Attention-Grabbing Displays

Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Woman interacting with a touch screen display
Interactive displays provide useful information such as transit schedules, maps, shopping mall directories, and flight information; however, the average passerby ignores these digital displays.

Random animations that appeal to consumers’ needs can enhance public use of interactive digital displays.

Interactive displays are rising in popularity because they can deliver more information than non-interactive, static displays. However, research has shown that interactive displays are not frequently used—a passerby may not even notice the display or, even if they do, they may not realize that it is interactive. Thus, these displays must be carefully designed so that they are attention-grabbing and easy to use.

University of Guelph computer science professor Stacey Scott and her research team studied new ways to grab peoples’ attention with digital displays.  They found that random animations that indirectly appeal to a person’s impulse to glance in that direction could improve public engagement with large interactive displays.

The research team set up a touchscreen display in a University setting that would provide useful information such as bus schedules, coffee shop lineup lengths, and study space availability. Then, they compared proxemic animations (on-screen objects that move when someone is close by) with random animations (on-screen objects that move randomly) to determine which animation type attracted more attention. They also compared two types of visuals intended to appeal to impulsive thinking: direct visuals (e.g., an image of a coffee shop with the words “Coffee Shops” underneath) and indirect visuals (e.g., suggesting a need to recharge or caffeinate). The research team found that random animations engaged twice as many people as proxemic animations. So, for example, a display that used an animated fish to capture visitors’ attention would be more attention-grabbing if the fish swam at random compared to if the fish only swam when visitors were nearby. Also, people were more likely to stop and look at the display when indirect visuals were used. However, the indirect visuals did not affect how many people interacted with the display.  

“Our research provides new insight into the effective design of large interactive displays,” says Prof. Scott. “The techniques we have demonstrated can help improve interactive displays so that people passing by notice the display, understand how it works, and can interact with it to meet their needs.”

This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Ghare M, Pafla M, Wong C, Wallace JR, Scott SD. Increasing Passersby Engagement with Public Large Interactive Displays: A Study of Proxemics and Conation. ISS ’18. 2018. doi: 10.1145/3279778.3279789.

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