By Jeroen Peters [M12 Report, PDF, 200K]
Technological advances in computational, networking and sensing abilities are leading towards a future in which our daily lives are immersed with interactive devices that are networked and interoperable.
It is imperative that users are able to understand such complex intelligent and interactive environments. Design has an important role in facilitating users in making sense of the many connections between devices in a networked environment.
Two design solutions based on tangible interaction have been developed that allow users to manage wireless connections between devices in a smart living room context.
One design (SCD) is a centralized approach based on a high-level of semantic abstraction. The second design (Nodes) employs a distributed and localized approach, building upon laws of grouping from Gestalt psychology.
A user experiment (N=15) was conducted, comparing both design solutions in the form of video prototypes. The goal of the research was to gain insights into the mental models users construct when using the methods and how they differ.
Findings suggest that users’ mental models of the Nodes design are more accurate representations of the actual architecture of the network and that it allows for the projection of different mental models. Furthermore, findings also suggest that this does not necessarily lead to better usability or increased perceived value.