Framework Brainstorm

From yesterday’s brainstorm session in the studio, using the “Getting a Grip” tangible interaction framework as inspiration…

From this brainstorm, I feel I have fine-tuned my framing even further, and come up with an idea to abstract the SUI concept in the form of a simple prototype.

My TRKBRD prototype is a concrete application of stacking inputs/interfaces. It is an implementation of the Stacked User Inputs concept. For this thesis, though, I feel I need to step away from the concrete and focus on the abstraction of the idea. What does it mean to stack inputs? What properties are important for stacking? Can a simple prototype abstract the concept to illustrate it quickly, easily, and understandably?

During my brainstorming, I kept coming back to the simple button, a physical button. Physicality has been an important component of the SUI concept. A physical button creates the base of interaction in the stack, where other levels of interaction are stacked on top of the base. Could “touch” be added to the button? Could a “proximity field” be positioned on top of the button? These possibilities were coming to mind when I would brainstorm under the “Tangible Manipulation” column in the image above.

And this is exactly a direction where I am thinking of going now… A simple touch-sensitive button, packaged into a self-contained cube of electronics, to become a small “toy” used to explore the SUI concept. Could this cube provoke thoughts on the concept from a diverse set of designers in various domains?

I struggled for the last week, trying to brainstorm additional devices or prototypes that I could build to demonstrate a SUI. I was naively trying to invent a new device (again) that would provide a single input interface to control seemingly random outputs. And since I do not hold expertise in a wide range of domains, obviously my ideas would be narrowly positioned in the domains I do know. I was getting frustrated that my ideas kept on falling into the same areas, not realizing why.

What if I could get a simple tool into the hands of professional designers in a wide range of domains? There is the potential of gaining insights into his or her design domain, by using a simple tool to provoke the body of knowledge they have collected.

I’m now exploring form factors, sensors, and interactions for the “SUI cube”. With a generic form and electronics platform, I can concentrate on the interactions that could be possible with a SUI. With only a few levels in the stack, how many unique interactions are possible?

No One Is Online

…and it’s so peaceful…

“Three-State Model of Graphical Input”

by William A.S. Buxton (1990)

  1. “All input devices are not created equal in their capabilities, nor input techniques in their demands.”
  2. 6 Generic Transactions of User’s Intentions with a Device (Foley, Wallace, Chan 1984)
    1. select an object
    2. position an object
    3. orient an object
    4. ink (draw a line)
    5. text (enter text)
    6. value (specify a scalar value)
  3. 3-State Model:
    1. rooted in the human motor/sensory system
    2. device state-transition model
    3. captures more continuous properties of devices, not as much as the discrete

My thoughts:

  • This article goes into much more analytical detail.
  • I will carry this state model forward with my thesis, and use it as a way of describing my ideas, designs, and prototypes.

TRKBRD Schematic & Code

The following is full documentation and diagrams of the TRKBRD physical prototype. If you find an error, or figure out a better way, or need help… please contact me!

Final Prototype

Schematic Diagrams

Entire Electronics Schematic

Arduino Connections (zoom view)

Parent Multiplexers (zoom view)

Children Multiplexers/IR Phototransistors (zoom view)

Switches/Laser Transistors (zoom view)

Parts List

  • Arduino Duemilinova (1)
  • 4051 Multiplexer (16)
    • #73-473-70 from ELFA
  • IR Phototransistor (110)
    • #75-203-15 from ELFA
  • IR Laser (2)
    • 35mW 980 nm Infrared
    • 120 degree line generator
    • #A-H980-35-3 from Aixiz
  • Switch (2)
  • Transistor (2)


Video Documentation

Day 87

The pieces are coming together… so I will now take a break!

Well, not really. I will take a break from the research and attempt to use the Kicad schematic software to document the electronics schematic for the TRKBRD. I am putting together full documentation of the TRKBRD design for the Computer Science professor in Marrakech, Morocco.

I feel the pieces are coming together for the thesis because of the research I fully digested today. More on that…

What I’ve Learned #3: Prototyping Matrix

I learned this advice the hard way: by failing twice. At the end of my first year of the 2 year Masters program, I had 2 projects due at the same time. One project was for my final Interaction Design course, and the other was for my FashionTechnology course. And unlucky for me, I decided to use Arduino and physical prototyping for both of them.

The two prototypes that I built were the TRKBRD and the MemoryWatch. In reference to my diagram below, I attempted to position each prototype as the red X, which is exactly why both projects failed to meet their deadlines and needed extensions throughout the summer. What follows is an explanation of the sage advice I received from the fellows at Unsworn Industries, during their critique of our FashionTechnology final presentation.

When you have your idea, and want to begin prototyping your idea, no matter if your idea is physical or virtual, first think of how that prototype will fit into the matrix below. What is the most important element, or elements, for your idea or design? Most people, when they begin prototyping, fall into the pitfall of immediately aiming for the red X below, where the resolution and the fidelity are both perfect! This is not the best place to start prototyping. Consider restricting the resolution, so you can concentrate on the fidelity. Or, consider restricting the fidelity so you can concentrate on the resolution. Think of your prototypes as small steps towards achieving that final red X position of perfect resolution and fidelity. And remember that it takes many steps before achieving that final position!

Research Visualization Alpha

At this point I have read many research articles, and processed 12 of them into the blog to visualization what I’ve learned from each one. Each article is summarized, tagged for the tag cloud, and the thoughts each one provoked are summarized too. But now what? The scientific side of me curiously wants to organize this data into (hopefully) helpful visualizations to better understand it. Here are my attempts.

“Tag Lines”

My first attempt at creating a visualization showing the relationship between the research articles (in orange at the bottom) and the descriptive tags for each article (in grey at the top). Each line connects the article to each of its tags. Each article has its own line color.

I didn’t find this very useful. I can see some patterns, but feel they are the influence of my own interests for the thesis and skewed by the already focused subject I’m researching. “Hardware” connects to many articles; not surprising since I am interested in hardware interfaces. “Stacking” is popular; I may have been too liberal with assigning this tag, especially since it is the focus of my thesis. I am surprised by how many link to “Expressive”.

“Tag Swim Lanes”

Second attempt: sorting an article’s tags into simple swim lanes, and positioning similar swim lanes together. I changed the top-to-bottom order of the rows to try to group the total quantities for each row: top rows have more matches, bottom rows have fewer. This shows a bias towards certain types of research, or a lack of research for various tag keywords. Could these “black holes” be openings for my thesis, to explore an underdeveloped area?

“Tag Swim Lanes v2″

Third attempt: same as previous design, though reordered rows and made logical groupings. I needed better order of the tags, compared to the last design. The order for this one is the same as the “Tag Lines” design above. There was a reason for that order.

  • Body/Mind: related to the mind, emotions, and spatial use of the body to physical represent the mind’s intent.
  • Function: related to use, purpose, function.
  • Space: spatial placement, relationships and positions of objects in 3D space.
  • Temporal: related to time, limited by time, temporary.
  • Physical: related to 3D properties of a device, and actions related to 3D space.

“Tag Swim Lanes v3″

Fourth attempt: same as previous design, but removed multiple rows. Some rows became redundant after thinking about how each one relates to my intended focus. I removed all rows from the Physical section. This wasn’t necessary since I already intend to work within the physical arena, and not in the virtual world of interfaces. This left “Temporal” and “Function” left by themselves.

I have felt a lot of inspiration from Johan Redströms article on Tangled Interaction. He elaborates on how function can take a temporal form and present new functionality, or allow us to discover new functions, through using the device over time. For my own sake, I will group “Temporal” and “Function” together now, to show Function Over Time. I see this as a much larger underdeveloped area that I am excited to explore, especially because of its direct relevance to how I define a SUI.

Circuit Board Etching Made Easy

I’ve heard about etching your own circuit boards at home for awhile now, but have always been hesitant. This video made it quite clear and easy! I just have to see if I can get the supplies in Sweden now. If I can get the supplies, I would use this method to create the necessary boards for any prototypes I build for the thesis.

from Make Magazine:

The video mentions that the necessary supplies are available from Jameco, but they can only ship the supplies by ground, which presents us in Europe to receive it. I think ELFA in the EU has the supplies but I am still trying to find the necessary pieces.

Electrokit in Malmö has the necessary supplies:

  • Developer #41000469
  • Etching #41002328 or #41002488
  • UV lamp from some other store
  • Light-sensitive boards such as #41004123

“Getting a Grip on Tangible Interaction”

“…A Framework on Physical Space and Social Interaction”

by Eva Hornecker, Jacob Buur (2006)

  1. A framework for the interweaving of the material/physical and the social aspects of tangible interaction.
  2. Framework:
    • Tangible Manipulation: material representations with distinct tactile qualities, which are typically physically manipulated in tangible interaction.
    • Spatial Interaction: tangible interaction is embedded in real space, and occurs by movement in space.
    • Embodied Facilitation: configuration of material objects and space affects and directs emerging group behavior.
    • Expressive Representation: expressiveness and legibility of the material and digital representations employed by tangible interaction.

My thoughts:

  • Could this framework be used to brainstorm ideas? or classify ideas?
  • The more I read this paper, the more I like it and feel convinced that the framework will help me.
  • The framework nicely makes a separation between the various points of tangible interaction:
    • Individual sensory
    • Individual body in a space
    • Individual with others at a place
    • Expressive effects in all of the above
  • At this point in my thesis, I am most concerned with Tangible, Spatial, and Expressive (in the diagram below). I am only interested in the Embodied in the non-social aspect.

“Integrated Keyboard and Pointing Device System”

Patent #5124689 (Google Patents) (1992)

  1. “A computer system employs an integrated keyboard and pointing device to allow user input of alpha-numeric (typing) information, pointing direction information and pointing event information without moving the users’ hands from the usual typing position on the keyboard.”
  2. “One of the keyboard keys, called the pointing key, has sensors coupled to it to acquire pointing direction data from lateral displacement of the pointing key.”
  3. “The new system has a typing mode of operation and a pointing mode.”
  4. “One or more of the keys is assigned as a pointing event key, for inputting information which would come from mouse buttons in a segregated system.”

My thoughts:

  • Wow, could #1 explain the TRKBRD in a simpler way?
  • Though, under further examination of the patent, it seems that their idea is more focused on replicating the interaction of the “eraser head” (IBM’s Trackpoint) cursor control device.
  • The patented design uses mechanical means to communicate pointer events such as “tap” and “double-tap”, or, click and double-click. This is a big difference in their patent and my TRKBRD design, which integrates full pointer events into the design and does not rely on any outside mechanical means.
    • This difference proposes a tangent hypothesis, in the human ability to stack physical actions: tapping a physical button. I must admit that tapping on my keyboard is a foreign behavior to me. It is necessary to exercise restraint in emotional moments and tap with exact premeditated motions, less you tap too hard and type the letter key instead.
  • I admit, the patent documentation is quite long and I have not read all of it. It didn’t take too much reading to realize the differences in their patent and my TRKBRD design, or to visualize gaps that I could explore and push through my wedge of originality.