Reference for Paweena: Medulla Intimata

From the website: “MEDULLA INTIMATA is a necklace that contains a video screen and biometric sensors. The sensors (using analysis of speech and tonal range of conversaton) monitor the wearer’s emotions to guide real-time video-generation that evokes a sense of seeing beneath the surface of the skin, exposing the emotional and physical inner body. Video is displayed on the screen embedded in the jewellery.”


“Can you spare some change?” Group Write-up – Jen, Peter and Paweena

“Can you spare some change?” started out as a public spaces project. The goal was to create an interface in which strangers would interact.

Prototype I:

For our very first prototype, we took an RC car and attached an iPod to it so that we could use FaceTime to communicate between the iPod and our computers.

Here we are testing our prototype:

BumBot Prototype 1

It seemed pretty successful, so we moved forward.

Prototype II:

We then decided to give our prototype a personality. We were testing our prototype, and were approached by religious solicitors. So we started thinking about other solicitors, and thought about the homeless. Because I had worked briefly with a few homeless individuals in the city, and found them to be quite intriguing, we decided we would try to give our prototype a homeless personality. We then came up with this for our second prototype.

We put a mini portable speaker into the robot’s mouth, and asked my homeless friend, “Spooky” to help us test-drive it around Union Square in New York City. Here are the results from the first test.

Public Spaces Project Test 1 – Union Square

We felt that the results were overall successful. But, we were given some feedback from some of the strangers we encountered. A few people felt that this robot looked a little bit scary, and sloppy. And having one eye was creepy. So using that, and input from “Spooky,” we moved forward.

Prototype III:

Testing for the third prototype wasn’t as successful as we had hoped. According to more feedback, the black wasn’t as inviting as the cardboard. People also tended to gravitate towards the human aspect of the robot when it was wearing clothing.

So, we decided to go back to the original design, but make the robot more sturdy, and give him another eye. We also named the robot “BumBot” and gave him a Twitter account to enable people to follow his activities online.

Upon further research and thought, we decided that we wanted to compare how “BumBot” interacts with people, and how “Spooky” interacts with people. So we followed “Spooky” around for a few hours and made this video to document it.

A day with Spooky

We really enjoyed our day with “Spooky” and decided that for our final project, we would create a documentary.

Here is our final documentary.

\”Can you spare some change?\” Final documentary

“Can you spare some change?” is a short documentary that examines the relationships between human-human and human-“robot” interactions. A robot, “BumBot” was created by Parsons MFA Design and Technology students Peter Chang, Jennifer Matsumoto and Paweena Prachanronarong in collaboration with “Spooky,” a homeless citizen in New York City. “Spooky” drove “BumBot” around Union Square, and shared his perspective on the differences between human-human and human-robot relationships for one homeless citizen – himself. The documentary created a poignant examination into human relationships and the social landscape of New York City. The viewer is also asked if they can spare some change in their perception of the homeless community.

Music by: The Doors “People are Strange”

Reading Response for Instruction Sets for Strangers (Public Space Project)

Experience Prototyping IDEO by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri
I was really excited to read this study by IDEO because I’ve been interested in many of their innovative projects. Buchenau and Suri discuss three key points about prototyping, including understanding, exploring and communicating. They introduce the term “experience prototyping”, explaining that a prototype represents an idea before a final product. They examine ways to push beyond traditional methods, drive dynamic relationships, and allow users to experience it. Ultimately the reading illustrates how prototyping is an iterative process to make users remember, see, and understand. It is often best to explore by doing because through that process subtle differences are uncovered. As a result of these discoveries, a good design can turn into a great design. Elements to consider include context, social, and physical factors. The reading also discusses role playing and how through using it designers were given “permission to observe” (page 427). This is a key point because when we are allowed to evaluate a combination of ides we can then choose which direction to explore further. There are opportunities to test with a “tactile immersive experience, shared experience or full-body physical experience” (page 428).

The study address how it’s important to recognize that people can get really wrapped up in the experience and therefore fail to see the prototype’s limitations. I learned that low fidelity prototypes are great for conceptualizing and exploring what can be produced with a bit of imagination and creativity. I also was informed about how knowing your audience and setting expectations can help solve design problems. The process overall drives inspiration, affirmation, and presents challenges that need to be manipulated through skills and material usage. Knowing what to omit is figured out during the process through exploring many iterations.

Cardboard Computers by Pelle Ehn and Morton Kyng
Mocking-It-Up or Hands-On the Future
The article published in the New Media Reader addresses how the design process includes user testing through evaluation. It also explains how designers can ask for reactions and survey their users. I learned that “Participatory Design is an approach to the assessment, design, and development of technological and organizational systems”. As designers we are responsible for examining how a product can be enhanced, the functionality, and to examine various uses. The reading covers how a short movie or a slideshow can be used in the prototyping process. I was reminded that mock-ups and storyboard prototypes help present the range of possibilities and solidify solutions. Mock-ups are helpful for evaluating designs, coming up with new changes and modifying what is not working. What I thought was equally important was how designers can collaborate on decision-making in order to develop a final product.

William Whyte the Social Life of Small Urban Places, Chapters 1, 2, and 5
Whyte’s highlights some key elements about location. He draws attention to the idea of how designers can give thought to pedestrian flows, placement of steps, gardening, wind, sun, and trash cans. This reading was really helpful when I was working on the public space project (Teddy DT) for my major studio class because the flow of people was key to making my project successful. In his writing he explains how plazas with more sitting space naturally have more visitors. I learned that “Since 1961, New York City has been giving incentive bonuses to builders who provided plazas.” Whyte addresses how some sitting areas can be made unsittable with rocks or iron spikes. He also points out how some benches aren’t deep enough for two people to sit back to back; so designers should consider the width of the benches more carefully so that awkward interactions aren’t forced upon users. He states that a park should “stimulate impulse use”; I think this is a valid point and that if the park’s plans are executed well then the designer’s layout of the environment will naturally show-off as favorable by the public. Consideration of the various elements go a long way to create an inviting space. Uncluttered spaces and areas with steps tend to invite people to sit, sunbath, and picnic.  Outdoor cafes, fountains, public art, sidewalk vendors, and entertainment (music, theater, acrobats, mimes) help create repeat visitors.

Public Space Group Project: Teddy DT

I was asked to work with Vanessa Roa and Parinot Kunakornwong on prototyping anything we wanted in a public space. The goal of the project was to create and work towards something never seen before. For the project we decided to work in Washington Square Park in NY. We wanted to have a design intervention first and then let the technology follow. Over the duration of 6 weeks we observed the space and documented our findings. The process was challenging, frustrating, and at times disappointing. Our design intervention included a huge teddy bear that we wired to our computer through Bluetooth technology. We explored different areas of the park and chose to have the bear speak to people as they walked by. As a final presentation we created a slideshow explaining our ideas, iterations, and what we learned through the design process. At the end of the slideshow, there was a five minute movie of our prototypes. Above, you many view the video. To see our process please download the presentation that we delivered to our guest critiques, Melanie Crean and Scott Pobiner, faculty from MFA DT. What I learned from them was that if our group was to proceed further with the project than we should focus more on emphasizing fear versus cuteness. We could also work on avoiding a “Hello Elmo” toy which is smaller and more affordable. We learned that by placing the teddy bear alone on a public bench, we are giving individuals permission to steal it and can’t blame the homeless man for wanting it.

We chose to develop our project in Washington Square Park because it’s a  high traffic area where we expected to see many interactions across generations. On various occasions we observed young children and the elderly interacting and responding to the object with keen interest. We thoughtfully positioned the bear in between benches so that people were forced to walk by, rather then walk up to the bear. We learned that by placing the bear under the main arch way people were less prone to go out of their way to approach it. The busy park allowed us to observe a range of reactions and from what we observed we could then proceed to accommodate our observations over the weeks. We tested various sound effects ranging from show songs, like the Price Is Right, to cartoon babies crying, to bears growling, to famous quotes. It was a lot of fun playing with the audio, but it definitely came with challenges in terms of audio quality, and enhancing projection while still keeping the words understandable. If we were to continue this project we would like to have the bear have a fluid conversation with individuals. We tested this by having the bear say things like: “Hey there. I like your sneakers.” The bear also made non-political comments and talked about the weather. We also tested the audio with Text Reader which is a Mac program that reads aloud any text you write. It was not the best option for the project because it was hard to understand and had awkward pauses because it would get hung up on longer words.  In the end we opted to use Audacity and GarageBand to create solid audio files that would drive more excitement to the project.

Reading Response: Scrapyard Challenge

Interaction Relabeling and Extreme Characters:
Methods for Exploring Aesthetic Interactions
J.P. Djajadiningrat, W.W. Gaver, and J.W. Frens

This article discusses how interaction considers appearance, actions, and role. The notion of ease of use, efficiency, and “productivity over exploration and curiosity” is emphasized in the reading.  Interaction design works towards being aesthetically powerful. For example, a Swiss Army knife, is more like a gadget product because it is precise and complex, according to Djajadiningrat, Gaver, and Frens.  The reading also addresses the dangers of designing for “prototypical characters”; When this is done then we are ignoring the entire spectrum of human emotions because it only considering socially or culturally desirable things. When we design for characters that have embellished emotional attitudes than that is something to consider in the process. We have to keep in mind the importance of the choice of character. Designing for extreme characters exposes some emotions and characteristics which are hidden in certain cases.

Hertzian Tales 
Anthony Dunne

Hertzian Tales addresses how designers should consider to think broadly about aesthetics and specifically the role of electronic products in daily life. Industrial design potentially can enrich our daily lives and create social benefits. For example, AT&T has a patent for metal coating that changes color when a low voltage is sent through it. AT&T wants to use this novel technology to enable phones to change color instead of ringing. Hertzian Tales mentions how connecting different pieces and information results in interactive surfaces that are exciting.

The Design of Everyday Things 
Donald Norman

The user should not need a picture or instruction set to understand a design. If they do the design has failed. The reading talks about specialized objects like food utensils, scissors, clips, and various objects that people are expected to know how to use because of their knowledge about how things work everyday.  Normans suggests that a good conceptual model allows us to determine the effect of our actions. He also talks about how poor design causes unnecessary problems for the end user. He gives the example of a door and if it has to come with a one-word instruction manual than it is poorly designed and has ultimately failed. The push and pull bar on doors that is required by law in the US forces proper behavior when people are caught in dangerous situations and unable to think clearly in a fire. Norman also writes about the car radio and how the designers need to consider gloves, high speed, and touch tremendously to create something smart for the driver.  He goes on further to address visibility and feedback. Sounds help determine if things are working properly or if an item needs to be fixed. It can prevent accidents, yet we also have to be careful it does not annoy people and be a major distraction.

The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet 
Alan Kay

I found the term “infonaut” to be the most fascinated part of this article. An infonaut is a person who navigates the information superhighway. (Also known as an avid internet user.) Kay recognizes the patriarchs, pioneers, and infonauts, and hackers that have formed the computer revolution over generations.  Today technology is changing so fast that is is nearly impossible for people to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Why We Need Things
Mihaly Csikszcntmihalyi

Csikszcntmihalyi presents us with a statistic that every American will own more than 400 hundred electronic appliances during his/her lifetime. Today I sat in a lecture by his son Chris who’s student worked on appliances for females. For example, the student created a blender that when the female yelled it started working, but only upon certain tones. It was quite fascinating and funny. You can check it out in further detail here:

Mihaly explains that when people have nothing to do, the generally begin to become depressed and their moods overtime deteriorate. In general people that have objects with meaning in their homes that evoke friendship, family, and relationships feel less socially isolated. Objects increase our sense of security and reinforce a person’s opinion about themselves.

What do Prototypes Prototype?
Stephanie Houde and Charles Hill

Houde and Hill introduced the notion of prototype as a communication vehicle. They explained that prototypes represent changing states of designs overtime. They stressed the importance to explore possibilities and not settle on the first option. They also addressed how when thinking and communicating about design there are issues of teamwork. Audiences are vital to consider and engage with when prototyping. Some projects require teams built of a programmer, an interaction designer, an industrial designer, and a project manager. It is important as designer that we keep in mind a specific audience and potential users and test whatever we are creating on them in order to verify the products use before going into production. Throughout the prototyping creative process we can then balance and resolve constraints because ultimately the design should be coherent as Houde and Hill explain. The writers bring up the idea of low and high fidelity. Low-fidelity prototypes might be built to solve certain issues and to show a proof of concept new technology. Some important questions are asked in the article, including: “What role will it play in a users life? How should it look and feel? How should it be implemented?” Overall what I took out of the reading is that as a designer I need to build multiple prototypes. “Know my audience” and prepare my audience by clearly presenting the new prototype as what it is and is not.

Paula Scher’s Presentation on MAPS

Paula gave a talk about her life’s work at Parons on October 19 and I was happy to be at the event. This was my second time hearing Paula talk about her map project. I met Paula in Boston at an AIGA event about two years ago when she was working on her map paintings. In fact Paula has spent the last ten years painting maps. She recently released a book of her paintings. I was excited to hear her again because she has a great sense of humor and strong corporate graphic design skills. Her father helped design the technology that is now used by google earth maps.