Monday, August 3, 2009

Mock up for touch?

For our first project, I found that the observations and feedback lead me to a multitouch interface, or at least touch. When it came time to create a running mock-up, I found the existing tools lacking in this area because using a mouse in an environment intended for touch skews the usability benefits and issues. I don't see this as a software issue, but more of a lack of test hardware. I could go buy an iPhone and create an application specific to it for testing. A tablet or one of the new touch monitors might work, but again, this is something I'd have to buy. I could potentially use a multitouch device on a university campus if I lived near one. None of these options are really feasible for me at the moment, so is there a solution to individuals working with small projects that are touch based? Is there a way to test touch based interfaces with a mouse and gain more accurate interaction data (beyond cognitive measures)? Or is a paper prototype potentially the best way to test with users since they can simulate dragging, touching objects with their fingers, and experience moving their whole arm?

I was pointed to this post about the SDK for Microsoft Surface which permits multiple mice to simulate multi-touch interfaces. This would help verify the correct manipulation features, but would not provide accurate data for ease of use or speed for this different form of interaction. It seems like this area is currently lacking in prototyping opportunities, but then maybe that is the price of using interaction concepts with newer technology.


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  2. To reply to what I have seen and tried a little on Mac Platform, a developer can sign up to be a part of iPhone Developer Program. That gets you have an access to iPhone SDK.

    You can create a prototype app, but you will still be using your computer (MAC only) to emulating an iPhone/iPodTouch on your screen to operate your prototype. With PhoneFiger, you can change your mouse cursor to finger for more realistic feel and test with users

    You can also find Android SDK, but the question goes back to the hardware access. You have to invest in purchasing one no matter what. These things I listed are all mobile devices. So what do you do with other surfaces? As you mentioned, getting hardware for prototype is very hard. Single touch can be emulated by mouse gesture, but very hard to emulate multi-touch (more than 2 touches are on the screen. Paper might be the cheapest options for now unless other software is out there like Microsoft Surface SDK you mentioned.

    Autodesk blog mentioned DIY multitouch screens. You can create anywhere from small to large surface. These might be cheaper solutions to explore. This one looks the cheapest to make one, but it seems little awkward. Touch surface and screen are not the same location.

    Then this is called TouchKit. You can build touchsurface for yourself with a parts list, blueprint, and software. They also sell it as a kit for starting $1,430.

    So a bottom line, it seems no good solutions are out there. I do like the idea of the last kit, TouchKit, which you can actually pick it up from local hardware store for most of materials. Paper prototype would be a good starting point in conducting initial usability test. To fully utilize the “touch feel”, hardware has to be required. Then again, a designer has to figure out where the application will be utilized; mobile, large LCD, or any other type of surfaces so that individual developer can make right investment.

  3. Hiro is correct. You can download an IDE called XCode and the IPhone 2.0 or 3.0 SDK which includes an IPhone emulator. It works the same way the Windows Mobile/Window CE emulator works with Microsoft Visual Studio.


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