We studied how novice hapticians - engineers and designers with little haptics experience - designed multisensory haptic experiences, and through their successes and challenges, found out more about the haptic experience design process: design choices, activities, and success strategies.
Access to haptic technology is on the rise, in smartphones, virtual reality gear, and open-source education kits. However, engineers and interaction designers are often inexperienced in designing with haptics, and rarely have tools and guidelines for creating multisensory experiences. To examine the impact of this deficit, we supplied a haptic design kit, custom software, and technical support to 9 teams (25 students) for an innovation challenge at a major haptics conference. Teams (predominantly undergraduate engineers with little haptics, interaction design, or education training) designed and built haptic environments to support learning of science topics. Qualitative analysis of surveys, interviews, team blogs, and expert assessments of teams' final demonstrations exposed three themes in these design efforts. 1) Novice teams tended to ignore many of ten design choices that experts navigate, such as explicitly choosing whether haptic and graphic feedback should reinforce versus complement one other. 2) Their design activities differed in timing and inclusion from ten observed in expert process. 3) We identified three success strategies in how teams devised useful and engaging interactions and interpretable multimodal experiences, and communicated about their designs. We compare novice and expert design needs and highlight where future haptic design tools and theory need to support novice practice and training.