This report describes and discusses the findings from a field study that was conducted at the Vancouver Aquarium to investigate how visitors explore and experience large horizontal multi-touch tables as part of public exhibition spaces. The study investigated visitors’ use of two different tabletop applications—the Collection Viewer and the Arctic Choices table—that are part of the Canada’s Arctic exhibition at the Vancouver Aquarium. Our findings show that both tabletop exhibits enhanced the exhibition in different ways. The Collection Viewer table evoked visitors curiosity by presenting visually interesting information and engaged by supporting lightweight, playful, and open-ended information exploration. The Arctic Choices table enabled visitors to explore a variety of information about environmental and political changes within the Arctic in depth by providing detailed data visualizations. The application triggered a lot of insightful discussions among visitors.
Our study findings include a discussion of the factors that attracted visitors’ attention and triggered interaction with both tabletop exhibits, the character and duration of information exploration, general exploration strategies, and factors that triggered social and collaborative information exploration. We also discuss usability issues of both tabletop applications alongside possible solutions.