Tangible user interfaces and social interaction in children with autism

Farr, William John (2011) Tangible user interfaces and social interaction in children with autism. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

PDF - Published Version
Download (12MB) | Preview


Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) offer the potential for new modes of social
interaction for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). Familiar objects that
are embedded with digital technology may help children with autism understand the
actions of others by providing feedback that is logical and predictable. Objects that
move, playback sound or create sound – thus repeating programmed effects – offer an
exciting way for children to investigate objects and their effects.

This thesis presents three studies of children with autism interacting with objects
augmented with digital technology.

Study one looked at Topobo, a construction toy augmented with kinetic
memory. Children played with Topobo in groups of three of either Typically
Developing (TD) or ASC children. The children were given a construction task, and
were also allowed to play with the construction sets with no task. Topobo in the task
condition showed an overall significant effect for more onlooker, cooperative, parallel,
and less solitary behaviour. For ASC children significantly less solitary and more
parallel behaviour was recorded than other play states.

In study two, an Augmented Knights Castle (AKC) playset was presented to
children with ASC. The task condition was extended to allow children to configure the
playset with sound. A significant effect in a small sample was found for configuration of the AKC, leading to less solitary behaviour, and more cooperative behaviour.
Compared to non-digital play, the AKC showed reduction of solitary behaviour because
of augmentation. Qualitative analysis showed further differences in learning phase, user
content, behaviour oriented to other children, and system responsiveness.

Tangible musical blocks (‘d-touch’) in study three focused on the task. TD and
ASC children were presented with a guided/non-guided task in pairs, to isolate effects
of augmentation. Significant effects were found for an increase in cooperative symbolic
play in the guided condition, and more solitary functional play was found in the
unguided condition. Qualitative analysis highlighted differences in understanding
blocks and block representation, exploratory and expressive play, understanding of
shared space and understanding of the system.

These studies suggest that the structure of the task conducted with TUIs may be
an important factor for children’s use. When the task is undefined, play tends to lose
structure and the benefits of TUIs decline. Tangible technology needs to be used in an
appropriately structured manner with close coupling (the distance between digital
housing and digital effect), and works best when objects are presented in familiar form.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0712 Developmental psychology Including infant psychology, child psychology, adolescence, adulthood
Q Science > QZ Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ0370 Diseases of children and adolescents > RJ0499 Mental disorders of children and adolescents. Child psychiatry. Child mental health services
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2011 05:43
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2015 15:40
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6962

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update