Multi-touch tables – what is the research telling us? Part 1

touch table 1Still on the Warships project theme I’m checking into the use of multi-touch tables in exhibitions. This, the first of two posts, reviews work done by Ideum (makers of tables) and the digital department at the V&A reporting on a study of family use of tech in exhibitions.

Open Exhibits Research Report: General Table Use, Haley Goldman and Gonzalez (2014)

A report on use of multitouch tables across three museum sites in the US with data collected from 91 visitors across a range of age ranges.

Key findings:

  • multi-touch tables still seen as novel by visitors – most participants had not used one before (73%-83% not used before)
  • often not cited as the most popular part of an exhibition, just one part of it
  • stay time on tables is longer than at other exhibits
  • social interaction varied widely according to the site
  • visitors often don’t notice or know that you can touch and interact with the table
  • visitors had technical questions around how the tables were built and produced

Use and feedback:

  • Imagery – draws attention to the table
  • Layered information encourages exploration
  • ‘User controlled’ information enables the user to enlarge, shrink and follow their own pathways

Visitors wanted more multimedia on the table – needs to be more than just displays/graphic panels transferred to a table: “To what level can we interact with things? Right now it seems limited to novelty of the technology. It doesn’t really provide new info that isn’t already in analogue display. It needs to do more than just show images. But it is fun.”

The full report can be downloaded from the Ideum blog.

This post from the V&A blog, What can we learn from watching groups of visitors using digital museum exhibits? describes outcomes of a study of families and interactive exhibits. Some key points that emerged were:

  • visitors need to be observed using technology in exhibits rather than just being asked about them
  • physical spaces and the atmosphere created in them is important – ‘… the feel of an experience is crucial’
  • families use interactives in social ways
  • people learned from watching each other interact with the exhibit

One final key outcome was that: ‘… children expected touch screens to react like their familiar technology – things they all use frequently like smart phones and iPads. They appeared to find interaction difficult if it worked differently to their normal daily experience of interaction. They have technology pre-expectations which may cause them tension if not met by museum experiences’.

All good insights for museums as they are increasingly using these technologies to enhance and extend the visitor experience – more to follow.

 

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6 thoughts on “Multi-touch tables – what is the research telling us? Part 1

  1. Jonathon says:

    I came across similar findings when researching my dissertation and the point about technology pre-expectations is an interesting one. We are about to reach a point with museums where the visitor is going to turn up and EXPECT to find a digital offering for them; be it hand held, touch table or similar. The challenge I think is, keeping up with the joneses to an extend while preserving the inherent cultural value and symbolism of the museum. I feel that the digital pathway is the road for engagement of these ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’; but perhaps not at the cost of what the museum traditionally stands for / displays.

    Food for thought perhaps, I will be interested to see what happens with the Warships Pavilion.

    Regards,

    Jon.

  2. lyndakelly61 says:

    Thnx Jon, I do agree with you but maybe we need to re-think what a “display” actually means these days and who we are doing them for – displays are so location-based that they necessarily cut out most of our audiences that are increasingly online. Maybe “digital displays” will be the norm for the future and “traditional displays” as you and I know them will be seen as quaint and a little nerdy!

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