CatchBob! (Project completed, as of March 2007)

background | platform | papers | contacts |


CatchBob! is an experimental platform in the form of a mobile game for running psychological experiments. It is designed to elicit collaborative behavior of people working together on a mobile activity. It was Nicolas Nova's PhD research project that is now completed.

Videos of CatchBob!:

Running on a mobile device (iPAQ, TabletPc), it's a collaborative hunt in which groups of three persons have to find and circle a virtual object on our campus.


Location-based services recently happened to be one of the new cutting edge technology in Computer Supported Cooperative Work. This project focuses on its collaborative uses: how group of people benefits from knowing others' whereabouts when working together on a joint activity. For that matter, we set up a collaborative mobile environment called CatchBob! in which we will test how a location awareness tool modifies the group interactions and communications, the way they perform a joint task as well as how they rely on this spatial information to coordinate. Series of experiments will be ran on this platform so that we could figure out how location awareness impacts group collaboration.

This project targets objectives at three levels, that would be considered as the three main scientific contributions:

Basic research objectives: to understand the role of space and location awareness on collaborative processes through a controlled experiment.

Methodology/Methodological objectives: analyzing collaborative mobile activities in terms of log analysis is still problematic because there is no agreed format for log data and no readily available suites of analysis tools. Thus, this project aims at developing innovative and systematical methods to analyze mobile CSCW with regard to performance, group interaction and communication. For that matter we will develop a computational model that could be use for operational mobile collaboration analyses.

Applied research objectives: to translate these results into the design of CSCW environments, namely by providing sound guidelines.

The platform

We set up a mobile game in which groups of 3 team-mates have to solve a joint task. The aim of the game for the participants is to find a virtual object on our campus and surround it with a triangle. They are provided with a location-based tool running on an iPAQ or a Tablet PC. This tool allows each person to see the location of his or her partners with a colored dot on the campus map. Figure 1 shows a screenshot of the location awareness tool. Another meaningful piece of information given by this tool is whether the user is close or far from the object: a proximity sensor. In addition, the tool also enables simple communication: if a participant points on a dot (that represents a person) with his/her stylus, (s)he can draw a vector that correspond to a direction proposition for his/her partner: "go to this direction". Another communication feature is the possibility to write messages and broadcast them to the partners.

As depicted on this architecture , the WiFi enabled clients (iPAQ or Table PC) determine their location entirely privately without constant interaction with a central service. They use the data provided by IEEE 802.11 network auditor such as CraftDeamon and PlaceLab. Broadcast of position, command and stroke messages is done over SOAP to a centralized server.


Ph.D dissertation 2007
Nova, N.: 'The influences of location awareness on computer-supported collaboration', I&C Faculty Ph.D dissertation, under the supervision of Pierre Dillenbourg.

Poster @ Ubicomp 2006
Nova, N., Girardin, F., Dillenbourg, P.: 'Investigating How Automatic Disclosure of Partners' Location Influences Mobile Coordination', Poster at Ubicomp 2006, Orange County, CA.

Poster @ Ubicomp 2006
Girardin, F., Nova, N., Blat, J. 'Towards Design Strategies to Deal with Spatial Uncertainty in Location-Aware Systems', Poster at Ubicomp 2006, Orange County, CA.

Full Paper in eMinds 2006
Girardin, F. & Nova, N: ' Getting Real with Ubiquitous Computing: the Impact of Discrepancies on Collaboration', eMinds, No 1

Full Paper @ COOP 2006
Nova, N., Girardin, F. & Dillenbourg, P.: 'The Underwhelming Effects of Automatic Location-Awareness on Collaboration in a Pervasive Game', Full paper for International Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems (May 9-12, 2006, Carry-le-Rouet, Provence, France).

Full Paper @ WMTE 2005
Nova, N., Girardin, F. & Dillenbourg, P.: 'Location is not enough!': an Empirical Study of Location-Awareness in Mobile Collaboration Full paper for IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education, Tokushima, Japan.

Short Paper @ IHM 2005
Nova, N., Girardin, F. & Dillenbourg, P.: Etude empirique de l'utilisation de la g├łolocalisation en collaboration mobile Short Paper for IHM 2005, Toulouse, France.
[online version coming]

Presentation @ CAIF Workshop
Nova, N. & Girardin, F.: Analyzing the Impacts of Location Awareness in Mobile Collaboration Presentation for CAIF Workshop, Chateau D'Oex, Switerzland.

Poster @ HCII 2005
Nova, N., Girardin, F. & Dillenbourg, P.: A Mobile Game to Explore the Use of Location Awareness on Collaboration Poster for HCI International 2005, Las Vegas, USA.

Position Paper @ CSCL SIG Symposium
Nova, N. & Dillenbourg, P: Impacts of Location-Awareness on Group Collaboration Position paper for the workshop "Spatial Awareness in Collaboration and Group Interaction", 7th October EPFL.

Position Paper @ B-HCI 2004
Nova, N. & Girardin, F: Analysis of a Location-Based Multi-Player Game Position paper for "Games and Social Networks: A Workshop on Multiplayer Games", 6th September University of Leeds, UK, British HCI conference.



Visit and Mail:

Nicolas Nova and Fabien Girardin
CRAFT - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
CE 1530
CH-1015 Lausanne, Switerzland


nicolas dot nova (at) epfl dot ch
fabien dot girardin (at) upf dot edu