Between Bodies: comparing embodied interfaces

BetweenBodies is Full-Body Interaction environment aimed at supporting the collaborative creation of drawings and to serve as a starting point for guiding children’s reflection on group dynamics and discrimination.  

My role

I led the design of the BetweenBodies project as part of my PhD in the Full-Body Interaction Lab of University Pompeu Fabra. In this project I’ve been in charge of conducting interviews with experts, designing and carry out Participatory Design workshops with children, defining design requirements, analyzing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative data. The project has been realized in collaboration with Gustavo Hitscherich and Marie Monique Schaper.

The challenges

Collaboration and group dynamics are important learning goals during childhood. In this project we aimed at developing a playful application that can serve as as a starting point for guiding children’s reflection on group dynamics and discrimination.  Its development should be based on making a meaningful use of embodied resources through the use of Full-Body Interaction interfaces.

The design process

The design process was structured in three stages:

  • An ideation stage aimed at eliciting and integrating requirements from experts and children
  • A preliminary evaluation stage where we tested the first prototype and compared its usage with the two different interfaces (Vertical Screen and Floor Projection).
  • The  definition of design refinements


The ideation stage


Elicitation of requirements from experts Children as partners in the design ideation stage
Goal: Delineate learning goals  Goal:  Analyze how children understand and live discrimination and groups’ dynamics.
Method: Semi-structured interviews with experts  Method: Participatory design workshop, employing methods based on the Pictionary Activity and on Game Design activities.

  • the need of addressing aspects related to in-group or out-group perceptions (e.g. social identity and categorization of the others)
  • the need of  not speaking directly about cultural difference

Outcomes: The workshop allowed spotting out some relevant insights to guide the design of the experience. Specifically:

  • The role of emotional facial and bodily expressions as a mediator of meaning construction
  • The role of physical proximity to express similarity and difference
  • The gesture of Pointing as discriminating
  • The role of touch and physical contact as an embodied metaphor for collaboration
The initial prototype

From participation to design concepts

We decided to work with the following design concepts:

  • identity / categories
  • proximity
  • approach movement
  • synchrony

Furthermore, we decided to evaluate the suitability of two different Full-Body Interaction interfaces (Vertical Screen and Floor Projection).

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The prototype

We developed an initial application was based on a back-story that describes the world of “Pimpis”, the inhabitants of a faraway planet. The children had to help the characters to rebuild their planet by freely drawing a novel environment. Children are presented an almost empty scenario, where only four characters of different colors were present. Each child can control one character by using a small hand-held lantern.To be able to draw, two children needed to bring their characters close to one another. When the two characters were sufficiently close to each other, a drawing line appeared. If the children now jointly moved through the space and maintained the physical contact between their characters, the drawing line followed their paths and they could draw whatever they wanted.

The preliminary evaluation




  • comparing the two interfaces (Vertical Screen and Floor Projection)
  • identifying design refinements


  • Questionnaires for assessing social perception
  • The analysis of children’s in situ interaction with the two systems according to a multimodal approach
  • The analysis of the outcomes of a Redesign workshop after the play experience.



Questionnaires Multimodal analysis
Results showed that children assigned to the Floor Projection condition (Mdn =10.9) rated collaboration significantly higher than children assigned to the Vertical Screen condition (Mdn =4), U = 76.50, p < 0.001. The analysis of the multiple embodied resources showed that:

  • In the Floor Projection, the children tended to experiment more with their bodies than in the Vertical Screen.
  • In the Floor Projection, the children explored the overall projected space. Instead, in the VS, the children tended to explore mainly the area where they were standing and most of them did not change their initial position in front of the screen.
  • In the Floor Projection, the children displayed a higher variability in the selection of the play partner, while in the VS the children mainly interacted with the partner who was standing beside them
  • In the Floor Projection, the children performed more complex synchronized behaviors.



Design refinements
  • The Floor Projection may represent a more appropriate interface to promote collaboration, negotiation of the tasks and discussion on group behavior.
  • Need for a critical reflection on the consistency between the proposed sensorimotor experience and the task of drawing
  • Need of creating a stronger boundary between the visual output and the narrative of the game.

A final version of the system is currently under development

Lessons Learned

  • importance of moving evaluation of comparative studies beyond verbal reports
  • need for a proper understanding of spatial and material affordances

Embodiment & the Socio-Affective Aspects of Collaboration

Analyzing the impact of different interfaces on collaborative attitudes.


During my PhD I’ve been researching on how different interaction paradigms -one based on Full-Body Interaction and the other on Desktop computer interaction- may impact the socio-affective aspects of collaboration. The results of this research showed that Full-Body Interaction had a highly significant impact on how the participating children perceived collaboration in small groups and on how they felt about the other children in the group. This indicates that Full-Body Interaction may be beneficial for supporting the construction of a positive social space for collaborative learning, given its potential to enable the use of embodied resources, which are fundamental for social communication and social cognition.

Here you can find the paper that report the results:


The possible impossible machine


With we create the Possible Impossible Machine. The machine, exhibited in Liwoli festival the Kunstuniversität Linz, borns as a reflection on the limits of “human-computer-interaction” when compared with the richness and variety of possibilities offered by the interaction between humans.

The machine works only when 9 people get organized and activated together and in the same moment, the 9 sensors of the machine.

The modules containing the sensors were built by different people in a series of workshops conducted between Barcelona and Linz.The machine thus becomes a tool for discussing problems, a meta-cognitive object and a self-learning dynamic.

The machine wants to be a methodology, an open process of construction, deconstruction and mutation. It’s aim is to generate pretexts for the reflection about the dynamics of collective creation and the possible (and impossible) displacement of the notion of open source.

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Year: 2011

Technique: software programmed with Processing and controlled by the Arduino microcontroller with different types of sensors. Modules built with recycled material and tapes

Dimensions: 4m x 4m