Observation: Interactive Video Kiosk Experience

Location: American Museum of Natural History

Interactive Technology: “Send a Video to Friends & Family” Video Kiosk

Duration of Transactions: Under 3 minutes

I went to the American Museum of Natural History with a fellow ITP-er, Jamie Ruddy, to observe this piece of interactive technology in the Rose Center for Earth & Space section of the museum. There before us stood this interactive stand, featuring a video monitor, two cameras (one above, one below the screen), and a platform. The main title of the fully exposed booth: “Send a Video to Friends & Family.”


It looked like the interactive model where you and possibly someone else stand in front of a screen, follow the prompts, input some details and specifications, and in no time, you are part of a video that you can send out to anyone whose email address you may have.

Groups of people would walk by the machine, slowly look at it, creep by, look at each other, shake their heads “No,” and continue on. In the cases that people did decide to use it, it seemed to be in groups of 2 or more.

Initially the users had to decide which camera they wanted to use: top or bottom. The top was geared toward adults and the bottom for shorter folk such as children.  Some people did have trouble with this. Which leads me to this design concern. The two cameras are only on two spectrums – high or low. Nothing in the middle. For adults and children in between that parameter, they had to adjust themselves manually, and in the case of one group, they had to step well off the platform to get in the camera’s view. Adjusting to how one’s head fit into the space allotted by the screen and camera took a bit of time. Clicking on the screen while trying to stay in the same spot as not to move out of focus, was also a challenge.


Mid-height group had to adjust themselves to the camera and screen pre-determined proportions.

They finally found the right spot, 6 inches off of the designated platform.

They finally found the right spot, 6 inches off of the designated platform.

When approaching the podium, one family decided to do the experience together. It was an older couple in their 50s/60s, with the grown adult son.  While the couple stood there having fun, laughing, adjusting to the camera together, the son would pop up behind them, sort of engaging in the video shoot. When the parents went to email the video to “friends and family,” they asked if he wanted it as well. He quickly ran off and said no. I found that striking, as he had been jumping up behind them in the background to be part of the video. For an exhibit at a “kid’s” museum, the interaction in the case was enjoyed more by the older adults than the younger one.


Husband decides to touch the glowing screen at the kiosk.


The family begins to get pulled into the experience together.

Inputting information via the touchpad keyboard was very simple. I originally assumed that this would take time, but the interface seemed intuitive and easy to maneuver. Even with older adults, the typing was quick and the transaction time kept within 3 minutes.


If the users before us had such ease in experiencing the device, we thought we’d try it on for size and make our own video.  With our height difference, it did take time, like the other shorter users, to adjust to the settings offered by the cameras. The low was too low for my and the high was too high. So, off the platform we went. Reaching the screen to confirm the setting was then a bit more difficult because we were a few feet away. Luckily Jamie had longer arms.


A height difference in multiple people in the image can clearly effect the adjustment time that the users need when setting up the shoot.

Extremely easy interface and input options, with limited chance for confusion

Extremely easy interface and input options, with limited chance for confusion

As you will notice with this video, the beginning 5 or so seconds just contains animation and nothing of the user. In this time, I was beginning to think, “Did I do the right thing? What was the point of lining up? When does my part happen? Is this the right way to experience this.” This was where, as a user, I could have used a little more feedback, something on the screen that reassured me that I was in the right place and on standby. However, the action soon picked up, I saw my face on screen and realized I had done everything correctly, phew.

“A device is easy to use when there is visibility to the set of possible actions, where the controls and displays exploit natural mappings.” (Norman, 25) The “Send a Video” kiosk experience was a great example of visibility. The interface had a clear flow and direction. The actions and the outcomes were clear and labeled, intuitive in design. And there was essentially one input page at the start to get the video going, the video, and then the email page which made it very clear who it was being sent from and to. Great mapping led to great navigation by the users.

As a device of interactivity, here was the conversation:
Kiosk: Would you like to start?
User: Yes
Kiosk: Align into this pre-determined position and click ok!
User: Ok!
Kiosk thinks and processing the data, video rolls with user’s image in real time.
Kiosk: Let me know who you want to send it to.
User: Okay, here is all of this information
Kiosk: Thanks ::sends email::

This is a basic interaction. To take it to the next level, instead of having the user position him/herself to the pre-determined camera position, the camera could have adjusted itself and found the image of the user.

Here is the result of the interaction:

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  1. Good detailed notes. A couple of things to consider for future observations:

    * How many people or groups you observed (so you have a sense how representative your observations are)
    * How long each user spends with the system as a whole
    * How long each step takes
    * Which steps are most often repeated
    * Which are most often skipped
    * What actions are required: what limbs, what senses, etc.

    Sometimes you learn more from the most seemingly mundane details observed repeatedly than from observing and interpreting as you go.

    Also, consider what you mean by “intuitive” in this context, and how it differs in other contexts.

  2. And one other note: when recording, try to record the participant as well as the output. Seeing the former without the latter can be very informative.

  3. Great advice! Will definitely pull these details out in a future observation. You can never see too much!

    In this context I am referring to intuitive in the sense of ease of flow of the design in relation to the hard-wired knowledge and ease of use by the user.

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