A recent study by researchers from the University of Sydney revealed the rather playful behaviour of people when operating public interactive displays (PIDs).

Consisting of an inter-disciplinary group of designers and computer scientists at the University of Sydney, the research team was led by Professor of Computer Science Judy Kay; the study’s findings will be presented at the international Pervasive Displays Conference in Copenhagen.

Public interactive displays have become widespread in urban spaces and are increasingly used in areas such as marketing, computing, engineering, and entertainment. Professor Kay explained that the research team set out to learn how to design these displays for usability. When the video recordings were analysed, they were surprised at the very playful behaviour of the people in a very public space with some of them playing, dancing, shuffling and gesturing.

The researchers carefully studied the videos of the people who spent the longest time at the PID. Almost 75 per cent of the sample group demonstrated some sort of playful behaviour when operating the purposed-built interactive display.

Built and designed by the University’s School of Information Technologies and the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, the PID was located in the courtyard between the IT building and the Seymour Theatre. The study was conducted over a ten-day period, during which the system gathered data from over 1000 passers-by.

Based on the findings, the team is recommending strategies on how an otherwise utilitarian information display can respond to playful behaviour, said Dr Martin Tomitsch, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and lead on the interaction design.

Dr Tomitsch said the study emphasises the need to understand the link between the design and the evaluation of new approaches to developing human-computer interaction.

The work was partially funded by the Smart Services Corporate Research Centre (CRC) as part of the Multi-Channel Content Delivery and Mobile Personalisation Project.