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Title: Autonomous behaviour in tangible user interfaces as a design factor
Author: Nowacka, Diana
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 7719
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis critically explores the design space of autonomous and actuated artefacts, considering how autonomous behaviours in interactive technologies might shape and influence users’ interactions and behaviours. Since the invention of gearing and clockwork, mechanical devices were built that both fascinate and intrigue people through their mechanical actuation. There seems to be something magical about moving devices, which draws our attention and piques our interest. Progress in the development of computational hardware is allowing increasingly complex commercial products to be available to broad consumer-markets. New technologies emerge very fast, ranging from personal devices with strong computational power to diverse user interfaces, like multi-touch surfaces or gestural input devices. Electronic systems are becoming smaller and smarter, as they comprise sensing, controlling and actuation. From this, new opportunities arise in integrating more sensors and technology in physical objects. These trends raise some specific questions around the impacts smarter systems might have on people and interaction: how do people perceive smart systems that are tangible and what implications does this perception have for user interface design? Which design opportunities are opened up through smart systems? There is a tendency in humans to attribute life-like qualities onto non-animate objects, which evokes social behaviour towards technology. Maybe it would be possible to build user interfaces that utilise such behaviours to motivate people towards frequent use, or even motivate them to build relationships in which the users care for their devices. Their aim is not to increase the efficiency of user interfaces, but to create interfaces that are more engaging to interact with and excite people to bond with these tangible objects. This thesis sets out to explore autonomous behaviours in physical interfaces. More specifically, I am interested in the factors that make a user interpret an interface as autonomous. Through a review of literature concerned with animated objects, autonomous technology and robots, I have mapped out a design space exploring the factors that are important in developing autonomous interfaces. Building on this and utilising workshops conducted with other researchers, I have vi developed a framework that identifies key elements for the design of Tangible Autonomous Interfaces (TAIs). To validate the dimensions of this framework and to further unpack the impacts on users of interacting with autonomous interfaces I have adopted a ‘research through design’ approach. I have iteratively designed and realised a series of autonomous, interactive prototypes, which demonstrate the potential of such interfaces to establish themselves as social entities. Through two deeper case studies, consisting of an actuated helium balloon and desktop lamp, I provide insights into how autonomy could be implemented into Tangible User Interfaces. My studies revealed that through their autonomous behaviour (guided by the framework) these devices established themselves, in interaction, as social entities. They furthermore turned out to be acceptable, especially if people were able to find a purpose for them in their lives. This thesis closes with a discussion of findings and provides specific implications for design of autonomous behaviour in interfaces.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available