An Aalto University experimental study demonstrated how an augmented space with reactive floor-projection in a public building can affect people’s awareness of others’ presence and activities. As a conclusion, the augmented floor visualization “Traces” enhances curiosity and engages a connection with the environment and the people in it.
The study used Traces, a visualization technology consisting of Microsoft Kinect cameras and digital projectors representing real-time mobility patterns that fade over time. The six-week study took place at the Aalto University Design Factory that inhabits university workers and visitors of diverse seminars and workshops.
‘Traces visualization is able reflect everyday activities and interaction between people. Although it enhances social curiosity and awareness, it can also stay in the background of the attention and not disturb ongoing activities’, says Doctoral Candidate Beatrice Monastero.
In addition to video observation, the study also included interviews with visitors and periodic discussions with a group of recurrent users. There were altogether 1200 interactions recorded during the study. The participants were not identified in the study, and one participant could be responsible for several interactions.
‘There might be privacy concerns involved if the level of identification would be too high. It could then turn out to be in a sense like spying the people, following their tracks’, adds Monastero.
Despite this, some of the participants were able to assume, based on the Traces visualization, if their colleague has arrived in the building early in the morning as he or she usually does. Traces also visualized how the visitors entered the diverse workshops. In this way, Traces serves as kind of an embedded newspaper on the floor, informing on the activities of the people in the building.
‘In a huge building, you do not see always the other people around and therefore you may lose the feeling of social connection and belonging’, tells Monastero.
The study demonstrated Traces’ potential for social triangulation across all engagement types and between actors and spectators. Most participants considered Traces helpful to enhance their social awareness. Some of them merely considered its aesthetic decorative qualities welcoming in the space. When users discovered interaction, they actively engaged to understand how the visualization technology worked. This gave participants an opportunity to socialize, a “ticket to talk”.
‘In the study, the visual representation was related to diverse social gatherings in the building. In the same way, interactive displays could support social interactions in any public surroundings. Yet there is a need to deepen the research on how to design embedded technological solutions to enhance opportunistic social awareness and interaction in diverse surroundings’, concludes Monastero.
Image: Beatrice Monastero