Monday, September 7, 2009

Design days at Liljevalchs

During five days (13-14th and 24-26th) in August the project organized a design workshop at Liljevalchs art gallery. The architect of the whole workshop was Petra Sundström who did a tremendous job of putting together an interesting agenda. The workshop had two purposes. First it marked the conclusion of the projects initial efforts to educate team members about each other’s disciplines. Having previously learnt about hardware design and sensor network programming the time had now come to interaction design. Secondly it was the start of the design process for the projects first prototype, dubbed ArtSense, which is scheduled to be shown at Liljevalchs in 2010. The first two days focused on introducing various methods for design work, while the last three days had a stronger focus on developing prototype ideas for ArtSense. Over five days participants went all the way from analysing data from the studies performed during the spring to an implemented prototype that was tested by visitors to Liljevalchs. In total the workshop was extremely successful producing over 35 prototype ideas through random words, enacting 15 of those through bodystorming, refining and selecing 3 ideas using the six thinking hats method, lo-fi prototyping those using non-computational materials such as styrofoam and cardboard, and finally rapid prototyping the ideas using computational materials and evaluating the resulting systems in-situ at Liljevalchs. Throughout this process a close relationship was maintained to the intended users: visitors to Liljevalchs. Ideas and prototypes were regularly subjected to the scrutiny of visitors which helped to weed out bugs and mould ideas. Particpants also lived their own designs through excercises in method acting where they e.g. were instructed to to use prototypes in angry, happy, slow or quick ways. This was helpful in bringing forth the supple qualites of prototypes and make them available for discussion.

Another outcome of the design workshop is the beginnings of a rapid prototyping kit for supple systems. While preparing for the design days we started investigating building blocks for rapid prototyping of supple systems. Such building blocks are necessary for early testing of ideas without having to build a system from scratch. Rather than developing blocks completely from scratch we decided to start with existing hardware and software components and modify those to suit our needs. Currently the kit consists of Sentilla JCreate sensor nodes running the Contiki operating system and various Phidgets (sensors and actuators) that can be plugged into the JCreate nodes. A driver to make the Phidgets and Contiki communicate has been developed and will be added to the Contiki distribution. The kit was first used during the design days and will continue to develop over the projects life time.

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