Four-in-a-row
Category: Work

Esteves, A., Hoven, E. van den and Oakley I. 2013. Physical Games or Digital Games? Comparing Support for Mental Projection in Tangible and Virtual Representations of a Problem Solving Task. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’13). ACM, Barcelona, Spain, 167-174. [download]

A study to explore how a tangible representation impacts user performance in a problem-solving task resulted in the development of an augmented version of the popular game of Four-in-a-row. In this game two players take turns dropping colored disks in a 7×6 vertical grid. The objective is to be the first player to connect four disks of the same color in either a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line.

The augmented version of the game included a hovering feedback, that simply took the form a highlight in response to exploratory gestures with the game pieces. Essentially, if participants positioned a game token at the top of one of the game board columns, they were presented with appropriately colored visual feedback indicating the position the disk would reach if dropped. This was intended to provide information on the board’s possible future states prior to making an actual move in the game.

The game featured a 7×6 grid of holes with a total visible size of 26×24 cm, and game diska of 3 cm in diameter and 0.5 cm in thickness. The hover feedback was realized via two vertically stacked photo interrupters mounted on top of each of the columns (14 sensors in total). Placing a physical token in between the top emitter and sensor triggered the hovering feature, while an interruption of the bottom sensor was used to indicate a disk drop. Each of the bottom sensors was located 0.5 cm above the game board, with the top sensors located at 1.5 cm.

Graphical feedback for the hover event was enabled by placing a diffuser screen (Rosco Grey) and seven strips of digitally addressable RGB LEDs behind the board (so that there was one LED for game-board hole). All electronics were connected to an Arduino Mega microprocessor that monitored input and displayed the feedback.

Participant playing Four-in-a-row in each of the interfaces

Participant playing Four-in-a-row in each of the three interfaces

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