Sensory Perception & Interaction Research Group

University of British Columbia

Full citation: 
Chan, A., "Designing Haptic Icons to Support an Urgency-Based Turn-Taking Protocol", M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2004.
Collaboration is taking place increasingly between individuals living in different cities, countries, or continents. Instead of relying on time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting business travel, companies are turning to web conferencing systems, Internet-based systems that support distributed meetings, training, and collaboration. These systems support view-sharing, where an individual can share an application with his or her collaborators, allowing them to view and interact with the application in real-time. While flexible, these systems only permit one user to control the application at a time, necessitating a turn-taking protocol. Current web conferencing systems depend heavily on visual elements like dialog boxes or tool-tips to deliver messages such as requests for control. However, the collaborative tasks being performed are typically highly visual in nature themselves, meaning that messages can either intrude or be missed. Another shortcoming of current systems is that they fail to support flexibility in requesting control, something we take for granted in face-to-face collaboration. In this thesis, we introduce a novel urgency-based turn-taking protocol, where users can request control with two levels of urgency or immediately take control. Haptic icons, touch-sense stimuli that have been assigned a meaning, are used in this protocol to periodically inform a user of the current turn-taking state. Our research was conducted in three phases. First, we designed the protocol and selected a set of haptic icons. Next, we evaluated the ability of subjects to learn the haptic icons and identify them under different amounts of cognitive workload. Finally, we recruited groups of subjects to use the protocol in a collaborative environment and evaluated their performance. Our results show that haptic feedback is a viable channel for communicating turn-taking information. The haptic icons can be learned in a reasonable amount of time and recalled with high accuracy. As well, users in control are more responsive to requests for control and control is shared more equally among group members when haptic feedback is present. The urgency-based protocol also shows promise when used with haptic feedback.
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