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Advancement: Developing and Utilizing a Smart, Instrumented Fidget To Better Understand Fidgeting and its Relationship with Cognitive Activities

Speaker Name: 
Suzanne B. da Câmara
Speaker Title: 
PhD Student (Advisors: Katherine Isbister and Luca de Alfaro)
Speaker Organization: 
Computer Science
Start Time: 
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 8:00am
End Time: 
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 10:00am
Engineering 2, Room 599
Katherine Isbister and Luca de Alfaro

Abstract:  My proposed dissertation research concerns the research space of fidget objects. My planned work includes both the study of the use of fidgets, as well as the design of a smart fidget that allows the collection of detailed logs of fidgeting patterns. Due to the recent popularity of fidget objects such as fidget spinners and fidget cubes, the general public is increasingly wondering whether fidgeting is beneficial or detrimental, which in turn has generated more interest in this topic among academics. There is little rigorous peer-reviewed research on the merits of fidget objects. In order to provide new insights into fidgeting patterns and behaviors, I led the development of an instrumented fidget object that records time stamped traces of fidgeting interactions. This design was based on prior research into adult fidget patterns (Karlesky et al., Designing for the Physical Margins of Digital Workspaces: Fidget Widgets in Support of Produc! tivity and Creativity}, as well as my own research on children's fidget patterns and preferences (da Camara et al., Identifying Children's Fidget Object Preferences: Toward Exploring the Impacts of Fidgeting and Fidget-Friendly Tangibles).

In this advancement proposal, I present the overall trajectory of my work, discussing completed research on fidgeting preferences, the creation of an instrumented fidget object along with the assumptions that influenced its design, and preliminary user testing of this object. I then propose a sequence of research steps toward answering the following research questions: Will adults use the custom-built smart fidget object that was constructed in the ways that would be expected from the studies with children? Does the smart fidget capture fidget patterns in realtime, in a way that can better inform understanding of fidget patterns? What novel insights into the possible relationship between fidgeting and cognitive activities can this instrumented fidget object provide? Can we identify whether or not someone is engaged in cognitive activities from their fidgeting patterns?

In order to investigate these research questions, I will first conduct a study that obtains feedback from adult participants and use observations about our instrumented fidget and data regarding their focus and retention with and without the object. If indicated by participant feedback and use observations, I will lead the creation of a second iteration of the fidget device. The second proposed study will gather daily schedule information along with one week of fidget tracking data for a group of participants, to examine the link between fidget behavior and cognitive activities. Overall, my contribution to the field of HCI will be introducing a smart, instrumented fidget into the target domain of fidget object use, improving basic understanding of this behavior with my studies and with the introduction of this new research tool.