multitouch tables in the Canada’s Arctic gallery space. The study was developed by The InnoVis Group, Interactions Lab at the University of Calgary.

Vancouver Aquarium Arctic Canada Gallery

We built the tables and worked with Vancouver Aquarium back in the summer of 2009 to create the software. The report looks at the “general experience of the digital tables”, including the form factor, and then it takes a closer look at the applications.

The study shows, as Jeff points out in his post, that “not everything was a success with the tables, but they are, overall, successful.”  Considering the emergent nature of these types of exhibits, we were pleased to see that the study was generally very positive.

Still, some things didn’t work as well we would have liked. There were significant usability issues with the early version of the Collection Viewer.  I’m happy to report that many of the issues cited in the report have been fixed in the newer version of the Collection Viewer that is available on the Open Exhibits site.  We built in the ability to easily change some of the design parameters via XML. For example, button size and spacing can be modified by changing the XML. In addition, we remapped many of the gestures, so that the Collection Viewer objects respond better to visitor interaction. Still, some issues remain and we’ll be taking a closer look at this report and making additional changes.

Studies like this are incredibly valuable (and far too rare in the field).  As designers and developers, we can only learn so much through testing and observation in the studio.  The museum (or aquarium) setting and the sheer number and range of different visitors provides us with a new picture of the exhibit.  You can download and read the full report on the Open Exhibits website, Interactive Tables at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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