Potential user experience of pico-projectors

There's a currently a lot of interest directed towards screens and ubiquitous displays in interaction design. Interestingly, I've always been ambivalent about this topic and scarcely addressed it in my own research/consulting gigs. However, given that more and more client projects (as well as students/media requests) are related to multi-screen design, I started to collect material about it. The approach, as usual at the lab, is to investigate what one could refer to as the "Long tail of insights", that is to say, research results, informed opinions, expert views or little field observations that go beyond the general discourse about the topic at hand. Concerning multi-screen design, one of the sub-theme that I rarely see addressed consist in the body of work done on pico-projectors. The potential use of built-in projectors in mobile phone seems to be a curious prospect and researchers, designers and engineers of course wonder about what can be done once the camera in phones are not just an input and allow users to create so-called "mobile projections". As a matter of fact, the mobile character of this capability looks intriguing and the next question to be answered here concerns the "real potential uses of projections in the wild".

The uneventful train trip to Paris this morning provided a good opportunity to read a paper about it. Called "Pico-ing into the Future of Mobile Projection and Contexts" and authored by Max L. Wilson and his colleagues from Future Interaction Technology Lab at Swansea University in the UK, it reports the results from a study about how people will want to use such technology, how they will feel when using it, and what social effects we can expect to see.

On the methodology side, the paper adopt an interesting approach:

"Our first-phase study used the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to elicit the reactions of participants to a range of media regardless of whether they would consider projecting them during undirected usage. In the second phase, we performed a diary study of potential mobile projection scenarios. Although consumer-level mobile projector phones were not available for use or study at the time, we believe that using prototype systems allowed participants to concentrate on the potential use of such devices, rather than the qualities of a finished product. The reactions in the first-phase study also helped to finalise the design of the materials in the second study, which in turn provided deeper insight into the reasoning behind the possible projections recorded in the second"

Some excerpts that caught my attention:

"the study noted a surprisingly negative response to potentially personal content, such as text messages, with some reporting that they felt anxious being asked to project such content on the wall. Further, we saw that public observers showed very little interest in the projections being made by study participants. We did not see any significantly negative responses to projecting in social situations, although people were significantly less anxious about projecting and finding suitable surfaces when not at work. We were also able to identify some usability constraints, where participants expected to be able to control a reasonable amount of focus and projection size within one arm length. For the sake of augmentation, we also recommend that projection technology face the same way as the device’s inbuilt camera.

Our second study revealed more direct insight into the types of content people actually wished they were able to project. Compared to a general study of mobile information needs, we speculate that participants might consider projecting information to solve around two-thirds of the noted scenarios. While a large proportion was time, location and object sensitive, participants also recorded many cases of projecting static text that had no immediate or short-term benefit."

The paper gives some details about surfaces sought for projection, the type of content people may want to project or temporality.

Why do I blog this? being agnostic about this topic, this kind of reading is meant to shape my perspective.