published in 2004 in UW Thesis archives
Tangible user interfaces have emerged as an active research topic in human computer interaction since the late 1990s. However, most tangible projects are inspired by new technologies and do not take into account how users would use the technology. User-centered principles were adapted to build the MouseHaus Table system, a digital tabletop system with a tangible user interface and a computer simulation to support community participation in urban design and planning.
The thesis has two parts: The first part describes a user-centered development of the MouseHaus Table and the second part focuses on evaluation of the system. The user-centered development started with observing current practice in a community meeting and literature research. Based on these observations, the MouseHaus Table was implemented to enable users who have no previous computer knowledge to interact with the computer simulation using ordinary objects such as paper and scissors. Two interviews supported the usefulness of the MouseHaus Table in the urban design and planning context. An initial usability test was completed and demonstrated that people interact more when using a tangible user interface than a mouse-controlled GUI. An evaluation framework to address face-to-face communication in tangible collaboration was established based on the findings. An empirical study of basic manipulation using MouseHaus Table was completed and the performance measures were significantly better when using the paper interface than with mouse-controlled GUI. A benchmark-like approach, decomposing user interaction into a set of core actions, emerged from the empirical study and suggested mechanisms of tangibility and future directions for tangible user interface research.