What Makes a Good Fidget Widget?

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Digital Fidget Widgets. Image: Game Innovation Lab
Digital Fidget Widgets. Image: Game Innovation Lab

Do you doodle while you take notes? Do you have little toys or gadgets on your desk that you fiddle with while you think? It is likely that certain types of toys or doodling behavior appeal to you. Perhaps they help you create. They help with your process. They keep a part of your brain occupied while the rest does what it needs to do.

This phenomenon fascinates some folks who are studying fidget behaviors. A trio of interested New York University people at the Game Innovation Lab are working to bring fidgeting to the digital world by studying fidget habits, since conventional digital interfaces, such as Microsoft Word, usually don’t include convenient fiddle and fidget options. The group is soliciting videos from doodlers and fidgeters to better understand why people do it, and what purpose it serves. You can learn more about the project at the Game Innovation Lab website (http://gil.poly.edu/fidget-widgets/).

They’ve already received some submissions showing a few examples of objects that people fiddle with, and they’ve noticed several reasons that keep people fiddling with the same items: the way the objects feel in their hands, the sounds they make, or the variety of ways they can be used. Check out their Tumblr for the videos, and please consider submitting your own! What do you fiddle with while you work?

Research shows that thinking, feelings, and movement—especially hand movement—are all interconnected. The Game Innovation Lab folks are using their research to develop little devices that, to me, look like Scrabble Flash cubes, and allow users to play around with different actions. They are looking to create new ways to fiddle that specifically support creativity, focus, or stress reduction. This video demonstrates.

I, myself, am definitely not a doodler. Drawing takes so much of my focus because it is not one of my strong points, so I can’t pay attention to anything else while I’m doing it. I occasionally fiddle, but it’s not a frequent or regular part of my creative process. Perhaps I’m a different kind of data point!

Again, please consider submitting a video showing off your favorite doodling method or fidget toys. For science!

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