An interactive worksheet based on the interactive paper technology developed in Paper++ was designed for the Natural History Museum in London. Groups of two or three children first visited two galleries in the museum dealing with the topics of mammals and insects. Different questions had to be answered while visiting the galleries using the paper worksheet and a normal pen. A single paper worksheet was handed to each group and was collaboratively processed by the group members. While one child was reading a question, another one, or even several group members, could simultaneously write on the worksheet.
After visiting the two galleries, the groups spent some time in the museum's Investigate Room, a room containing computers, microscopes and other investigative devices, where we had installed a special place equipped with the interactive paper technology. The same paper worksheet that was used in the galleries could now be applied in combination with the inductive pen to access supplementary information and thereby answer any open questions. Note that next to the digital pen there is also a computer mouse on the desk, which could be used to interact with parts of the screen-based user interface. In addition to the digital pen there were some regular pens on the desk for filling in the missing answers.
A major goal of the interactive worksheet application was to show the benefit of, not only integrating paper with simple digital resources, but also providing paper-based links to other paper documents. In addition to the interactive paper worksheet there where other books on the desk. The worksheet contains links to relevant parts of these books. After selecting such a paper-to-paper link, a message was shown on the screen providing information about a book’s title and the number of the page where supplementary information could be found in printed form.
A single page of the paper worksheet designed for the Natural History Museum by our Paper++ project partners is presented in the figure above. The page contains different kinds of information such as pieces of text, textboxes and four large images. The users can access additional digital information in the form of web pages or short flash movies by pointing to specific parts of the text or some of the textboxes. In addition to this browsing functionality, the four images build the paper interface for some interactive games. A detailed version of one of the four images is shown in the following figure.
In addition to linking digital content in the form of simple media types or semantically rich database objects, the interactive worksheet provides paper-based user interface functionality to play different games. In this way, paper becomes a more active component and a primary control device for specific tasks in the digital world. Furthermore, in the paper-based application for the Natural History Museum, we investigated the potential of multi-layered links and their dynamic activation and deactivation based on an application’s current state. Four active components were implemented in the form of simple games. They make extensive use of multi-layered links and apply the pen's input for game control. In the following, we address some of the games' functionality and outline how the active component concept was applied in providing this functionality. We first describe the requested interaction with the paper worksheet and then provide some implementation details.
An innovative aspect of the paper-based games is not only the fact that paper and some digital functionality are combined to build a multimodal user interface, but that the delivered information depends on the application’s current state. Information bound to the four images can be accessed in two different modes. When a user starts to interact with the worksheet, it is in the so-called information mode. By selecting different objects within the image—for example the person, the cat or another animal—a user can access supplementary information about the selected object in terms of a digital image combined with some text, a movie or some other form of digital media.
By selecting the 'Begin the activity' button printed on the paper worksheet, the user can switch to game mode and activate a game. He first gets some audio instructions about the goal of the interactive game and is then requested to further interact with the paper-based user interface. In game mode, detailed information for specific objects, such as the cat, is no longer available. The whole image becomes an input area for a game about the vision of different species, where a user’s task is to select all the surrounding objects that the creature in the centre of the image, which happens to be a person in the previous figure, can see. This means that if the game mode has been activated and the user points to the cat standing behind the person, they get visual and acoustic feedback informing them that an incorrect object has been selected since the person cannot see the cat.
The game runs for a specific amount of time, accompanied by a background sound and, after overall feedback about a user’s performance, the state of the application changes back to the information mode. In the case that a user missed too many objects or selected some incorrect objects, they are asked to repeat the game. However, if they managed to get everything right, thereby proving their knowledge about the creature's vision, they are requested to use a regular pen to highlight the creature’s field of vision. By highlighting an area with the regular pen, knowledge which has been acquired through playing the interactive digital game finally becomes recorded on the paper worksheet. Note that through this process, the digital media is not only augmenting the physical paper, but paper is used to record the result of some digital interaction.
The interactive worksheet application for the Natural History Museum is an effective application of our interactive paper software infrastructure's facility of being able to link, not only from paper to simple digital resources such as images or sounds but also to program logic. Active content becomes integrated in an interactive way in the form of the four games leading to a very tight integration of paper and digital information. In these games paper becomes an output device for memorising the results of a game. Further, the interactive paper worksheet demonstrates how the concept of multi-layered links can be applied for context-dependent information delivery based on an application’s current state.
Beat Signer, Fundamental Concepts for Interactive Paper and Cross-Media Information Spaces, ISBN 978-3-8370-2713-6, Hardcover, 276 Pages, May 2008 (first published 2006 as Diss ETH No. 16218)
Paul Luff, Christian Heath, Moira C. Norrie, Beat Signer and Peter Herdman, Only Touching the Surface: Creating Affinities Between Digital Content and Paper, In Proceedings of CSCW 2004, Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, USA, November 2004
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