Project 3 – The Arrival: old dogs, new tricks

Timeline:

Pin-up 8 concepts about 2-4 possible futures on March 1t h

Pin-up and discuss refined Ideas on March 9th

Proof of concept and look-and-feel on March 16th

Final presentations in class March 28th

Documentation due March 3 pt

 

Abstract

The acquisition or adoption of new things – mobiles and wearables, items for our homes, things in our offices, studio, or workplace, or even stuff that shows up in the public sphere – can sometimes be a very gratifying experience. Our impulse to make our conditions more comfortable and satisfying has long been a marker of what we do as a species, and home improvement probably dates back to living in caves. We strive to make our life and work easier and enjoyable. Technologies are often a core element of those improvements, but the user experience of bringing a new technology onto any scene can often be equal parts satisfaction and frustration (e.g., fire for the cave: nice and warm, but annoyingly smoky (plus deadly carbon monoxide)). From opening a theft-resistant blister-pack to assembling a child’s toy to reading a manual to pairing a Bluetooth device to wiring our AV systems, we all have horror stories to share about the trials of coping with new stuff (and those examples are just on the home front).

There are positive examples, too. Some people rave about the experience of taking a new Apple computer or cellphone out of the box and switching it on for the first time. Occasionally, introduced Apps or UI features like browser tabs, or image filters, or messages that disappear after a set time nicely satisfy a need we didn’t even know we had. My last espresso machine was sufficiently similar to the previous one that it made a fantastic cup on first try. On the whole, though, it seems like the bad examples outnumber the good, and there’s unquestionably lots of room for improvements in many areas.

Everybody would agree that the first few minutes, hours, and days are critical to the adoption and satisfaction with many technologies. A critical look at our handhelds shows them to be littered with apps we loaded and abandoned. The practice of agile innovation and minimally-viable products getting released into the world doesn’t help matters one bit-many of these so-called products and apps that sound enticing are simply too immature to be introduced. But even if we’re completely sold on an object or service, that first impression is super-critical to our making it a long-term addition to our lives.

The technologies and future scenarios we’re been thinking about in this studio offer lots of resources for possible changes to the process of integrating a new technology into a setting. Sometimes a big improvement comes, not from introducing a technology, but from introducing a service that accomplishes something familiar in a whole new way. What if a new device could apprentice itself to an old one until it knew the ropes?  What if a screen-less item could detect that there was a big display nearby (or even a tiny wearable screen, or a pair of AR glasses) where it could show a quick video of what to do? What if it automatically detected that you were having trouble and connected you with an expert? What if an appliance knew of another device in your home that it could liken itself to, in terms of how it worked? What if your new drone spiderweb vacuum  could communicate with your Dyson Robot Vacuum about the floor plan of the house? What if it knew to do its thing only when the dog was out of the house, so your pet  didn’t freak out?

In some cases, changes and advancements of this sort are going to be the rule, not just possibilities. As our technologies begin to all be wireless (think about audio­ visual systems, as a good example), they are going to have to discover and confederate with each other. Cloud-based services might have to assess the available resources every time they’re invoked.  If we start seeing so-called “natural user interfaces” proliferate, devices may need to negotiate about which one is going to interpret a command, based on which home resident performed it (did you see the announcement that Amazon is adding speaker identification to Alexa, for just this reason?), at what time, and in what context. As you ideate about this project, you might want to do some research on topics like Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet of Things, Social Robotics, and VR/AR … there are a bunch of engineers running wild out there who could use some attention from some good interaction designers.

If you think very long about it, the topic also explodes and expands in many different directions, and into additional contexts outside the home. The workplace is changing, and the gig economy is rapidly eroding the traditional concept of the job. The public sphere is increasingly occupied by zombies who are buried in tiny screens, but recent weeks have also seen unprecedented public expressions of discontent. Looking at how  new services and devices can be tailored for emerging conditions can be a fruitful approach, and theres no need to shy away from those bigger ways to site your projects.

 

Activity

Your project is to explore the general topic of new arrivals. You can interpret this topic in a variety of ways, and we’re encouraging broad and future thinking. Use the tools you learned from your recent field trip to locate and characterize the world you’re designing for. Think about Growth, Constraint, Collapse and Transformation scenarios, in places and for people who might differ from your usual settings. Use some Science Fiction scenarios (Black Mirror certainly makes us think), or the Future Now book from IFTF that you were given earlier in the semester, or ARUP Drivers of Change app to spur your thinking. You might consider bringing home a fresh purchase, or acquiring a transportation mode of some sort (or living without one), but it could also be a device being loaned (in, say, a collapse scenario where resources are more limited), the arrival could refer to house guests (wanted or unwanted), or a child or pet (or even an infestation of some sort). The new arrival could also be less material, like subscribing to a service, a mode of transportation, an unfamiliar gig, a subscription of some sort, or even a new law, regulation or policy. Do some research, read some stories, watch some videos – especially at the outset, you’ll want to cast a broad net.

You may choose any avenue to explore, and it’s up to you if you want to try to maintain  some kind of conceptual thread throughout your explorations or be more scattershot. For the first deliverable, you’re going to develop 8 snapshots of areas where new arrivals  arise (but probably limit yourself to 2-4  settings, so things don’t get too crazy), and present a concise notion of how you’d propose to address each one. For example, you might say that the new Honda MowMe automatic lawn mower would figure out the  plan of your yard and the schedules of how and when you use it, and that it would learn to concentrate its efforts on places that grow fastest, mulch up falling leaves in the fall, wait for you to collect fallen apples under that tree, attempt to operate when you  and your neighbors were away (or, perhaps, for liability reasons, only when you’re home  (but when you’re awake and  the dog is inside)). These ideas (each on,  say, their own piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper) will be evaluated by your instructors and peers, and we’ll all work together to critique them and help you settle on one or two particularly promising ones to take further.

Those further developments should include key interactions, storyboarded and wire-framed as needed to communicate the core ideas and innovations. In the following pin up, your peers will again choose your direction for the project.

After that, you’ll run with the chosen topic to a final stage of development for the New Arrivals project. Your goal is a concise demonstration of the innovation you’re proposing, but it will necessarily include core elements of the interaction design, the look and feel, and likely a pivotal technology demonstration of some sort.  Not knowing where you’re headed yet, it’s impossible to say exactly what this will entail, but we’ll coach you and set expectations jointly.  As usual, you will be permitted to use Arduinos, fireworks, Processing, exothermic chemical reactions, Garage Band, alchemy, HTMLS, lasers, Illustrator, biomimicry, Photoshop, photovoltaics, Python, dry ice, Java, motors, iPhones, sensors, After Effects-basically any storytelling tools you can lay your hands on.

The key here is out-of-the-box thinking and being willing to work where the process and your scenario and faux-clients take you. Pinpoint a desired setting or few, target some pain points and opportunities, identify some users and talk to them about what you’re planning to do (this will likely include some that you don’t know all that well). Also, think about the interactions that various people in you scenarios will experience, and how they might participate.

 

Presentations

As always, your projects are on an aggressive schedule, so we will be presenting the initial 8 sketches in class on Tuesday, March 7th. Further iterations and refinements of 2 of the topics (plus one optional mix-in) will be shown the class after, and one of those topics will be carried to the project’s completion. You will be presenting your final working  projects on March 28th .

 

Documentation

We will be posting projects to the Google Classroom, but this should also be a portfolio-worthy piece of work (you have the time and skills). Please spend a bit of time considering how you will post your work in blog or portfolio form.

 

Evaluation

Evaluation on this project will be based on the quantity, variety, ingenuity, creativity and beauty of your efforts. Your peers will be playing the role of client in this project, so make sure you’d be willing to proceed in any of the directions you present.

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