Masters Project: Controlling GUI elements with a DJ Deck

Guus Rietbergen on his thesis: Controlling GUI elements with a DJ Deck

When reviewing the possible Master Thesis projects, the Data DJ project by Paul Groth sparked my interest. Paul used a DJ Deck to integrate different social media streams into one overview. (Link to original blog post.) Creating the act of a real-time data mixing performance, used to give a live report of an event. This project detaches the used Deck from its musical context, placing it into a general media environment.
With my thesis I tried to take this generalization a step further. Seeing this Deck in use controlling a specific computer application, made me wonder about the potential of this device for normal computer use. I’ve always found that, the way we computer users interact with our personal computers is still sub-optimal. This in contrast to the visible joy and ease of Disc Jockeys (DJs) when they use a DJ Deck for mixing music. With my thesis I have explored the possibility to use this digital media controller as input device for the Graphical User Interface of a personal computer. I tested the effectiveness of this controller by setting up an experiment.
The experiment measured the user’s manipulation time on common Graphical User Interface elements. By comparing these manipulation times to that of the more commonly used mouse and keyboard, we could determine the effectiveness of this alternative input device. Our experimental set up evaluated tree types of GUI elements: item selection in a list, scrolling in a text dialog, and moving a horizontal slider.
For both the Item selection task and the scrolling task the DJ Deck’s controls outperformed both keyboard and computer mouse. For the slider task the USB mouse was still the quickest input device. So, even though a typical user has never used the DJ Deck before, they outperform the keyboard and mouse on two of the tree tasks. While having far more experience with the mouse and keyboard. This demonstrates the positive characteristics of the device, presumably caused by the physical nature of the device, providing the user with more tactile clues and feedback about their manipulations.
These results suggest that this DJ Deck can be used effectively for controlling general Graphical User Interface elements. Now that we have shown the advantages of this device in terms of manipulation time, further research should determine if this deck can be used to control complete computer applications instead of just single GUI elements. The goal is to ultimately bring the joy Disc Jockeys have in manipulating music to normal computer users.

Posted in Masters Projects

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