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).

schermata-2016-09-30-alle-21-18-37 schermata-2016-09-30-alle-21-18-56 schermata-2016-09-30-alle-21-19-09 schermata-2016-09-30-alle-21-19-21

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