Interpreting automatic door movements

Automatic door Approachability: How People Interpret Automatic Door Movement as Gesture by Ju, Wendy, and Takayama Leila (International Journal of Design, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2009) was a curious read. The authors describes this issue as interesting to exemplify the challenges of designing emotionally welcoming interactive systems:

"While people understand the basic interaction with automatic doors, any sustained observation of a building employing automatic doors will reveal numerous breakdowns: people have difficulty distinguishing automatic doors from non-automatic doors; people inadvertently trigger the doors without meaning to; people walk toward the door too quickly, or not quickly enough; people frustrated in their attempts to trigger the door before or after regular hours. Automatic doors show that extended use and familiarity alone are not sufficient to attain the critical sense of approachability; people are familiar enough with doors that they illustrate what can and cannot be accomplished through conventions of design alone."

The paper reports the result of a study about how how people respond to a variety of “door gestures” designed to offer different levels of approachability. They expected that the door gestures would be interpreted in a similar fashion by a range of study participants (even when the door gestures themselves are non-conventional). Results are the following:

"These two experiments indicate that door trajectory is a key variable in the doors expression of welcome, with door speed and the interactive context in which the door is opening acting as amplifying factors influencing how the door's gestures are interpreted emotionally. The wide range of expression available with only one physical degree of freedom suggests that designers can trigger emotional appraisal with very simple actuation; unlike previous systems, which employed anthropomorphic visual or linguistic features, our interactive doors were able to elicit social response by using only interactive motion to cause attributed cognition and intent. If designers can convey different “messages” in such a highly constrained design space, it seems reasonable to extrapolate that more information could be conveyed with more complex ubiquitous computing and robotic systems."

Why do I blog this? This is a topic that I have always been interested in (the doors EPFL sparked some good discussions about this) from a user experience point of view. The notion of "implicit interaction" described in the paper is interesting and the results are curious. Besides, I very much like the idea of going beyond anthropomorphic cueing.