Objectives: In this abstract we present the design and a first evaluation of the Collaborative Puzzle Game (CPG), an interactive technology-supported game designed for fostering collaboration in children with ASD. The CPG interface was inspired by cardboard jigsaw puzzles and was developed to run on the MERL DiamondTouch table, a horizontal interactive surface that supports the collaboration of multiple users. As in regular puzzle games, the task requires assembling pictures starting with pieces that are spread over the table surface. In the CPG, digital pieces can be dragged over the surface by direct finger touch and the game/actions is enriched with visual and auditory feedback. The CPG features a set of interaction rules called Enforced Collaboration (EC): in order to be moved from their original position, puzzle pieces must be touched and dragged simultaneously by the two players. We hypothesized that EC can represent an interaction paradigm that would help foster collaboration between children.
Methods: Two studies were conducted to test the effect of EC on the interaction and collaboration of pairs of children playing with the CPG. In Study1, 70 boys with typical development (M = 9.7y) were tested with the purpose of creating a baseline for evaluation with children with ASD. In Study2, 16 boys diagnosed with ASD (M = 13.5y) were tested. Both studies included two experimental conditions: one where EC was active and the other where children could independently move puzzle pieces. The effect of EC was tested on a number of quantitative performance and interaction measures directly extracted from the system.
Results: EC was associated with a more complex interaction, as demonstrated by longer completion times and a higher number of moves required to complete the task for both experimental samples. EC had a positive effect on collaboration, which was reflected by an increased rate of simultaneous activity by the two players. In children with ASD, EC was also related to a higher number of moves reflecting the need for coordinating the activity and negotiating moves during the game.
Conclusions: The Collaborative Puzzle Game was developed with the aim of providing a playful activity that can help children with ASD to foster collaborative skills by taking advantage of the Enforced Collaboration interaction paradigm. The results show that Enforced Collaboration is related to a more complex interaction and that it appears to have a positive impact on measures reflecting collaboration.