Alice Bettelli

Ritratto Alice Betteli

Neuroscience, Technology, and Society, XXXV series
Grant sponsor


Luciano Gamberini

Mauro Conti

Project: Coping with the inheritance of COVID-19: the role of new interactive technologies to enhance user experience in different contexts of use
Full text of the dissertation book can be downloaded from:
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Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the habits of people and various sectors of society, including training, entertainment, and retail. These sectors have been forced to adapt to abnormal situations such as social distancing, remote work, and online entertainment. The pandemic has significantly transformed the training field, leading to the closure of many in-person instruction centers and a shift toward online education courses, which can be less effective. In addition, the entertainment industry has been heavily transformed by social distancing, resulting in the cancellation of many live events and the closure of several cinemas. This has increased demand for online entertainment options, such as streaming services and virtual events. Finally, the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic substantially impacted physical stores and fairs, suspending exhibitions for more than two years. This has further driven consumers to rely on e-commerce to fulfill their purchasing and companies to increasingly take advantage of new technologies such as augmented reality. In this suddenly disrupted scenario, new technologies have the potential to fill the gap generated by the pandemic, functioning as an interactive bridge to connect people. This Ph.D. thesis explored the potential of interactive technologies in mitigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in various contexts of use in the above-mentioned areas. Specifically, three studies were investigated by conducting different data collection using a mixed approach in the Human-Computer Interaction field. The first study focused on the research of immersive virtual reality training, with a particular interest in flood emergencies, a growing phenomenon. The goal was to implement engaging and efficient training for citizens that live near rivers through a human-centric design approach. The second study explored innovative ways to improve social interaction and collaboration in the entertainment sector, highlighting guidelines for the design of shared streaming experiences. In particular, three different communication modalities were investigated during group viewing of an interactive film on a streaming platform. Finally, the third study focused on the retail sector. On the one hand, the focus consisted of understanding which aspects of the 3D web and AR technology are helpful for supporting small businesses and trade fairs. On the other hand, the focus was to investigate how to support consumers during an AR shopping experience when interacting with 3D virtual products of different sizes. Overall, this project provides suggestions and guidelines for designing systems that can both increasingly connect people at a distance and offer new hybrid worlds. In addition, this project expands state-of-the-art related to interactive technologies and offers generalizable results outside the crisis created by COVID-19. These technologies, now increasingly integrated into everyday life, can be a tool for empowerment and resilience, improving people's lives.