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Developing and Utilizing a Smart, Instrumented Fidget To Better Understand Fidgeting and its Relationship with Cognitively Demanding Activities


My dissertation research concerns the research space of fidget objects. My work includes the design, construction, and testing of a smart fidget that allows for the collection of detailed logs of fidgeting pattern to support fidgeting research. Due to the recent popularity of fidget objects such as fidget spinners and fidget cubes, the general public is increasingly wondering whether fidgeting is beneficial or detrimental, which in turn has generated more interest in this topic among academics. I believe that smart fidgets can provide deeper insights into fidgeting patterns and behaviors than can be obtained from traditional fidgeting research methodologies by recording of time stamped traces of fidgeting interactions. Toward that end, I led the development of an instrumented fidget object called the Fidgetato.

This dissertation covers the overall trajectory of my work concerning this smart fidget object. First, I discuss my research into children's fidget object preferences. This research subsequently informed the design of the smart fidget. Then, I explain the design decisions for the Fidgetato along with it's preliminary testing. Following that, I discuss research on adult fidgeting preferences done by analyzing a pre-existing online dataset on Tumblr. Finally, I present a study on the effects of fidgeting on cognitively demanding activities. This study was conducted to validate the design and efficacy of the Fidgetato for fidgeting research. Not only did it confirm the efficacy and design of the Fidgetato as a research tool but it also provided data that enabled me to answer questions that could not have been answered using traditional fidgeting methodologies. It further validated my design by finding no impairment to focus and retention when fidgeting with the Fidgetato and engaging in cognitively demanding tasks. Overall, my contribution to the field of Human Computer Interaction is the introduction of this smart, instrumented fidget into the target domain of fidget object use, improving basic understanding of this behavior with my studies and with the introduction of this new research tool.

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