Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘gestural interaction design

Frontline Gloves – prototype presented for TUI exhibition at CIID

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This is the description of the Frontline gloves concept for firefighters as presented in the Tangible User Interface exhibition at CIID on 31st Jan 2009.

Frontline - Networked gloves for firefighters

Frontline - Networked gloves for firefighters

What is it?
A pair of networked gloves that allow two firefighters to communicate with each other by using hand gestures in a  firefighting situation.

Who is it for?
Firemen working in teams of two.

Why is it valuable?
Typically firemen need to operate as a tightly knit unit in a firefighting situation. Constant communication with one another and rapid assessment of the changing environment is key to their safety and effectiveness. The conditions can be extreme, with hazardous objects in their path, or with smoke so thick that visibility is too low to scope the size of the space they are operating in.

The Frontline Gloves enable firemen to quickly scope a zero-visibility space by means of direct visual feedback about obstacles and clearances. Further, the gloves allow them to send instructions to the teammate by means of simple hand gestures. This reduces the need for spoken communication, saving the firemen precious air that would be used up in talking, and overcomes challenges of radio such as cross-talk.

How does it work?

Each glove contains custom made electronics and sensors that allows communication between them via a wireless protocol. The glowing of ultra-bright LEDs built into the glove indicate specific instructions.

What were the key learnings?
–  Tangible User Interfaces have vast potential to address challenges faced by small teams of rescue workers, such as firemen, scuba divers etc. Screen-based interfaces demand a high degree of attention to operate, often challenging in the conditions these users find themselves in. A powerful answer is replacing screen driven-driven interaction with natural and gestural interaction.
– Designing solutions for niche user contexts like this one demands thorough user research and prototype iteration. This needs to be intrinsic to the design process adopted in the project. We interviewed researchers in the field of wearable computing for firefighting at the Fraunhofer Institute, Germany. This helped validate and refine our core assumptions about both the context of use and the design of the product a good deal.

Team Members
Ashwin Rajan and Kevin Cannon

Frontline gloves – Tech Testing

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Critical technological components for demonstrating the value of the Frontline gloves concept were 1. the proximity sensor for sensing distances in smoky/darr/low visibility environments, and 2. basic communication between firefighters made possible by gesture recognition, using bend sensing technology. Putting together quick and dirty prototypes of these two components helped us test their viability early. Here are a couple of videos of the tests.

Testing Bend Sensors

Testing Proximity Sensors (Ultrasound)

Written by Ashwin Rajan

February 2, 2009 at 12:45 am

Frontline gloves – an attempt at miniaturization

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In our initials ideas, the Frontline gloves product concept consisted of two distinct parts connected by wires: 1. the upper hand area of the glove with proximity sensing and signalling capabilities and 2. the brain and software nestled into a pouch further up the arm (maybe integrated into the end of  the long arm of the glove). The latter would consist essentially of an Arduino, a Xbee shied for wireless communication with the paired glove, and a battery pack for powering the whole setup.

But before long we found ourselves exploring ideas around miniaturizing the product (encouraged by teacher Vinay.V) by combining both parts in one – within the box on the hand of the glove itself (photo above). This, we learnt, would be possible if we got rid of the Arduino board by detaching its chip, clock and a few other components and mounting them on to a much smaller custom made board.

The integrated single-piece set up of components.

The integrated single-piece set up of components.

The Tradeoff

Going further, we decided to go with using the complete Xbee shield setup as is, including its board, for this prototype. As a result, we traded off using two seperate components connected by wires for a larger but single component fully integrated into the hand of the glove, including the battery pack.

The increasing size of the housing for components as prototyping progressed.

The increasing size of the housing for components as prototyping progressed.

Testing how the box would fit and feel on the glove.

Testing how the box would fit and feel on the glove.

How the setup would fit together.

How the setup would fit together.


Frontline gloves – concepts and prototypes

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I posted a short note on our recent project in Tangible User Interfaces where we decided to work on wearables for firefighters. Here are some photos of initial sketches and prototypes. More about the actual features of the glove in posts ahead.

Rapidly created scenarios helped us better understand how technology-enhanced gloves could answer critical needs of firefighters in real fire situations.

Rapidly created scenarios helped us better understand how technology-enhanced gloves could answer critical needs of firefighters in real fire situations.

Because we were working with a set of four or five critical user needs (finalized from researching papers and ongoing projects in wearables for firefighting), the first concept of our product became loaded with features – a classic case of ‘featuritis’.

An all-inclusive first version of the glove.

An all-inclusive first version of the glove.

Exploring possibilites and uses of gesture recognition in the gloves.

Exploring possibilites and uses of gesture recognition in the gloves.

Constant visual and verbal feedback from teachers helped iterate issues around form, function, interaction, physical limitations and user interface.

In feedback sessions from teachers - drawing by Alex Wiethoff.

In feedback sessions from teachers - drawing by Alex Wiethoff.

In feedback sessions from teachers - drawing by Christopher Scales.

In feedback sessions from teachers - drawing by Christopher Scales.

Bend sensors came up as a great option for adding gestural recognition possibilities in a prototype.

Bend sensors came up as a great option for adding gestural recognition possibilities in a prototype.

Soon we made the leap to testing and working with an actual prototypical glove.

Experimenting with a real glove helped explore issues of viability of gestures, user interface details, etc.

Experimenting with a real glove helped explore issues of viability of gestures, user interface details, etc.

Tap is the new click – Dan Saffer

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Designing Gestural Interfaces 01

Designing Gestural Interfaces 01

Dan Saffer’s talk at CIID some weeks ago was about his new book on designing for gestural interaction. His detailed and convincing talk clearly indicated that we have a new paradigm of  interaction challenge on our hands, one hastened by the radical increase in networks of sensors and other technologies with the potential to create context-aware ‘ecosystems’, fast emerging in advanced urban environments around the world. Why, there are even DIY (prosumer?) versions of these things

Dan’s enlightening presentation highlighted the various subtleties of the domain as well as some of the first thumb rules for gestural interface design. Issues highlighted included limitations of current interaction modes, the (under-explored) importance of ergonomics, types of interactive gestures, the preponderance of sensors, an overview of notation, prototyping for … phew! immersive stuff, literally. But I will let you find the real thing for yourself in his soon-to-be-released book. There’s also Dan’s exclusive wiki on the subject.

We had our own shot at tinkering around with the delightful Ardunio micro-controller some days later, and took the opportunity to develop our own gestural interfaces. My favorite was this one – RubberBots – for its degree of sensitivity and emotional subtlety in response to interaction.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

December 3, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Emotional Considerations in UbiComp

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Mark Weiser’s seminal article has proved to be sweeping in title as well as consequence. It is widely argued today that “The Computer for the 21st Century” was the first of its kind to effectively capture the essence of the idea about what is today known variously as ..ahem – pervasive computing/ubiquitous computing/ambient intelligence/physical computing/the internet of things/things that think/haptic computing and so on and so forth. And why not? I love loaded words, especially those that also mean something!

But the point here is that this space gets more and more real all the time. Its serious enough now to prompt such long-term projects such as the, again, quite sweepingly titled “The Disappearing Computer” initiative, while figures such as Bill Gates have made efforts in the past to publicly address this emerging domain.

Needless to say, I am excited about this stuff, and before jumping headlong into the embedded, gesturally-triggered world, its probably also worth asking (as Gwen Floyd brought up in class the other day): what technologies should be allowed to disappear, become hidden? And what artifacts should stay external, be apparent, tactile? Which interactions provide those intrinsic emotional connections we love to have with the world of things around us? And what extrinsic behaviors exhibited by our products enrich our everyday experience in yet unnoticed and un-researched ways? How come some people want to pay all their bills with one flick of a wrist, only so they can go back to building that IKEA bookshelf one shelf at a time?