Designing tangible tabletop interactions to support the fitting process in modeling biological systems
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This thesis aims to explore how to physically interact with computational models on an interactive tabletop display. The research began with the design and implementation of several prototype systems. The research of the prototype systems showed that tangible interactions on interactive tabletops have the potential to be more effective on some tasks than traditional interfaces that use screen displays, keyboards and mice. The prototype work shaped the research to focus on the effectiveness of adopting tangible interactions on interactive tabletops. To substantiate the thesis claims, this thesis develops an interactive tabletop application, Pathways, to support the fitting process in modeling biological systems. Pathways supports the concepts of Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) and tabletop visualizations. It realizes real-time simulation of models and provides comparisons of simulation results with experimental data on the tabletop. It also visualizes the simulation of the model with animations. In addition to that, Pathways introduces a new visualization to help systems biologists quickly compare the simulation results. This thesis provides the quantitative and qualitative evaluation results of Pathways. The evidence showed that using tangible interactions to control numerical values is practical. The results also showed that in experimental conditions users achieved better fitting results and faster fitting results on Pathways than the control group, which used the systems biologists' current tools. The results further suggested that it is possible to recruit non-experts to perform the fitting tasks that are usually done by professional systems biologists.