Tag Archives: affective interaction

Scalable group touch: Spots

screen capture of 3 spots

Up until now, I have avoided making computer (screen) based group interaction media. The reason being that it seems more fitting to work in the tangible, physical domain; We understand things when we engage our bodies in interacting with the world on a level different from when we interpret things rationally.
I have made contraptions and installations through which groups of a few more than two people can interact. The problem with working with such media is the cost (in terms of time, effort and money) involved in scaling up to much larger groups.
Screen based interaction media are more easily scaled. A middle-road between completely screen-based and completely tangible, seems to be the mobile phone. Also for the role that they play in our lives it seems to be quite fitting to develop an interaction medium on that platform.

So I did.


In its current  -pilot- stage, Spots allows people to experience a sense of mutual touch through a mobile phone.
When you start Spots, you see an empty grey screen. When you drag your finger across the screen, a spot of approximately the size of your finger follows your finger. These actions are broadcast to other people running Spots.
When other people with the app come ‘online’, a vaguely visible spot appears with a soft sound and their touch actions leave fading traces. When your spot and one of theirs overlap, a vibration can be felt and a quickly fading ripple is visible, showing a trace of your touch.

You can try it out! Currently there are these versions:
Spots for Android
Spots for Mac (nb: this is not a signed app, see below)
If the app starts but nothing happens, either you have no internet connection or the server is down. Tap/Click the top 10 pixels of the app screen to bring up some detailed info. Let me know your experiences.
On Mac, if it says the file is damaged when you try to open it, you need to allow your mac to run unsigned applications: go to System Preferences>Security&Privacy, on the General tab select Allow applications downloaded from: Anywhere.

The video above shows what it looks like from the Spots server point of view (which runs on a mac).

Spots is a re-imagining for my own research context of the app touchThrough developed by Gabrielle Le Bihan cs. (Gabrielle has presented touchThrough at TEI’13 and published some of her research with it at CHI’13).

Yes, I am aware of the very nice Feel Me project by Marco Triverio. There certainly are similarities, but our intentions are quite different in my view.
I am developing a research design that mediates between an individual and the group dynamics he is part of. Marco developed an app that aims to establish an intimate link between individuals.


‘Affective Computing’ – Affective Interaction

Over at interaction-design.org, they have been publishing chapters of an online interaction design encyclopedia, where each chapter is written by an expert in a particular area in the field. I had come across it before for the chapter on Social Computing, which discusses crowd-sourcing type implementations of social computing such as wikipedia and scoring systems in e.g. Amazon and discussing mediated communication systems like twitter and facebook. A nice read and particularly a possibly helpful breakdown of crucial elements of such social systems.

Now I am posting as there is a thought provoking discussion of Affective Computing in response to a chapter of the same name written by Kristina Höök. The chapter  is followed by a well written response from prof. Roz Picard, who coined the term Affective Computing and drafted the first maps of that then poorly-charted terrain in her book Affective Computing. Next a rather artless response from one of the bigger names in the field of design and emotion, prof. Paul Hekkert. I do have to agree with the jest of his response. He amongst others, quotes the work on the compelling concept of ‘inherent feedback’ by my colleague and friend Miguel Bruns Alonso. The discussion centers on wether some HCI/AI approaches to Affective Computing is reductionist and cognitivist versus a more holistic and phenomenological approach to Affective Interaction that Höök describes. the Interactional Approach. That concept reminds me of the work of Stephan Wensveen, e.g. his paper at DIS in  2000 Touch Me, Hit Me and I Know How You Feel. A Design Approach to Emotionally Rich Interaction and then in his 2005 dissertation: A Tangibility Approach to Affective Interaction.

Against this backdrop I am currently reading the PhD thesis work of Joris Janssen, Joris’ work at first sight seems to take a reductionistic approach to empathic mediation (what he calls physiosocial technology), but particularly in the later chapters walks he shows examples of both a reductionist -lab based- approach and more holistic -real life- setting.
What fascinates me most in Joris’ work is the idea of technology that supports (even promotes?) empathy in dyads (2 people). Of particular interest for me is his (forthcoming) research on providing some form of feedback based on the correlation between one persons physiological signals and those of another. About a year ago Joris and I discussed social bio-feedback in more detail, after we got into contact over my Masters’ thesis on that topic and his paper on Intimate Heartbeats. Particular issue we discussed then was the modality of such feedback.