In our research we used a large interactive table display. We invited participants to interact with the touch table by playing simple games based on three basic gestures: tap, drag and rotate. All of the participants played in pairs, while their interactive sessions were video recorded.
The games that the participants played were custom-made to correspond to a single learned gesture. Every subsequent came assumed that the previous gesture was learned, so it could be used in addition to the gesture to be learned. No instructions were given on how to play the game, making the gesture discovery an intuitive journey.
In the first game the participants had to pop continuously appearing bubbles on the screen with the tap gesture. This was an open-ended game that finished when the participants expressed the desire to move forward to the next task.
The second game was free-drawing on the table screen. This game was presented to only half of the participants in order to evaluate whether drawing, a natural activity, would encourage the subsequent acquirement of the drag gesture for other games.
In the second/third game the participants had to move items to a predefined screen area by employing the drag gesture. The game was completed after the participants went through three sessions with different items and target areas.
In the third/fourth and final game the participants had to assemble a single large shape in a target area from several smaller shapes. The game was completed after the participants went through two sessions which required the assembly of different shapes.
We had 60 participants in our experiment with an almost equal gender distribution and an average age of 71 years. As one of the condition for participation in the study was no prior experience, during the entry questionnaires we discovered that a few of the participants had minor previous experiences with touch technologies.
Two researchers observed and analyzed a sample of the recorded sessions in order to define common issues that occur across participants.
While participants mostly stopped playing the tapping Bubbles game after a couple of minutes, there were more than few instances where participants would continue tapping and popping bubbles with increased intensity and without stopping. They either didn’t understand the open nature of the game, or they were so compulsively engaged in tapping, that they were not aware of the time spent. It is possible that not knowing the rules disrupted the flow of the game.
A significant number of the participants were initially stressed before the sessions began. Although the nature of the experiment was explained during recruitment, they were still under the mistaken impression that their performance was going to be evaluated based on Good/Bad testing parameters. Subsequently, after the session they would inquire how well they did and whether they “guessed” correctly.
Collaborative playing progressively increased in every subsequent game. While playing the first game was mostly an individual endeavour, the participants were self-encouraged to increase their collaboration in every game that followed. The last game was most engaging with lots of interactions and exchanges of ideas about how to proceed.
The exit interviews and questionnaires show that using games as a learning activity to engage older adults with technology is an enjoyable approach to all participants. All of the participants expressed positive emotions and commentaries regarding the sessions and the potential for engaging in similar activities at later dates.
It is necessary to perform a full qualitative analysis before issues are properly identified and compared with other GIRDA partners. This will help build a theoretical framework for the mentor guide.