Final Milestone

Ubi Bar Final Milestone: Video Demo

Below is the report detailing information about both the live and video demos as well as the final concept proposal. The report can also be viewed in PDF format.

Executive Summary

This report explains the design concept for a new, interactive gaming bar, UbiBar. The goal for this project was to create an engaging experience that increases the enjoyment of being at a bar and encourages conversation in the process. The project evolved over the course of several stages, and we are happy to present the final proposal, as well as a video demo that showcases how this concept works.

The video demo is very important for visualizing what UbiBar is and how users interact with it in an easy-to-understand manner. This report also highlights many key aspects of this project. The report contains the following:

  • A summary of the two major research studies undertaken during this process
  • A detailed explanation of the UbiBar concept, including:
    • the video demo
    • a discussion of a live, in-class demo
    • use-case scenarios
    • a list of criteria for games on this platform
    • wireframes of the system
  • A discussion of the open questions this concept presents, including technical, usability, and social issues
  • A brief conclusion reflecting on the system.


The overarching goal for this concept is to create an interactive experience that increases the enjoyment of being at a bar and encourages conversation among friends. Socialization in a bar setting has worked well for a long time. This makes introducing a new experience to the bar a challenge. However, bars have offered gaming experiences as diverse as trivia and darts and board games for many years. Ultimately, our project seeks to reframe the focus of that gaming interaction under the light of ubiquitous computing, thereby facilitating ease of interaction and bolstering the socialization process.

The result of our work is UbiBar. UbiBar is a new bar that incorporates touch-sensitive tables equipped with interactive games of various kinds. The goal of the system is to provide a simple, fun gaming experience that customers can jump in and out of with ease. Games are designed to be played with groups of friends. Importantly, the system also incorporates real-world objects like users’ phones and objects on the table into gameplay. Finally, tables at UbiBar integrate with the traditional bar experience by allowing players to earn points toward free or discounted drinks.

This report contains an overview of the two key research studies that informed the design decisions in this concept. Next, the report describes, in detail, the final concept and how it would be used. The report then wraps up with a discussion about some of the open questions this system presents.

Formative Study Summary

The first major study our team undertook contained three key parts: informal observations at four local bars, interviews with six participants about their bar-going experiences, and a cultural probe with those same interview participants. When participants’ time allowed, interviews were conducted on-site at a local bar. Those interviews and the observations followed traditional UX methodologies; the cultural probe, in contrast, offered a somewhat unique perspective on participants’ engagement with the bar experience.

The cultural probe contained three tasks. Participants were asked to:

  1. mark 10 local bars on a map, each based on a particular criteria (e.g. “Where you’d most like to run into an old friend”),
  2. send three text messages to a member of the research team as if you were texting a friend about a particular bar, and
  3. collect several photos that explain either a really good experience or a really bad experience you had at a bar.

After a participant completed the three tasks, a member of the research team met with him or her to review the activity results. This technique gave participants a chance to think about the experience of going to a bar outside of the traditional (and potentially bias-inducing) interview format.

At this stage of the project, our design was not centered on the concept of games in a bar setting. As such, many of the findings related to practical matters of the bar experience, such as difficulty reading a menu and ordering drinks and the challenge of avoiding long-lines and crowds. Two design concepts emerged as a result of these findings: a tabletop system with an interactive menu/ordering system and a system for easily locating bars with available seats.

A third concept, playing interactive games in a bar (which grew into the final design seen here), was generated based on the important finding that patrons often visit a bar for a special event like trivia. Recognizing the importance of going to a bar for a reason outside of simply socializing—including specifically to play games like trivia or billiards—was key to the formation of UbiBar.

See Milestone 2 for more information.

Experience Prototype Summary

Very important to our understanding of how and why users would interact with this system was the experience prototype. For this study, we constructed a speed-dating matrix (see Milestone 3) that contained the core dimensions we wanted to study. Those dimensions are:

  • The stage of the interaction:
    • the beginning stage, when users approach the table and select a game;
    • the middle stage, when users play a game; and
    • the end stage, when the game comes to a close
  • How proactive the system is (during the beginning and end stages):
    • high proactivity, where the table initiates the interaction automatically and forces a break at the end of the game and
    • low proactivity, where the the user initiates the interaction and the game has no breaks (an additional low-beginning/medium-end was implemented in which users chose when game breaks should occur)
  • Type of player engagement (during the middle stage):
    • encouraging social interactions at the bar and
    • encouraging a focus on gameplay
  • The type of gameplay:
    • competitive, where players work against each other to collect a finite number of resources and
    • cooperative, where players work together to collect those resources

We devised a set of three user enactments that captured the concepts in the matrix. We tested three pairs of participants. Friends were chosen for the pairs to better simulate a set of people who might actually go to a bar together. A third member, someone from the research team and a friend of the pair, joined the test to provide a way of guiding the participants toward a focus on socializing or a focus on gameplay, depending on the scenario. The prototype was made mostly out of paper. Wizard of Oz techniques were employed to simulate the screen display. For gameplay, players moved, by hand, a LEGO figure, collecting LEGO resources, and avoiding wind-up “monsters” along the way. A research team member acted as wait-staff during the user enactments.

While the experience prototype was clunky and took participants some time to become accustomed to, it revealed very valuable information about the dimensions discussed above. Key findings included:

  • Participants liked that playing a game earned them points toward a free drink, and they enjoyed the visual representation of these points in the prototype.
  • Participants, unsurprisingly, wanted to be able to order drinks directly from the table.
  • Participants felt the game provided a good conversation starter, but becoming involved in the game made conversation difficult at times (and, by the same token, focusing on conversation made playing difficult).
  • Participants noted that interactions with wait staff were difficult.
  • Participants raised privacy concerns regarding having the table automatically recognize them.
  • Participants preferred scenarios in which the game had a pre-determined end-point, rather than allowing them to choose when to end.

These findings were taken into account when designing the final system concept.

Final System Concept

This section explains, in detail, the final system concept. The video and demo are discussed first, followed by an in-depth description of the concept, including use-case scenarios and wireframes.

The Video Demo

The video demo built on much of the presentation of the live demo (discussed below), but it was also expanded conceptually to highlight additional aspects of the UbiBar experience. After a brief introduction examining the rationale behind the design, the video highlights the experience of arriving at UbiBar and signing in at a table. A feature not showcased in the live demo but included in the video is the interaction of a new user registering with the system. Following this registration and sign-in, the UbiBar customers select a game. Another feature, shown only in the video, places attention on reviewing multiple games before making that selection. The two friends in the video then play the game that was included both in the live demo as well as the experience prototype, Bar Hopper. This portion is edited to include scenes that highlight the most relevant pieces of the game. In order to make the video as clear as possible, some scenes include an overlay of screens displayed on the bar-goers’ phone. Finally, the video shows the two bar-goers leaving the bar.

The Live Demo


The primary goal for this demo was to showcase a high-fidelity example of how the UbiBar system would work. While the experience prototype was enormously useful for this project, the use of paper, LEGOs, plastic cups, and other “stand-in” items was, in some ways, a distraction from the typical bar experience. Conversely, this demo much more accurately reflected how this concept would actually operate in a real bar.

Prior to the demo we conceptualized several use-case scenarios (see below). This demo focuses on one of these scenarios—the game demoed is, relatively speaking, a longer game that requires some user attention. Other scenarios focus on playing a series of shorter “mini-games,” playing a turn-based game like bowling, and more.


There are three key pieces to the demo: the physical setup, the roles the team members played, and the tabletop animation.

The setup is relatively simple. We mounted a projector onto an 8-foot tall pipe (special thanks to Jim Leach, the facilities manager at North Quad, for helping in this effort). The projector points straight down at the table as can be seen in the photo below. The projector is hooked up to a laptop that is running the animation. We decided to revisit the experience lab because it allows for lights to be dimmed and music to be played, both of which served to make the demo location feel more like a real bar. Actors used their real phones to simulate signing in to the system. We also had real glasses that were be filled with pretend, non-alcoholic drinks.

Because the demo required a high degree of precision from the actors in timing movements with the animation (more on that below), we opted not to involve audience participation. Three members from our team “went to” UbiBar, sat at the table, and tapped the table in time with the animation being projected onto the table. This setup mimicked the feel of users interacting with a touch tabletop. Those three users engaged in several aspects of the UbiBar-experience: logging into the system with their phones, ordering drinks from the tabletop menu, selecting a game, playing a game, pausing a game, and logging out as they left the bar. A fourth team member acted as the bar server, seating the three users and bringing drinks to the table. Finally, the fifth member offered a brief introduction to the system at the start of the demo.

Key to the demo was the animation. We created a high-fidelity animation that shows the above-described interactions. The animation was made in Flash. Several iterations of the animation were completed before the final version was ready for viewing.

The entire demo script can be viewed here (PDF).

Where the Demo Excels and Where it Falls Short

Given the time constraints, this demo truly excels at capturing the essence of the UbiBar experience. The demo highlights how social interactions can be encouraged through gaming. The high quality of the animation creates a sense of what the system would look like if it were implemented.

However, the demo is not perfect. The experience lab setting, while made to look and feel like a real bar is by nature not a real bar. The demo also does not highlight all aspects of UbiBar interaction, namely registering with the system. Perhaps most significantly, because of limited development time and resources, the actors in the demo only play one game, which only accounts for some of the desired interactions. The system is designed to support easy switching between games or between playing a specific game and stopping play for more traditional social interactions. The later is highlighted briefly in the demo. With more time to design multiple games and craft animations for those games, additional focus would have been placed on switching between games and the shifting social engagement that would occur as a result of that switching.

The Concept

UbiBar provides a touch-sensitive tabletop equipped with NFC sensors that recognize users phones as well as physical bar objects such as drink glasses. The system offers a variety of games. The games are meant to encourage quick play and allow bar-goers to easily fade in and out of game play as well as transition quickly between games. Unique core mechanics like interactions with drink glasses provide a different gaming experience from that of a typical board or video game and should serve as conversation starters. A UbiBar table can recognize which glass belongs to which user. It can also recognize when a drink is empty, subtly prompting a customer to order a new drink. Players earn points for playing games as well as for ordering drinks. Earning enough points nets a player a free or discounted drink.

At UbiBar, a user signs in at the table by placing his phone on a designated spot on the table. The NFC sensors recognize the phone and the user can then authorize the table to access the profile information stored in the cloud via an interface on the phone. The table then randomly selects a moderator. The moderator has the ability to choose a game; the moderator can pass that privilege to any other player anytime. Upon making a selection, other players are prompted to join the game. Logging out of the system can be done manually or by simply leaving the bar (the bar will recognize when the user’s phone is no longer within the perimeter of the bar and automatically log the user out).

The specific game demoed is called Bar Hopper. Bar Hopper was designed by our team to include elements unique to the UbiBar experience. Bar Hopper is a top-down platformer in which each player controls a character through touch-based controls. Players work together to collect resources (golden beer glasses) and take them to a temple for the beer god. Along the way, players can collect power ups that help them overcome obstacles and fend off monsters. The most unique game mechanic in Bar Hopper allows players to trap monsters temporarily by placing a drink glass on top of the monster.

See Milestone 3 for more detail.


The core technological components include a touch-sensitive, autostereoscopic display; a network of NFC sensors, and cloud-based data storage. These items are discussed in greater detail in Milestone 3.

  • Autostereoscopic, capacitive-touch display – This display creates the illusion of 3D; the technology is already used in some glasses-free 3D TVs. Capacitive-touch displays are now widely used in phones and should become more affordable in larger sizes over the next several years.
  • NFC sensors – Each table at UbiBar will have a network of NFC sensors that will be used to triangulate the position of each user’s phone as well as the position of customers’ glasses on the table. Again, this technology is already available in some phones.
  • Cloud storage – A user’s profile data, including games played, points earned, and progress toward a free or discounted drink, are stored in the cloud. Users can access that data from a mobile app anytime. The only time the table at the bar receives access to the profile information is when the user explicitly signs in using his or her phone. Upon logout, the bar only retains anonymized, aggregated data for the entire bar.


To better elucidate the situations in which users would benefit from an experience at our bar, we crafted several use-case scenarios. The UbiBar platform supports games and experiences that traverse all of these scenarios. This flexibility makes it an ideal system for social engagement in a bar setting.

Scenario 1

This scenario highlights the playing of quick, simple games that users may play several of over the course of a visit to the bar.

Alex and Daniel are big sports fans who frequently go to bars to watch a game. They like the bar atmosphere and enjoy being around people who share similar interests. Alex and Daniel are also video-game fans. They occasionally go to UbiBar because of its unique tabletop games. Although the main reason for Alex and Daniel to go to the bar is to watch sports, they do enjoy some quick, intense games the bar has to offer. It’s Tuesday, and the Red Wings playoff game is going to be on at UbiBar. Alex and Daniel get to the bar awhile before the game so they decide to play a few rounds of Fruit Ninja to relax before hockey begins. This game is really quick, lasting only a couple of minutes. After a few of rounds of play, the game starts and Alex and Daniel turn their attention to hockey. After the first period ends, they decide to kill some time by playing a bit more Fruit Ninja. Playing counteracts their boredom and lets them avoid the seemingly endless string of TV commercials. They rarely play this kind of game continuously because it requires a large amount of engagement. But periodically, for brief periods, these attention-grabbing games are a great addition to watching sports or even just chatting.

Scenario 2

This scenario describes a situation in which friends choose to play a more involved game that lasts longer than the simple games described in Scenario 1. The game described here is the game we designed for the experience prototype as well as the two demos.

James and Julie are  two college roommates who work part-time and study full-time. They usually have long workdays, so when the weekend comes around they like to catch-up and relax by going to the neighborhood bar, UbiBar. The bar has really great music and fun games. It’s Saturday night and the two roommates head to UbiBar. When they get to the bar they play their favorite game, Bar Hopper, and order the usual, a pitcher of Newcastle. Bar Hopper is a fun, engaging game that is long enough to create a sense of competition and excitement among players but not so long that eats up all their time. While playing Bar Hopper, the roommates talk mostly about the game but occasionally discuss their summer plans and goals. After the game ends, they play another round, order one more pitcher and continue to chat.

Scenario 3

Scenario 3 highlights a simple game that requires low attention but that offers an opportunity for extended play.

John, David, and Sarah are wrapping up a long week at the office. After struggling through meetings all day, the three co-workers want to relax and take a load off for awhile. They decide to grab a drink after work so they head to their favorite new bar, UbiBar. After logging in to their table, Sarah suggests playing a jigsaw puzzle game. It’s a fun game that they can easily drift in and out of while still talking with each other. John and David agree, and they start up the game. They take their time playing the game, ordering a couple drinks as they go and periodically stopping to chat about work and their weekend plans. After completing a few large puzzles, they decide to call it day. They quickly pay and head home for the weekend.

Scenario 4

The final scenario describes games that require low attention and that occupy a given user’s attention only briefly at periodic intervals.

It’s Tuesday evening and the weekly happy hour at UbiBar. Stephanie gets out of class just as happy hour begins. She gets a group of her classmates together and they head to the bar. The group quickly becomes engaged in conversation about the presentations they have to give next week. They enter the bar and once all eight of them are seated, they order. By the times drinks have come the group has segmented into several smaller conversation groups. Stephanie suggests they start a game of bowling. The game begins and they are all able to maintain their conversations. Occasionally one person doesn’t realize it’s her turn; someone else will call down the table to her. The game takes a fair amount of time but no one notices or minds because everyone is enjoying the conversation and time spent with friends. At the end of the first game the group decides they are ready to go home, so they pay their bills and leave.

Game Criteria

Because the specific games are so important to this concept, we have outlined several requirements games on this platform would need to meet in order to be included. The goal in establishing these requirements is to ensure that the games foster conversation and social engagement and allow for easy movement between playing and socializing.

Games at UbiBar should:

  • Allow players to pause the game at will – To encourage conversation, players should be able to easily pause any game. One player pausing should not affect other players except insofar as to remove the ability to interact with the paused player.
  • Accommodate both large and small groups – Games should scale so that they accommodate both pairs or small groups as well as larger groups. Tables at UbiBar can be “connected” by placing them adjacent to each other, thus allowing for more room for additional players. Some games will necessarily have a finite limit to the number of players that can play, and the impact of the size of the table should be taken into consideration when designing games. Nonetheless, this is an important consideration for designers.
  • Allow players to play the game without reaching across the table – The experience prototype revealed how awkward reaching across the table to play a game can be. Games at UbiBar should allow players to interact with the game either by focusing solely on the area in front of them or by reaching only to the center of the table.
  • Keep gameplay length for a single game under approximately 10–15 minutes – To encourage traditional bar conversations, a single, typical game should not last longer than 15 minutes. Many games will not come close to this upper limit.
  • Offer either cooperative or competitive gameplay, or both – A variety of games, both cooperative and competitive, should be available for play at UbiBar.
  • Encourage interacting with physical objects – Important to making the gaming experience at UbiBar unique is the ability to use bar objects like drink glasses in game-specific manners. One example of this is trapping monsters under a glass in Bar Hopper.
  • Allow players to earn points – All games should allow players to earn points for accomplishing various tasks in a game. Those points are tallied by the system and count toward getting a player a free or discounted drink.
  • Offer, where appropriate, different levels of difficulty – Some games will benefit from a variety of difficulty levels. It is worth considering automatically offering shifts in difficulty level based on how successful the players are at any given moment.
  • Allow players to easily enter or exit a game – Also important to allowing conversation outside of a game is ensuring that players can easily exit a game at any moment. Likewise, players should be able to return to (and new players should be able to join) an on-going game with ease.
  • Focus on visual notifications for in-game actions – To avoid unwanted noise pollution in the bar, games should focus on signalling players via visual notifications rather than audio ones.
  • Provide an end point – The experience prototype revealed a strong distaste for continuous gameplay in which users choose when to quit playing. While players should be able to quit at anytime, each game should have an end point built in. This will allow players an opportunity to explore different games or pick up a conversation outside of a game setting.


We created several wireframes showing the flow of interactions users take to sign-in, register, and select a game. We also made several mockups of the phone UI. Below is a wireframe showing the table at the start of game selection. Basic profile information is displayed and each user can see how close he or she is to earning that free drink. The moderator is at the bottom of the table.

The remaining mockups can be viewed here.


It is worth considering some of the remaining open issues this concept presents. From a technical perspective, this project does meet some challenges. The technology required for this system exists but it is not widely used; as a result, much of that technology is prohibitively costly. However, as we discussed as part of our third milestone, such costs should drop reasonably quickly. Indeed, it is encouraging that all the components—NFC sensor, autostereoscopic displays, touch displays, and a cloud-based data infrastructure—are available today. In some cases, for example cloud storage, the technology is already omnipresent.

As with technological issues, there is also some uncertainty about various usability issues. While the experience prototype provided an opportunity to examine potential users interacting with a version of the system, that prototype was very rough. Little focus was placed on polishing the interactions, and it remains to be seen what usability struggles customers might face when engaging with tables at UbiBar. Nonetheless, the team brought extensive design experience to bear when conceptualizing the product and there is every reason to believe that the interactions presented above would be met with praise from users.

Perhaps the most significant question is related to the social experience of playing games at a bar. While the experience prototype revealed an interest in using the UbiBar tables for gaming, that study focused on only one game, Bar Hopper. The live demo and video demo continued with that game. This means the other scenarios described above were not examined in very much detail. Thus, it is still not known how likely customers would be to engage with such games in a bar setting. However, given the positive reactions to the interactions during the experience prototype, there is no reason to believe customers will not find the other experiences engaging, particularly as those experiences are adjusted based on user feedback. Furthermore, as was stated at the outset of this report, gaming has been part of the bar experience for many years. UbiBar seeks to shift that experience toward the realm of ubicomp, but it does not seek to completely alter either that core gaming experience or the experience of being a bar, socializing with friends. Therefore, it is likely that this issue is not of substantial concern.


The goal of this project was to create an engaging experience that makes being at the bar more fun and helps friends engage in conversation while at the bar. UbiBar provides a variety of interactive tabletop games. Going to a bar is no longer merely about having a drink, watching a game, or catching up with friends. With this system, bar-goers have access to a modern, enhanced gaming experience that is deeply integrated with the traditional bar experience. The system not only generates more fun by giving people an opportunity to play a variety of games but also facilitates conversation at the bar. UbiBar embraces ubiquitous computing and augmenting memory. The integration of physical objects such as cell phones and drink glasses sets the UbiBar experience apart from traditional bar experiences. Tracking points over time taps into principles of augmented memory and cleanly integrates with the bar environment by allowing users to earn free or discounted drinks.

612 Goes to the Bar

(Suzie, Shiblee, Brian, Nicole, & Can)

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