University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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'Tangible Pasts': User-Centred Design of a Mixed Reality Application for Cultural Heritage
Angeliki Chrysanthi, Constantinos Papadopoulos, Tom Frankland

Last modified: 2011-12-13


Within the research communities of archaeological computing and museum studies there has been vivid discussion concerning the virtual imagery produced in archaeological research, as well as the technologies and modes employed for public engagement and outreach. A significant number of collaborative projects are exploring the potential of Mixed Reality (MR) applications for interpretive archaeology, cultural heritage sites and museums. User evaluation is one of the methods typically used by these projects, either for assessing the interpretive value of such applications, -especially in museum contexts- and/or the development of the technologies employed. However, these evaluations are often conducted at the later stages of the development cycle when there is little time available to make amendments to the project based on user feedback. In contrast, researchers from disciplines such as CSCW and Human-Computer Interaction design applications iteratively, with user evaluation conducted throughout the design process.

Our work builds on previous research into MR tangible interfaces and interactive museum installations by attempting to explore alternative modes of engaging the public with archaeological information. For the purposes of this project we designed ‘Tangible Pasts’, a prototype tangible interface in the form of physical book augmented with digital information. ‘Tangible Pasts’ combines text, 3D models, animations and sound, enabling users to experience the featured case studies in an intuitive way by seamlessly moving between physical and virtual content.

The initial design was presented in the ‘Open Exhibition’ at the Visualisation in Archaeology (ViA) international conference and was evaluated by a group of visualisation specialists who attended the event. The prototype was also evaluated by non-experts from other disciplines in order to limit the bias of people related to cultural heritage studies. Based on the suggestions and comments received the application was developed further. This paper will present the concept of ‘Tangible Pasts’ and the results of the user evaluation study, highlighting the importance of a user-centred, iterative design approach for the cultural heritage sector.



Human-Computer Interaction; Mixed Reality; User-Centred; iterative design; CH Application