Awareness and embodied interactions in playful environments for animals

My PhD research focuses on the design and development of animal-centered interactive systems that enhance one of the most natural animal behaviors: play. The main goal of this research is to expand Animal Computer Interaction with the ability to learn from and adapt to the animals and humans’ movements and gestures when interacting within a playful environment. This could provide more entertaining and complete activities to improve the animals’ wellbeing in several scenarios.

Depth-based cat tracking system

If we want to develop environments whose interactive devices adapt to the animals’ behaviors and preferences, we need a way of capturing the animals’ movements unobtrusively (without using a harness nor a wearable device, allowing the animal to move and interact freely and in a natural way). For this purpose, we have developed a depth-based tracking systems capable of detecting a cat’s position, body posture and orientation. This tracking system would allow us to create engaging and realistic games using technological artifacts which adapt to the detected cat’s postures and field of view.


Related publications:

Observational study: cats’ playful preferences and behavior

In order to study the most suitable mechanisms to create engaging playful experiences for cats, we conducted an observational study to evaluate the interest of several cats of different ages, personalities and living conditions, when facing different kinds of technologically-based stimuli and interaction modalities. With the assistance of experts in cat behavior and cat therapists, we observed different behaviors and preferences on the cats when playing with the digital stimuli. We tried to analyze the factors and dimensions that could have influenced the interactions, such as age, environment, past experiences and personality traits.

kittens playing with sphero

Related publications:

Embodied interactions for zoo animals

During 2016 I did a research stay at the Microsoft Research Centre for SocialNUI at the University of Melbourne. In collaboration with Zoos Victoria, we focused on the design of a system which could allow orangutans to explore sound-based stimuli by means of the manipulation of tangible non-technological elements they already have in the enclosure. The evaluation of this system would potentially allow to study which kind of auditory stimuli are more engaging for them and which mappings would be best to mediate the interactions. The prototype system is yet to be evaluated.

dewi playing


For a complete list of publications of all these projects, click here.


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