Usage of Interactive Event Timelines in Collaborative Digital Tabletops Involving Automation

  • Y.-L. Betty ChangEmail author
  • Stacey D. Scott
  • Mark Hancock


Tabletop computers are increasingly being used for complex, collaborative scenarios, such as emergency response. In such scenarios, maintaining situation awareness of dynamic changes automated by the system is crucial for users to make optimal decisions. If the system does not provide users with appropriate feedback, they can become confused and “out-of-the-loop” about the current system state, leading to suboptimal decisions or actions. To enhance situation awareness of dynamic changes occurring in the collaborative tabletop environment, we designed an interactive event timeline to enable exploration of historical system events. We conducted a user study to understand how various design alternatives of interactive event timelines impacted situation awareness in the context of a cooperative tabletop game. Our initial results showed that, on average, all groups had a high combined level of situation awareness, regardless of the given timeline designs. To better understand what role the timelines played for the groups, we conducted an in-depth video analysis. Participants used the timelines mostly for perceiving new changes by interacting with the detailed information. The analysis also revealed the benefits of the high-level information presented in the timelines for projecting future system states. The information presented in the timelines was considered as the correct historical account and was used to negotiate the knowledge of automated changes. We also report on how other system features, in addition to the timelines, were used for situation awareness maintenance. Finally, we discuss implications for designing interactive event timelines for co-located collaborative systems involving automated events.


Situation Awareness Game State Feedback Location Control Placement System Animation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo, the Leif exchange program, NSERC, NSERC SurfNet, GRAND NCE, and SSHRC IMMERSe for funding this project. We also thank Matt Leacock and Z-Man Games for giving us permission to use the Pandemic board game.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y.-L. Betty Chang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stacey D. Scott
    • 1
  • Mark Hancock
    • 2
  1. 1.Games Institute/Systems Design EngineeringUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Games Institute/Department of Management SciencesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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