Women on Walls

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For this project in my Interactive Product Design class at Georgia Tech, we had to meet the call for the CHI 2015 Student Design Competitions: “Appropriating Technologies for New Cultures”.

We are asking you to design a product, application, technology, or service that enable people who are a new and completely unexplored user group in any country to appropriate things and technologies around them. This user group may be a minority, an extreme case, or somehow disconnected from the mainstream. We ask you to showcase your best abilities of “maker cultures” to build new connections and to make less-voiced cultures be better heard. We ask you to use technology as a material for crafting and tinkering, and to make sure that you solve real problems, empower people in a unique way, and let them express their colors and needs.

An additional stipulation was that we had to use the capabilities of the Lego Mindstorms kit to plan and prototype our solutions.

I worked in a team of 2 for this project with Xuan(Lesley) Zhao.

Timeline: 3 weeks, Feb 2015

Tools: Lego Mindstorms, K’NEX Blocks

We chose to explore the adoption of Lego Mindstorms by street artists in places with limited freedom of expression to build interactive art installations. We chose the specific example of women graffiti artists in Egypt.

We prototyped an interactive billboard with three faces. The prototype had two modes of interaction: an obvious trigger that would transition to the second image; a hidden button that would reveal a third subversive image.

This is for the benefit of both the artist and the audience in a place with limited freedom of expression.

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Design Video: https://vimeo.com/120669995

Wearable Haptics Project

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This is an ongoing project for the Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing class at Gatech. I am working in a team of three with Apurva Gupta and Shashank Jagirdar to design a wearable for astronauts on other planetary surfaces. This project has been pitched by NASA.  Our team will be presenting this at NASA Johnson Space Center on April 19 as a part of NASA Wearable Technology Symposium 2015.

Background

On a planetary surface, crewmembers will be highly dependent on visual and auditory signals for their survival.  If a circumstance arises where vision is compromised or communication with the base station is lost (e.g., dust storm), crewmembers will need to be able to find their way back to the habitat. We are interested in testing the feasibility of tactors within a garment to direct a crewmember to a safe haven. As an example, vibrations to the right leg, might tell the crewmember to turn right, vibrations to the left arm might tell them to turn left.

Important Design Considerations

  • Body placement for tactors – Will they be comfortable? Will they impede activity? Will they lose strength (be perceived less often) when walking?
  • Strength of tactors – How strong a vibration is needed for a reliable signal?
  • Type of signal – What pattern of signaling works best for this task?

Over the next few weeks our team will prototype wearable for crew member and conduct tests to evaluate the efficacy of each.

 

BumbleBeat

Bumble Beat

 

BumbleBeat is a culmination of a semester long project for my Intro to HCI class(Georgia Tech) to design a tool to assist the deaf and the hard-of hearing in learning dance.

Bumble Beat is a wearable wristband that provides vibro-tactile feedback to its users to help them identify beats in the song, in order to understand the rhythm of the song. The feedback the device proves is fairly simple and involves a low learning curve. The band’s form factor is aesthetic and does not stand out conspicuously.

I worked in a team of 3 with Fang(Baron) He, Regis Verdin. As Team Out of the Blox, we went through the User Centered Design Process and documented the process and results in 4 reports (P1 through P4) along the way.

Timeline: 4 months, August-December 2014.

Techniques/ Methods: Literature review, Brainstorming, Personas, Storyboarding, Poster Session, Rapid Prototyping: Arduino, Soldering, Illustrator, User Evaluation, Heuristic Evaluation

Understanding the Problem

In order to understand the problem, we conducted a literature review to see what had already been done in order to understand this problem. We also read some blogs to see how the deaf and hard-of-hearing community felt about dance and the methods they employed to carry out the dance.

We set out to  design a system to assist the deaf and the hard of hearing (HoH) in the activity of learning a dance routine. An apparent problem they face when it comes to dancing is that they are not (either entirely or partially) able to listen to the music or words of a song, which are important for dance. However, being able to listen is not a requirement of dance. This has been exemplified by many deaf dancers and dance groups in the past. Dance has so many movements and physical gestures, which deaf people often excel at because of their reliance on gestures to communicate. While cochlear implants and hearing aids do exist, these can be intrusive and prohibitively expensive. Moreover, these devices are not able to address all the causes of hearing impairments or reduced hearing, especially with the “profoundly deaf” population that we are developing our system for. With our system, we hope to encourage those of the deaf and HoH community that wish to dance, by assisting them with dance practice.

Design Criteria:

We identified key design implications that guided our design process. These implications are as follows:
Our designs should employ Sensory Substitution, which refers to translating the characteristics of one sensory modality into stimulus for another sensory modality. (Source-Wikipedia)
System should be light and portable if it is something that the user has to wear so as to not affect the mobility of the dancers. Especially, if they have poor balance: might fall, etc.
System should not involve bone-conduction, as this is not effective for sensorineural hearing loss.
System should be non-invasive in that it shouldn’t interfere with other senses that are used in dance. Moreover, it should be transparent to the user and act as a tool rather than to distract them from the task they are performing.
Given that the deaf and hard of hearing do not like themselves to be labeled as disabled the system should be non-”pathologizing” of deafness. Rather, it should be seen as an experience enhancing tool.
The System should perform in real-time as it is being used for live dance and the feedback should be such that the dancer finds it useful in dance. Delayed responses to stimulus would be negative in this context.
Given that there may be users with varying levels of language proficiency, all interfaces must display easy to understand language with redundancy in the form of graphical symbols.

Keeping this in mind, we conducted an “informed brainstorming” session. We created a Google Doc where we each listed our ideas to encourage “divergent thinking”. We then sat down together to “converge” on ideas and to elaborate them.

In the process of brainstorming, we considered various modes that could be used to convey information either about the music or the choreography. Some of these ideas are:
Different colors can be applied to describe the emotion that is conveyed by music
Series of graph to visualize beat, speed, pitch and loudness of music
Symbols can be used to convey dance instructions
Vibration to represent speed, beat, and emotion of music

Finally,we zeroed in on three ideas from the perspective of vision, tactile sense and a combination of the two.

Design alternatives:

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Prototyping:

Software Prototype:BumbleBeatSoftware

Bumblebeat software interface has, generally, been divided into three functional modules as displayed on the above image: 1. Toolbar  2. Music categories and devices Explorer 3. Files Viewer.

Band Prototype:BumbleBeat Band

We used a piece of cloth to sew our LilyPad Arduino onto we stitched this on top of an elastic wrist band.  Using conductive thread and wires we made hard-soft connections to connect the Arduino to a vibration motor and LED lights.

Details about our Prototyping process can be found here: BumbleBeat Prototype

 

Evaluation:

We conducted an evaluation of both the band and the software prototypes.

For the software prototype we conducted a Heuristic Evaluation with the help of other students from the MS-HCI program acting as experts. We documented the errors as well as perceived severity and ease of fix rating.

Due to limited resources and time, we were unable to conduct a test of the band with our intended users. However, we did conduct a test with proxy users. The test involved a simple reaction time test to see if the band’s vibration was perceived timely and easily. We also administered a questionnaire to guage participant’s response to the band.

Survey questions are listed as following:

7 point likert scale questions:

  1. The product was enjoyable to use.
  2. I would want to wear this product while dancing.
  3. I would feel comfortable wearing this product in public
  4. The vibration was easy to feel.
  5. I would use this product often.
  6. The product is easy to use.
  7. The product was comfortable to wear.

The 7 point likert scale is mainly used for test subjects’ attitude toward a specific aspect when they use the wristband prototype. And we can specifically improve one part of our design based on the information we get from likert scale.

4 free-response questions:

  1. What did you like about the device?
  2. What did you dislike about the device?
  3. How did the band hinder your movement? (Answer only if you answered yes to the previous Question)
  4. Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

While none of us endorse using proxy users, we had to adopt this work-around.

More details about the evaluation can be found here: BumbleBeat Evaluation

 

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Know it Owl

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Know it Owl is a physical installation intended to make learning fun for kids. It allows kids to take a simple Yes/ No Quiz and dispenses candy as a way to reward kids.

Team: Worked in a team of 2 with Xuan(Lesley) Zhao

Technology/Tools: Lego Mindstorms, Laser Cutting

Timeline: 1 week, January 2014

Demo:

Poster:image-0001

Ambience

Ambience is an Android App that allows people to share sound bytes over the internet.The sound clips can be searched via hashtags and be played on loop.

Technology/Tools : Android App Development in Eclipse IDE, Parse.com Backend

Timeline: 2-3 weeks, November-December 2014

Motivation:

The motivation behind building the app is for it to be used like other relaxation apps: to listen to ambient clips while going to sleep or meditating or something of the like.

Another motivation is to urge  people to stop and listen to the world around them. Focus is on small sound bytes that can be played on loop such as the sound of rain, or the crackling of fire.

Screenshots:Ambience

 

 

Demo:

 

 

Detour

Detour is a place discovery app that encourages commuters to take the long way home; slow down a little bit for a chat over coffee maybe, or even drop by a dance class to shake a leg.The key feature of Detour is that it lets you view places that fall enroute, between two locations eg. Work and Home.

Tools: UXPin and Balsamiq for Prototyping

Timeline: 2 weeks, November 2014

Mockup: When preparing Mockups for Detour, I used the Object Oriented UX process, even though I did not know the formal name at the time. I thought about the elements that would be important for the social network: People, Places etc. I also thought about ways in which the Content could be the navigation. It was only later when I attended a seminar by Sophia Voychehovski on Object-Oriented UX, that I learned the process had a formal name.

New mockup

 

Prototype:

 

Further Details:

An elaborate description of the app can be found here: Detour

If you are interested in my work or just want to find out more, feel free to drop me a line or two :)