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4 Evaluation

The replica based prototype is created using digital technology of laser scanning, 3D modelling and rapid prototyping but is itself a non-digital tangible interface. It offers a simple, robust and apparently technology free interaction backgrounding technology entirely. The haptic device is a digital interface and uses the same laser scan to build its virtual haptic model. Our intention is to compare these two prototypes in a real museum setting.

It is a challenge to evaluate user experience that is closely related to embodied, tacit understandings, such as in this case. The evaluation goals concern subjective opinions of visitor focus, degree of engagement and phenomenological experience. As these goals are subjective and not easily mapped to any objective quantifiable factor our evaluation was a combination of gathering feedback, verbal or written, and close observation of the way the visitors used the interface, their gestural motions as well as the social interaction among them during their experience.

We were present at all time next to the exhibits and were interacting with the visitors, observing their interaction with the artefact through both interfaces, having informal discussions about their experience, often using probing questions, and triggering their reflection when something would break their experience. The visitors were then asked if they would like to fill in a qualitative questionnaire. They were then asked to rate with a 5 point Likert Scale (from strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree or strongly agree) the following statements:

1. It is important to engage more senses than the visual as part of the museum experience.

2. The installation/replica gave a sense of how the ancient object would feel.

3. The installation/replica was straightforward to use.

4. Because of the installation/replica there was a better understanding of the ancient objects.

5. Overall, the installation/replica enhanced the museum experience.

They were also prompted to write any more detailed comments.

Both prototypes attracted a number of visitors most of whom were eager to discuss with the researchers and learn more about the project as well as its technical details. A large number of visitors would stay for a considerable time and explore the possibilities of the interface, giving us verbal feedback and discussing details of its use. As only one person at a time could use each prototype, visitors would gather around and watch, conversing with one another and with the researchers until it was their turn. Children were particularly drawn to the installations and they were the ones to stay longer and explore it. This shows that both interfaces can enable playful engagement.

There were 60 questionnaire responses over the two days installation at the National Museum of Scotland and the two days at the Orkney Archaeological Museum. The initial empirical results demonstrated the potential of both prototypes to provide a novel embodied experience of untouchable artefacts. Visitors comments were very positive for both prototypes but particularly for the replica.

The rapid prototype installation successfully produced the sense of haptic exploration of the chess piece in a natural and simple way. The setup synchronised the visitors visual and haptic cues, and consequently, their interaction with the replica was directly translated as interaction with the real statue. One visitor commented As I felt it, I felt like I was touching the one in the reflection and not the replica. Another one said that it feels real and that you feel more connected to its history.

One drawback of the replica installation was the double image of the hands on the glass created by the refraction of the light on the perplex glass. A few visitors found this a bit distracting, though not detrimental to the whole experience. The double image can be corrected in future versions by calculating optical parameters based on a specific position where the visitor will be standing. Another interesting comment made by three visitors was that the texture of the replica should be improved to match as much as possible the material of the original piece. This would improve the perception of the exhibited piece and will be taken forward in future designs.

The main drawback of the haptic interface that was reported from the discussions and written comments was that the haptic device could not provide a detailed outline of the statue. Most visitors could not easily perceive the fine details of the statue with the stylus. One reason for this was the size and detail of the exhibit. The installation could work very well for larger objects or small objects with little details. The lack of precision can be slightly improved by developing a more sensitive collision detection system between the haptic device controller and the haptic geometry which allows for more detailed tracing of the carved details. One of the future tests is to use an artefact with few details and compare user responses, both verbal and bodily, with those received in this study. The aim will be to investigate the extent to which the interface conveys sufficient realism starting from relatively simple objects. The lack of detailed information was also attributed to the single-point contact of the device compared to the multi finger touch of the hands.

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