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BirdBox - Mapping Data in different output modalities and measuring Interpretation and experience

Master Thesis 2021


How can the output modality affect the user perception? 

Can we use User Experience Surveys to explore Data Physicalization and Tangible Interfaces? 


1: Measure user experience across three pairs of interactive data representations

2. Use AttrakDiff and PANAS response to identify their applicability

3. Measure how users interpret data and the output at cognitive, somatic and emotional level

The idea is to study the unique combination of two outputs and its influence on data perception and experience.

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Each side will have an information about a bird

Depending on the side user is facing there would an output

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The outputs were presented in 4 levels/intensities. For example if the user is exploring the category aggression:

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Gesse will yield the highest brightness/ audio frequency/haptic frequency

Research Method

Surveys (PANAS and AttrakDiff)
Think a loud

Pigeon will yield the lowest brightness/ audio frequency/haptic frequency


12 students (convenient sampling)
Age 24-50

Participants would be asked to participate in pairs to encourage a fluid ‘Think a loud’

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The Researcher simulates the output based on the side of the cubes participants can see

Two participants are asked to interact with the cube and interpret the output. Their interaction is recorded for later analysis

Study Design Considerations

Sequence of outputs were counter balanced to avoid the effect of task ordering.

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Pairs chosen were already living together and were taking necessary COVID 19 precautions. The study was conducted in their shared living space

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Urban Birds Dataset

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Cube Design (Pilot)

To simulate the Haptic, Audio and Display output, I used a Partner Vibrator, a bluetooth speaker and three remote operated cabinet lights

The audio and the display outputs are simulated from outside the box and the participants were asked to pretend that the lights would be inside the box


Bluetooth Speaker

Cabinet lights with 4 levels of brightness control

9 cm App enabled Bluetooth Partner Vibrator


The vibrator was placed snugly inside the box with foam peanuts to give a consistent output throughout the surface

Participants were provided with the taxonomy of the birds along with the pictures for them to familiarise or recall the said birds before and during the study

For the purpose of a Pilot I used a white cardboard box

Study Layout (Pilot)


Changes in the final design

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For the final study, a microcontroller and an accelerometer to automate the display output from within the box was used

Bluetooth Speaker

Adafruit LIS3DH Accelerometer

8.5cm App Enabled Bluetooth Vibrator

Adafruit ESP32 Microcontroller

Adafruit NeoPixel Fairy Lights

The vibrator and the microcontrollers were perched on the H shape support inside the cube.


Study Layout (Final)

Analysis Method

Statistical Analysis (Quantitative data)
Thematic Analysis (Qualitative data)

Qualitative Analysis

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Quantitative Analysis

PANAS and AttrakDiff surveys were used to measure the affect, hedonic and pragmatic values of the output.

Both surveys revealed that the data was either too scattered or was contradictory to what the participants said in the interview


PANAS mean values

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AttrakDiff Distribution


Participants learned, analyzed and compared data from memory


Audio Haptic output came off as more stimulating and generated a positive affect overall

The low vibration was associated with a living entity or may have subconsciously been treated as one

Haptic output was a metaphor for Aggression or size while Audio output was a metaphor for speed

Participants would focus on speed and repetition to search for complex patterns and more meaning

Display output was completely ignored

Audio communicated the data and Haptic communicated the sentiment of the data

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