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.