Ash at CIID

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

Posts Tagged ‘prototyping

Desert ‘Kites’ – Ancient strategic design genius

leave a comment »

I was awed by this example of strategic design from over 5000 years ago.

The ‘kites’ – so called because of their kite-like appearance to British pilots flying over the area in the early 1900s – resemble walls stretching over hundreds of meters of desert, meeting at angles with rounded trenches at the intersections.

Scientists have found that these structures were made by ancient desert people over 5,000 years ago as mass hunting apparatuses. Found across the deserts of Jordan, Syria, Israel and the Sinai, scientist teams concluded that the kites were constructed specifically to direct wild animals along the walls and convey them toward the trenches, where they could be hunted with ease. The extensive study also exposed the thinking processes that were invested in planning each trap. “The traps were places in locations where animals migration routes were concentrated into bottlenecks. There is no doubt that the prehistoric inhabitants of the desert had a lot of knowledge: they knew the cattle migration routes very well and knew where to each of the traps very efficiently.” the study by an interdisciplinary group funded by the National Geographic said.

The walls of a kite leading to enclosures for trapping animals. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk.

The walls of a kite leading to enclosures for trapping animals. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk.

The kites were designed so that the wild animals’ migration routes would converge into the hidden trenches. According to data gathered at the sites, the kite “branches” spanned over 200 meters in length, some even surpassing a few kilometers. The walls of these branches were quite broad in both height and depth, leading researchers to conclude that kites were used to hunt large hoofed animals. Some kites were constructed with elevated stages that probably served to conceal the large trenches below and heighten the leaping wall.

But the part that’s totally intriguing to me – sketches on stones nearby reveal detailed drawings of shapes and use of the kites. This raises a whole bunch of questions. Were these ancient designers sketching out their ideas, probably even iterating designs and refining solutions – an ancient prototyping effort – as part of the process of kite construction? What ‘process’ did they use and was sketching an important part of it? How successful was this method compared to traditional building processes?

Drawings on stones in the heart of the kites location. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Drawings on stones in the heart of the kites location. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Ancient kite drawings from the sites where kites are found. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Ancient kite drawings from the sites where kites are found. From http://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Sources for this blog post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1235898328320&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=2146412866
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16284
http://www.yannarthusbertrand2.org/index.php?option=com_datsogallery&Itemid=27&func=detail&catid=52&id=2058&p=1&l=1280


Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 13, 2009 at 11:12 am

Frontline gloves – concepts and prototypes

with 2 comments

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.

Toy View Workshop – Intent

leave a comment »

Often the intent of a experimental workshop can have everything to do with what its participants learn, and the depth and innovation of its outcomes. One such was the ‘Toy View’ workshop, which we at CIID attented in late December ’08 with Yaniv Steiner of Nasty Pixel. It was an exercise in contemplating, iterating and building concepts for toys and games. I thought the intent of the workshop was very interesting and decided to provide it here:

Toy View – Description of the workshop

For thousands of years mankind kept on crafting toys, with very little change in shape or form. Can a new generation of toys emerge, combining both the physical aspect and the diversity of the digital world?

This workshop will provide students with both practical and theoretical knowledge in the field of computer vision, in relation to: Play, Games and Toys. The expected results are toys or games in which a person uses a physical object to interact with a digital environment.
Students will attempt to create innovative “magical” toys, that are physical – mostly appearing as physical objects or artifacts made from different natural and synthetic materials – and at the same time serve as controllers and actuators for functions dealing with digital data. Digital data can be a wide set of elements, starting from pure text and ending in audio, videos, images, and at times even social particles. The emphasis is on creating a new hybrid of physical computer games.

Illustration made during brainstorm about what makes toys playful and how interactivity plays a role in playfulness.

Illustration made during brainstorm about what makes toys playful and how interactivity plays a role in playfulness.

Structure
At first, students will learn to harness and manipulate different computer-vision tools by the use of a camera, that provides machines with the ability to ‘see’. This part of the workshop will focus on building artificial systems that obtain information from images in order to understand their surrounding environment. The camera in this case is correlated with the human eye. However, the human organ that actually decodes this information is the brain and not the eye – interpreting images as what humans grasps as ‘vision’. This first step will explore ways and techniques to craft such machine-vision.

The second part of the workshop will drive students into the world of Games and Play. By investigating classical computer games, physical games and toys, students will brainstorm the topic, experimenting in original ideas that will combine both physical ‘toy’ objects, and the digital world. Conceptually speaking – at this point, new interactions and games will emerge.

The third and final part of the workshop will focus on realization and crafting the above concepts. At the end of the workshop student will have a physical working prototype of their idea, the result, in the form of a new game that will be presented at the end of the course to fellow students and colleague.

The whole workshop description including technical and conceptual aspects is here.

Designing from the frontlines

leave a comment »

We are currently exploring wearable computing solutions for firefighters in the line of duty. Navigation and orientation in extremely difficult environments (often on fire) with very low visibility is a huge challenge faced by firefighters everyday, and a key design challenge. Lots of interesting work happening in this area.
Still at the desktop and field research stage, here’s a great story I found today while browsing the net – the story of a firefighter who turned designer after being trapped himself in what turned out to be the perfect research situation. The page also has a good example of a very simple but effective video prototype (they could have shown more of the details of the actual device to make it even better IMO).

Written by Ashwin Rajan

January 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Go for quantity – ideation to prototyping

leave a comment »

I have referred to this talk by Tim Brown earlier in my post on Bodystorming. Tim Brown discusses here the IDEO process for designing in groups. This is essentially what we did in CIID a few weeks back with Niels Clausen-Stuck (also from IDEO) who taught the GUI module .

One interesting rule that doesn’t seem to make much sense at first is ‘go for quantity’: Tim speaks of the apparent paradox of having rules in what is essentially an open-ended process driven by spontaneity. He mentions the need for ‘rules to break the old rules’ hard coded into adults’ minds (unlike kids) that hamper natural creativity. It’s very interesting how ‘going for quantity’ can be a great rule for getting misconceptions, biases, pet peeves, old ideas posing as new ones, and generally a lot of  crap out of the way. Within this output, a handful of early ideas begin to stand out that demand greater attention and hold the promise of convincing solutions.

But there’s something the above visual doesn’t depict: when this process is performed by multi-disciplinary groups, the clutch of ideas integrate, combine, morph and mutate each other into unanticipated new ideas. Something that Niels said that stuck in my head: “I usually don’t even remember which are my ideas.” Depending on the inclinations of the team, the final ideas with deep potential for prototyping might end up looking something like this:

Or, like this!

Whatever they look like, if the ideation process has been driven by the right premises, contexts and concerns across the brainstorming life cycle, they should offer a rich trove of content for early prototypes.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

December 22, 2008 at 12:44 am

Bodystorming – Living in the Problem Space

leave a comment »