S+I Research Seminar – Timothy Merritt

Title: Human Activity Supported by Novel Interfaces

Abstract: In many activities, communication among people can be limited. Current interfaces can be mismatched or inadequate considering environmental factors, e.g. the fine control offered by a mouse may be unhelpful while walking around a room, flat touch screens compete for attention from the driver, etc. In this talk I discuss findings from my recent research that investigates new technologies to support human activities and social collaboration in challenging contexts. This involves the development and evaluation of new interfaces that explore the capacities of the human senses, reduction of negative experiences, and support for social interaction in physical space. The talk will focus mainly on two projects 1) designing for communication in extreme contexts and 2) development of a novel breath-based biofeedback game for reducing pain and anxiety for children in a hospital.

Kiteboarding serves as an experimental platform to find ways in which technologies could support communication needs in mentally and physically demanding contexts. In our HapticKite system, a kite control bar with embedded sensors and actuators communicates instructions through voice or tactile cues to explore communication of control guidance. Tactile cues were shown to be productive in changing behavior, however, voice communication provides planning models and directional guidance better than tactile cues alone. Voice may negatively impact the user experience and is not well suited for all activities. The experiments highlight the need for better ways for communication tools to support mental models. I will share insights from our current work exploring haptics and kiteboarding and will connect this to wider issues in the design of technologies for people.

In the second part of the talk, I will provide insights from a recent project in which we developed a novel breath sensor and video game experience that provides active distraction for children undergoing blood sampling procedures at a special blood clinic in the hospital. The findings of a clinical trial suggest that our technique of providing active distraction reduced the pain and fear associated with the blood sampling procedure. I will provide an overview of the results of the clinical trial and insights about how the technology provided improvements compared to the control condition of passive distraction. This research highlights the potential of non-pharmacological assistive technology tools to reduce fear and pain for children undergoing painful or stressful medical treatment.

Short Bio: Timothy Merritt is an Associate Professor in the Design Research Group at Aarhus University, Dept. Of Engineering and teaches interaction design courses in the IT Product Development BSc and MSc programme. He holds a PhD from the National University of Singapore where his thesis explored how and why people respond differently to artificial and human team-mates in co-operative games. His current research investigates how people respond to interactive technologies including game experiences, shape-changing interfaces, tools for digital fabrication, and communication in extreme human activities. This has led to dissemination in the form of large internal exhibitions featuring demonstrations of future interactive product concepts, most notably at the world headquarters of Volkswagen AG and LEGO. Public dissemination includes interaction design conferences e.g. CHI, DIS, TEI and relevant journals e.g. Digital Creativity, Interacting with Computers among others. Prior to re-entering academic life, Tim worked for 12 years as project manager and senior enterprise management consultant at Siemens IT Solutions and Services designing and deploying monitoring systems within large corporations such as MetLife, BestBuy and government institutions including the Dept. Of Energy.

Where and When: Room 0.2.15, 16 of December 2016, 09:00-10:00

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