Thursday, November 25, 2010

Aging Technologies - experiential design sketches

The basic idea of these sketches is that they are careful implementations of a very precise experience. They are not complete implementations of a full system, which is why we call them sketches. These sketches or implemented experiences are such that they can be applied in many different ways. What makes them different from other sources of design inspiration is that they are grounded in the digital material, they are possible to implement and they work in harmony with the digital material. But not only that, they are design ideas that spur from combinations of the characteristics of the digital materials and the characteristics of aging. We argue they are design ideas that would not have happened if it were not for the specific combination, between one of the digital materials and the concept of aging and change over time. These sketches embody how some activity changes and age over time.

Aging Technologies - Our first experiential sketch

Walk my shoes is an experiential design sketch where we by using only RF (radio frequency) can detect the rhythm of walking. By using RSSI (received signal strength indication) we are capable to detect very subtle steps or movements, movement that would not be possible to detect with a pedometer or accelerometer. While walking the user returns feedback in the form of sounds, sounds that aims to give her the impression that she is walking in water or on top of snow, just to take to examples of sounds we have tested with this sketch. The sketch is such that it follows the rhythm of the user but at the same time it also pushes her to walk in harmony with the specific sound.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sketching on details of aging

What we now are doing is that we are sketching on a few of our ideas from the random words session. We are not so much trying to implement the ideas as working on the details of implementing the aspect of aging in these ideas. What we focus on is the experiential feel in the implemented sketch.

For example Jordi is working on the second idea from bellow. What he is doing though is that he is using his experiences of working with radio signal strength in order to capture the rhythm of walking.

What we aim for are careful implementations that we can use to feel the way when we now are formulating our more overall design that will be the end result of this explorative process...

The Random Words Session

To generate ideas we choose to use the random words method, which is a brainstorming method were three piles with various focus, such as technologies, places and emotions, are created.

In our session we put the bits in one pile, various aspects of aging in another and specific moments from the wise-dates in another.

This generated a range of ideas, here a few examples:

1. Religion + BluePete + Tea
A "thought of the day" that gets passed on by like minded people, so
that no preaching is involved but rather sharing between like minded
people. As is goes on, it is changed to something else *hot to cold,
weak to strong).

2. Physical Activities + Pressure Sensor + Shoes
A pressure sensor would be attached to shoes to give feedback to the
walker. This feedback would be the pace and the style of walking of
another person, perhaps a senior who would walk slower, with smaller
steps, and for longer. "Far is as good as fast". "Walk a mile in
someone else's shoes". Would give the ability to share the experience
and share the appreciation of the walk. Perhaps go one step further
and share the walking route of someone else.

3. Easy to Use + BTScore+ Matches
Finding the things that we may think are useless but grow important
over time. Turn it into something useful. Not perfect but easily
available. A system that has been alive a long time is more

4. Comfortable in own Skin + TopoCom + Apple
A rumor mill or gossip circle to spread little tidbits. This gossip
could be true stories, stories they make up about themselves, or
altered gossip as it gets spread. Similar to whisper down the alley
or broken telephone. At an advanced age, they will be comfortable in
their own skin and enjoy talking about themselves and others.

Wise dates

In order to get to know the wise we have been on three 'wise-dates'. A wise-date takes place in someone's home and is a playful, open moment where we listen carefully and have a nice time with a lot of writing, drawing, maybe photos and recordings. At the end of these dates we show some of the bits and if the person/persons like to they can play around with these for awhile. This just to see reactions and ways to handle this pretty abstract tech sketches.

The Wise

After the Inspirational Bits workshop we conducted an internal workshop aimed at finding the specific focus for the second iteration.

A topic we found greatly interesting was aging and the elderly users, but not so much from the perspective of aiding this user group, which we found as the most common approach, as in finding out who these users really are, what they like doing, their life story and so forth and how we could use this as our inspirational source together with the bits.

We decided to call them 'the wise'.

Inspirational Bits workshop

August the 30th and August the 31th fellow colleagues in the Mobile Life Centre and SICS as well as industrial partners were invited to a hands on workshop were we presented them all the Inspirational Bits we built during April, May and June. Approximately 20 engineers and designers took part from both research and industry.

Here a summary of this workshop and the bits from designer Anna Karlsson, BORIS design studio,

When I first heard about inspirational bits and got the question to join the workshop I pictured myself as being a kid in a candy store! Easy accessible technology, a short cut for me as a designer (and the rest of the team) to fully understand the potential of a material (technology). And I was not disappointed!

I experienced the bits to be quite different to each other and therefore saw a reason to categorize them. A categorization of the inspirational bits would help me and others decide what category of bits should be used in what project, or phase of the project.

Core Bits - “Give it to me in one sentence or 3 secs”
These are bits that can be described in one sentence or quickly grasped in three seconds. An example of a core bit is the oversized mechanical model of the accelerometer.
This approach is similar to a design method where you establish the very basics of things as a way to inspire innovation. It is similar to the task of designing a chair where one had to explain what a chair is in one sentence, a sentence that really grasps the concept of a chair. One such sentence could be: “A horizontal plane big enough for one person to sit”. This explanation opens up for innovation rather than frames you in an idea of what a chair is. The core bits as I see them are about explaining technology in that very same way and thus opening up for innovation.

Educational Bits - “Explain it to me, I am an idiot”
The core characteristic of these bits is learning. The educational bits are about explaining the basics of a technology. The fewer aspects of the material you highlight the better and the easier it is to grasp the bit. There should be no value vis-à-vis a final design when creating an educational bit. An example of an educational bit is the diZe. The level of complexity in this bit is low, but fairly quickly you understand how the material works.

Boundary Bits - “Show me the Limits”
When creating a boundary bit you should focus on highlighting a downside of the technology. The boundary bits are about breaking pre-defined ideas about a material and to start a discussion in the group. An example of a bit that helps me explore the boundaries of a technology is the RadioSound bit.
The boundary bits are similar to the educational bits as the defining characteristic is learning. The boundary bits are powerful in the way that the whole team gets a full understanding of the limitations of a material before proceeding with a design conceptualization. Another great advantage of the boundary bits is the time that could be saved in the development process of a new service or product: “show me the limits so that I can avoid traps.”

Beyond Bits - “Turn the limitation into a feature”
The last of my four categories is called “beyond bits”. This category is very creative and can trigger a lot of spin-off ideas. The beyond bits tackles limitations in a material and turns them into features. A good example here is the Gymkhana bit.

To summarize the first three categories, they are all about understanding a technology, here refereed to as the material. These bits should be built and explained by those who know the material well. The fourth category is slightly different and could be used as the subsequent phase, after presenting bits in the first three categories. The beyond bits could work as a good kickoff in the concept design phase in a development project where the developers get together with the rest of the team to take things one step further. The beyond bits are about making use of the things the design team all learnt from the earlier bits.

The inspirational bits approach is mostly about play; it is a positive way to approach a technology. During the play you will learn certain things about the material and the learnings are something you will bring with you to the next step. Keeping the bits intact could though have the opposite effect for the design team, the team can get stuck on the initial ideas and not be able to move on to the next step. It is therefore important as I see it to point out that after experiencing the bits they should be broken down into their basic material parts; these are what you can use as the foundation for innovation.

The inspirational bits approach is a good way to start a complex project, it helps the team to get a better idea of the material’s properties, possibilities and limitations and it also lays the ground for more equal discussions within the group. This is maybe one of the most important aspects you can get from using the inspirational bits approach.

The inspirational bits can also help the design process to become less linear. By integrating construction and production at the start of product development, this cross-disciplinary way of working creates a common platform of knowledge for the whole team.