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Evaluating the effectiveness of physical shape-change for in-pocket mobile device notifications

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Abstract

Audio and vibrotactile output are the standard mechanisms mobile devices use to attract their owner's attention. Yet in busy and noisy environments, or when the user is physically active, these channels sometimes fail. Recent work has explored the use of physical shape-change as an additional method for conveying notifications when the device is in-hand or viewable. However, we do not yet understand the effectiveness of physical shape-change as a method for communicating in-pocket notifications. This paper presents three robustly implemented, mobile-device sized shape-changing devices, and two user studies to evaluate their effectiveness at conveying notifications. The studies reveal that (1) different types and configurations of shape-change convey different levels of urgency and; (2) fast pulsing shape-changing notifications are missed less often and recognised more quickly than the standard slower vibration pulse rates of a mobile device.