Peer Reviewed Conference and Journal Publications

Doctoral Consortium Papers

Workshops Papers

Current Projects

Physically Embodied Educational Games

The five forms of physical embodiment
The five different forms of physical embodiment presented in the design framework for embodied learning games and simulations.

The notion of embodiment stems from the concept that concept that cognition does not only occur in the mind but is also supported by bodily activity; situated in and interacting with our physical and social environment. However, due to a broad conceptual usage of the term across a diverse variety of research domains, designs utilizing an “embodied” approach often result in seemingly unrelated systems (e.g., enacting concepts by moving through a space vs. manipulating tangible objects in order to learn). This is especially problematic with respect to the creation of educational technologies such as games, where the black box of design decisions around embodiment can drastically impact efficacy and learning outcomes. To address these issues, this work creates a theoretical design framework to capture the nuances of differing forms of physical embodiment and their application to educational games (see image above for the different forms of physical embodiement in the design framework). The design framework has been utilized to build different versions of a puzzle-based educational programming game in order to compare social, emotional, and learning outcomes of employing embodiment through the use of tangibles.

Tangible Bots & (Main)Frames Game
Gameplay from a tangible (embodied interaction) version of Bots & (Main)Frames, an educational programming game where players use physical blocks to code.

Alternative input modalities such as tangibles have shown substantial promise over traditional desktop applications—the primary advantages being that they allow for learning concepts to be embedded directly into the physical material and design of an object, as well as through the embodied interactions learners have by manipulating these objects. In order to explore the impacts of tangibles in educational games and compare them to typical mouse based designs, I created two versions of an educational programming game called Bots & (Main)Frames. This work conducts experimental studies comparing input modality (mouse vs. tangible programming blocks) with mode of play (individual vs. collaborative) for educational programming games, showing notable benefits for both tangibles and collaborative play.

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Meta-analysis of Games Research

Meta-analysis of Games Research Keywords
Keyword network map of most frequent keywords used in 8,207 games research papers.

In the absence of data analysis, there has been an anecdotal understanding among some game researchers that there are two overarching communities within the field, one with research focused on technical approaches to understanding and developing games (e.g. artificial intelligence, computational modeling, visualization, graphics research, etc.) and another addressing non-technical aspects of games with a range of research approaches from the humanities, arts, design, and social sciences (e.g., narrative, user experience, virtual worlds, role play, design, philosophy, etc.). However, a clear analysis of the interrelations and synergies among subcommunities and research themes that comprise the current academic landscape remains undocumented. This research presents efforts at mapping the topology of games research from 2000 - 2014.

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Past Projects

CSEI: The Constructive Sensual Evaluation Instrument

A broad sampling of affective shapes created by participants during a study.
A broad sampling of affective shapes made out of clay by study participants.

In HCI, research linking dimensions of shape to phenomena such as emotion is fairly limited. Certain visual dimensions of form have been shown to express a wide range of emotions, but there is no unified understanding of which dimensions relate to which emotions. To address this gap, in the Affective Dimensions of Shape project we explore the relationship between shape and emotion, providing a taxonomy of affective shape dimensions and insight to how individuals embody emotion in form.

Work with CSEI and understanding affective dimensions of shape was featured in Popular Science.

You can read more about this research at the Social Emotional Technology website.

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Scoop! Gameplay
Gameplay from Scoop!, a kinect game designed to reduce math anxiety.

Scoop! is a Kinect-based game that applies research on power poses to reduce math anxiety. High-power poses tend to be very expansive (taking up space) and open (limbs away from body). On the other hand, low-power poses tend to be closed and take up very little space. Recent research has shown that holding high-power poses will cause a decrease of the stress hormone cortisol and an increase of the hormone testosterone. These hormonal changes in turn correspond to feeling more powerful and less stressed. Scoop! aims to take advantage of high-power poses by utilizing them as mechanics of the gameplay where the goal is to place falling fractions in the correct spot on a number line.

Scoop! has been featured at the 2012 World Science Festival Innovation Arcade, 9th Annual Games for Change Festival, and as an interactivity demonstration for the CHI 2012 conference.

You can read more about Scoop! at the Game Innovation Lab website.

Open Sesame

Open Sesame Model
Designs for our gesture-based access controll system, Open Sesame.

Researchers to date mainly frame usability and security only in terms of minimizing frustration. This is because security system designers usually begin their work with the limits of the technology involved rather than an understanding of the behaviors and motivations of their users. Post-It notes of passwords stuck to computer monitors are the consequence of security that users dislike. And so security that is not usable—and thus not enjoyable—is not secure.

With Open Sesame we are working to flip the security world on its head with the notion of pleasurable security. Open Sesame replaces the traditional proximity key card system at our lab’s doorway with a gesture-based system that incorporates a variety of features to maximize pleasure in the security interaction. Existing research demonstrates a strong link between how we move and how we feel. Our system is designed to harness this effect and to purposefully serve our users’ various moods when they enter our doorway. With Open Sesame, we aim to maximize enjoyment and in doing so achieve good usability.

Open Sesame uses a variety of techniques for face matching, body geometry matching, and gesture recognition. The system identifies an authorized user at a distance and recognizes one of several gestures (unique to that user's way of moving through space) to unlock the door to our lab.

You can read more about Open Sesame at the Game Innovation Lab website.