Buzzing to play: lessons learned from an in the wild study of real-time vibrotactile feedback

van der Linden, Janet; Johnson, Rose; Bird, Jonathan; Rogers, Yvonne and Schoonderwaldt, Erwin (2011). Buzzing to play: lessons learned from an in the wild study of real-time vibrotactile feedback. In: The 29th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM CHI 2011, 07-12 May 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada, pp. 533–542.



Vibrotactile feedback offers much potential for facilitating and accelerating how people learn sensory-motor skills that typically take hundreds of hours to learn, such as learning to play a musical instrument, skiing or swimming. However, there is little evidence of this benefit materializing outside of research lab settings. We describe the findings of an in the wild study that explored how to integrate vibrotactile feedback into a real-world teaching setting. The focus of the study was on exploring how children of different ages, learning to play the violin, can use real-time vibrotactile feedback. Many of the findings were unexpected, showing how students and their teachers appropriated the technology in creative ways. We present some ‘lessons learned’ that are also applicable to other training settings, emphasizing the need to understand how vibrotactile feedback can switch between being foregrounded and backgrounded depending on the demands of the task, the teacher’s role in making it work and when feedback is most relevant and useful. Finally, we discuss how vibrotactile feedback can provide a new language for talking about the skill being learned that may also play an instrumental role in enhancing learning.

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