(Carnegie Mellon University, Doha, Qatar)

Keywords: digital heritage, natural interaction, eye-gaze, design research

In the context of digital heritage, this research investigates how best to recreate in virtual space the natural interaction visitors experience with artifacts in a museum. A key objective is to examine eye-gaze interactions and effective solutions to the related Midas Touch problem. The first phase of the research involved observation of visitors’ engagement with paintings and sculptures in five museums in Qatar. Drawing upon the insights gained, the second phase involved building a digital heritage artifact called Al-Lulwa. This desktop application features a collection of mixed media about the history of pearl diving in Qatar presented as a virtual gallery and an underwater scene. Design research methods along with pilot studies helped understand how to control for dwelling and fixation times to address the Midas Touch problem in eye-gaze interaction. An experiment was set up with 60 Arab participants divided randomly into two groups, one of which interacted with Al-Lulwa first with eye-gaze, then a mouse, and finally with their preferred mode. Members of the other group interacted first with a mouse, then eye-gaze, and finally with their preferred mode. Each participant’s preference for interaction type and emotional response to the interaction experience was determined by using questionnaires and a structured interview. The group that used eye-gaze had a significantly higher mean affective response to their mode of interaction compared with users who used a mouse (p-value=2.195e-05). After viewing the virtual gallery and the underwater scene using the two interaction modes, both groups of participants had significantly higher affective responses for eye-gaze over mouse interactions (p-values = 4.59e-06 and 1.025e-11 respectively). When presented with a choice, 88% of participants from both groups preferred eye-gaze over a mouse interaction. Also, 92% of participants who preferred eye-gaze stated that eye-gaze interaction felt more natural than a mouse interaction.