Social camouflage: A survey of 143 students of their preference for assistive technology cutlery and the visual mechanisms being influenced

Camouflage has been used extensively in modern military applications for over one hundred years. However, social camouflage has been used by artists and designers for even longer within clothing, body-worn accessories and more recently automotive and product design. Most practicing designers learn this tacit heuristic through trial and error or passed on through master-student experience. This paper will provide the theoretical principles behind the heuristic and validate their application through evidence from different sources. A series of photographs was compiled of seven commercially available cutleries for people with limited grip strength or mobility in their hands that included a set that embodied the principles of social camouflage. The optimum shapes for grip in these sets highlights their unconventional shape, making them less desirable to use in public. A survey of preferences for a range of cutlery was completed with over 143 students using a semantic differential (SD) scale, with ‘least medical’ and ‘most medical’ as the polar nouns. A sample of eight students, four male, four females, completed the survey again using computer screen-based eye tracking. The areas of interest and the order of movement of fixations were noted. The SD scale order placed the socially camouflaged closer to desirable than medical term. Eye tracking highlighted that students followed the outline of the highest contrast visual elements when viewing the socially camouflaged cutlery; being drawn away from the outline of the actual shape. In all others, the outline profile was prominent.

To further validate the findings and to inspect viewing pattern of participants when making choices, eye-tracking experiment was conducted. The participants were asked to volunteer to complete the second phase of the project. A computer screen-based eye-tacker (SensoMotoric Instrument, SMI) was used to capture the eye-movement of the participants, when making selection from the presented choices of images. Participants were asked to complete the survey again.

This data-set includes the files from the eye-tracking experiment such as images showing Areas of Interests (AOI), heatmaps and screenshots from post-processing of data. Additionally, videos in data-set show the sequence of heatmaps and gaze path of participants for different images presented. The files such as; raw data-set, event statistics, larger and integrated AOI, contains the eye-movement data of participants. The last two files show summarised outcomes from the eye-tracking experiment.