Buzzwear: supporting multitasking with wearable tactile displays on the wrist
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On-the-go users' interaction with mobile devices often requires high visual attention that can overtax limited human resources. For example, while attending information displayed on a mobile device, on-the-go users who are driving a car or walking in the street can easily fail to see a dangerous situation. This dissertation explores the benefits of wearable tactile displays (WTDs) to support eyes-free interaction for on-the-go users. The design and implementation of the WTDs are motivated by two principles in mobile user interaction that have been proven both commercially and academically: wristwatch interfaces that reduce the time for device acquisition and tactile interfaces that eliminate the need for visual attention. In this dissertation, I present three phases of design iteration on WTDs to provide the design rationale and challenges. The result of the iterative design is evaluated through in-depth formal investigations with novice users in two experiments: user perception of the tactile stimuli and information throughput in association with multiple tactile parameters, and perception of the tactile stimuli and information throughput when the user is visually distracted. The first experiment explores general human capabilities in perceiving tactile stimuli on the wrist. It reveals that subjects could discriminate 24 tactile patterns with 98% accuracy after 40 minutes of training. Of the four parameters (intensity, starting point, rhythm, direction) that were configured to design the 24 patterns, intensity was the most difficult parameter to distinguish, and temporal variation was the easiest. The second experiment explores users' abilities to perceive incoming alerts from two mobile devices (WTD and mobile phone) with and without visual distraction. The second experiment reveals that when the user was distracted visually, reaction time to perceive the incoming alerts became slower with the mobile phone alert but not with the WTD.