PufferSphere Prototype Development

The TIDESS Team has been investigating the natural and intuitive ways users interact with spherical displays by continuing to prototype on the PufferSphere. In my understanding as a new member of the team, the TIDESS project primarily aims to investigate ways in which children and adults interact with large touchscreen interfaces, such as spherical displays, to help us design interactive touchscreen exhibits for public science learning. More specifically, the project focusses on studying new types of touch interactions, or gestures, that allow users to manipulate and explore content displayed on the sphere.

To allow us to study how users interact with the PufferSphere and investigate natural user gestures, our team is in the process of developing a PufferSphere prototype to support future studies. I have been primarily responsible for developing this prototype while part of this project this summer. In development of the prototype, I have faced issues with distortion of content shown on the sphere or more generally displaying 2D images and videos on a three-dimensional space. A simple solution that I have found is to limit videos and images to small windows on the sphere’s surface to decrease the effect of the distortion. I also learned that, when prototyping, especially on a new platform such as the PufferSphere, it is good practice to start your program with basic concepts and slowly add components. I found this idea to be helpful because, frequently, objects appear differently on the sphere than the desired outcome, and this allows for quick correction of any errors while preserving the already working components.

Currently, I have been attempting to add elements to the prototype that make it more visually appealing and provide motivation for participants to complete the study (e.g., “gamification” elements as popularized in Brewer et al, IDC 2013). I have also been working on logging touch data for the prototype. The PufferSphere already records touch information such as the start and end of a touch, as well as the longitude and latitude of the touch on the sphere. We want to record these pieces of data, with the time they occurred, in a CSV file to obtain the speed of a swipe/drag gesture or the length of time that a touch lasted. Logging touch data allows us to calculate this information after the study to do analysis across users. Other improvements to the prototype will be made after running pilot studies.

As an student from the IMHCI REU Program in the INIT at University of Florida, I have had many learning opportunities this summer. First and foremost, I have learned to be more proficient in task management. This was a necessity in my first research experience as I quickly saw that some of my assigned tasks had priority over others and deadlines, while at other times, I had independent/free time to read research papers relevant to the project. In the beginning of the summer, I was also timid to collaborate with others frequently. Now, I find it very casual to ask peers and mentors questions and even coproduce works for a multitude of assignments. I am currently a third-year student at Elon University majoring in Computer Science (BS) and Mathematics (BS) with a minor in Physics. As the summer continues, I look forward to seeing how children will interact with the sphere during our study sessions.


  1. Brewer, R., Anthony, L., Brown, Q., Irwin, G., Nias, J., and Tate, B. Using gamification to motivate children to complete empirical studies in lab environments. Proc. IDC’2013, ACM Press (2013), 388–391.

by Ian Mayne



Posted: September 25, 2018

Tags: TIDESS Project

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