It is envisioned that the tables in our domestic environments will turn into interactive surfaces once the price per square meter is in the region of a few hundred Euro. One of the key reasons for buying and using them is the natural support for co-located collaboration, such as information visualization and retrieval or joint planning and decision making. So far it has been widely assumed that users in such a setting will focus almost exclusively on the interaction with the interactive surface. However, this neglects the number of existing personal devices people currently have in use at home such as laptops, tablets, or smart phones and use them for co-located collaboration tasks. Our novel MobiSurf concept establishes a seamless integration of personal mobile devices and an additional shared interactive surfaces for co-located collaboration (Figure 1, obove) extending existing interaction concepts and technologies.
The following scenario illustrates how MobiSurf supports collaboration: Kim and John want to buy a new camera. After an initial discussion and joint web search on the interactive surface, they know what they want and what their needs are (Figure 1a). Then they start searching for offers individually using their personal devices (Figure 1b) as they would like to use different web sites, have differing ways of searching, want to check personal discounts, etc. As soon as they ﬁnd interesting offers, they share them by dropping the web page on the common surface (Figure 1c). Now they can jointly view and discuss their options or go back to individual browsing. Using this approach, the mobile devices facilitate interaction in private while the interactive surface constitutes a shared space that is equally accessible to everyone (e.g., for placing information). This also turns mobile and personal devices at home into tools that support collaboration although they are primarily designed for a single user and usually relegate people nearby to mere observers. The main contributions of the presented research are the results from a study which compared MobiSurf with the current practice of using laptops for co-located collaboration at home. When using MobiSurf, the participants interacted with the mobile devices twice as long as with the interactive surface itself. Furthermore, none of the groups in our study exclusively used the interactive surface or the mobile devices. This shows that the suggested combination of devices provides distinct advantages to the user which has not been exploited in existing systems. Furthermore, participants exchanged two to three times more web pages using MobiSurf than with the laptop-based approach further supporting the value of our approach.