Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ripples: Utilizing Per-Contact Visualizations to Improve User Interaction with Touch Displays

(comment left on Shaun Maier's blog.)

Ripples researchers:
Daniel Wigdor, Sarah Williams, Michael Cronin, Robert Levy, Katie White, Maxim Mazeev, Hrvoje Benko
Microsoft Surface | Microsoft Corp. | Microsoft Research

Paper pdf link:

Ripples is essentially a feedback system for making sense of multi touch input on table top or other touch screen interfaces.
The main goal of ripples was have some kind of standardized feedback that would allow the user to know how the tabletop was receiving the user's input. The Ripples system itself doesn't actually increase the accuracy of multi touch input, but rather provides feedback that tells the user what kind of input the system has received. Clearer input feedback reduces the frustration the user experiences with tabletop input and makes the experience easier and more enjoyable.

They conducted a few user studies with the Ripple system where they made the users use several different programs both with and without the Ripple system and found that there was a statistically significant improvement in user accuracy with the Ripple System on.

Here's a few pictures to show what Ripples actually does:

My spill:

The really cool thing about the Ripples system is that it is independent of the type of sensing that particular system might user to receive multi-touch input. For example it could be FTIR detection, camera based detection, capicitors, or a hundred other things and Ripples could still be used to enhance the user's interaction with the system.

It's hard for me to find a drawback to this system. The only thing I can really point to is that some users said that the animations were distracting, but given the fact that they took a minimalist approach and the fact that you could turn a feature like this off pretty easily, I think it's a pretty minor drawback.

Personally, I've thought about this kind of idea when I first heard about tabletop computing. I love things that feel futuristic like this. Given all the problems the Microsoft team identified with multi-touch input and feedback, this system seems like it is really needed and I hope it comes as a standard addition to tabletop systems and even other systems that utilize multi-touch. I'd love to see this implemented EVERYWHERE.

I've always thought touch screen always needed a little something to help improve accuracy and while Ripples doesn't technically do that implicitly it certainly seems to achieve it.

Nice work, Microsoft.

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