The Internet of Things
As a BSc Product Designer, the field group ‘The Internet of Places’ seemed relevant to my subject area, this could be a positive thing although a part of me wished that I had been put into a field group which was a little more obscure to my subject area so that I could explore something new.
I worked in a group with two Erasmus students, Richard from Austria and Natalia from Slovakia. Working in a group of people from all different nationalities was interesting, they informed me on how University and home culture was different in their country in comparison to Britain. Although, we were all Product Designers, therefore I didn’t receive the benefit of working in interdisciplinary groups like people in other field groups did. I feel like the field groups need to be divided up more equally between subject area, otherwise, it defeats the point of field.
We had many useful workshops and lectures that widened my knowledge and understanding of this field. Ingrid Murphy a Maker and Ceramists held a Lecture on Augmented reality. We were taught that augmented reality enables us to overlay digital content onto physical artifacts, Ingrid has frequently animated her Ceramic work by adding QR codes. Using technology to animate stationary objects is something that could be applicable to my subject area.
Paul Granjon a Fine Artist held an interesting lecture on ‘Fine Art Robots’, focusing on the Co-evolution of humans and machines. He had designed robots that blurred the boundaries between humans and machines by creating them to have life like qualities such as the ability to excrete, mate, desire attention, and sleep. Some of the projects he had conducted in the past had left me feeling peculiar, although, technology causing people to react, is technology that intrigues me.
Dennis Flynn the head of electronics taught the class about Arduino and how we could use them in our projects, I already knew about Arduino from the Product Design BSc lectures with Aidan Taylor but it was useful for our group because one of my group member’s studies BA Product Design and had never heard of Arduino before.
As a group, we began by brainstorming ideas. We came up with a variety of possibilities, for example; bins that could detect materials and respond positively when the correct material is put into them and responds negatively when the incorrect material is put inside.
After weighing up the positives and negatives we decided to continue research on a ‘finding device’. Our idea was that the owner would have a wristband, and this wristband would be connected to numerous items that are frequently lost by the owner. If the owner had lost their keys, they would select this item on the wristband and then by using RSSI, the closer the owner got to the lost keys the redder the screen would become, and the further away from the keys the bluer the screen would become. We managed to prototype this idea using an HC-05 Bluetooth datasheet, an Arduino, a battery, a breadboard and wires and the correct coding. This project was helpful in encouraging me to practice my Arduino skills, as they are not perfect but with help from Aidan Taylor, we finished with a successful working prototype.
Bringing The Outdoors in
I was excited to begin the ‘Bringing the Outdoors in’ module as it sounded completely different to my previous field project. I could clearly see how I could benefit from the module as is was based on design development and human-centered design which is essential in product designer. We were told that you must first gather inspiration, and then use that inspiration to begin ideation, and then implement the ideas in order to solve the issue. We were on the lookout for inspiration on the Storey Arms trip. Whilst Caving and Orienteering there were many health and safety issues which could be implicated, such as;
- Strong water current
- Rising water levels
- Domino effect when people fall
- Unstable walking surfaces
- Slippery surfaces
- Uneven surfaces
- Temperature shock
- limited visibility
- Restrictive clothing
- Large heights
- Low ceilings
- Rocky surfaces (more of an issue when needed to crawl)
- Tight gaps
Clara held a first aid workshop on the Tuesday after the trip, I am not first aid trained so it was essential in order for me to be educated on what’s already out there. She also went through the stages you would have to go through in certain emergencies, and when it is necessary to contact emergency services.
Following this me and my partner, Sam, did some quick idea generation, finishing with 100 ideas that answer the brief in some way. Next following session we narrowed down these ideas to five, after doing some market research and intense consideration, these ideas were;
- An easy access food pouch
- A slim head torch
- LED bread crumbs
- Anxiety helper
- Friends App
We sketched up each of these ideas and decided on a final design which we could them prototype, test and develop. Once these prototypes were completed we took them back to the Brecon Beacons and immersed them in a natural environment, and got people to interact with the prototypes whilst asking them questions and receiving feedback which we recorded. This was very useful and gave us information for use in further development.
On the following Thursday, we took our prototypes into PEL, using panoramic images that were taken on the two trips as the background setting. We also took a trip to Taff Trail and gathered leaves, stones, and sticks to make the environment more realistic since it enhanced the participants, touch, smell, sound, and sight. We also played background sound which helped significantly.
We had a mixed reaction from the people we immersed in the environment without prototypes. Some seemed to take it as a joke, some seemed too uncomfortable to get an accurate from but others seemed interesting by the concept and gave us some useful feedback.
We developed out prototypes using the feedback collected from the trip and PEL and then got a different group of people to test them in PEL for the second time. Once we had gathered this feedback we implemented it for the last time before the final presentation.
From participating in ‘The Internet of Things’ I have developed my knowledge of coding and electronics as well as learned how bridges can be formed between physical and digital domains using augmented reality and the Internet of Things. This has made me aware that technology can be used in a creative and exploratory way, whereas before I thought of the technology as something that gives an object a purposeful function. Lectures I attended during ‘The Internet of Things’ made me aware of how augmented reality can make objects such as sculptures come to life to add emotion or educational purposes, and also how robots can be given life like traits such as mating, eating, and excretion to test boundaries between man and technology.
The Major thing I have gained from ‘Bringing the Outdoors in’ was learning about the Human Design Process, I will be using this next year in my third-year projects as is it such an efficient way of designing. It had encouraged me not to be lazy with my product testing and to travel to places where my product can be most effectively tested. It has also made me aware of resources available at University such as PEL (which I would have been too scared to have used before this project), although I am unsure of the accuracy of the results you gain from PEL after using it myself, but it is a more immersing way of testing rather than approaching someone who is just sat at their desk at Uni.
Field has been a partially positive experience, although problems have been encountered. I felt on numerous occasions that my input was ignored by certain group members, possibly due to myself being somewhat younger (or due to being female which I hope was not the case). I had to fight for my voice to be acknowledged because at times I became concerned that the work I would be presenting would not be my work at all, and therefore I would feel no accomplishment. I feel like some people need to learn the meaning of ‘group work’, as some were treating field as their own personal project. I also feel like my lack of denied involvement restricted my learning massively.
I was working with Product Designers in both field modules, therefore this limited the about of new knowledge I could have potentially gained from field, which I could have applied to my specialist subject area in the future. I feel to avoid this happening, field should be more organised with how many people from each subject area goes into each field group, and each sub-group should be divided between each subject area by the topic leader. I also feel that both modules were very Product Design related, this has improved my skills within Product Design, although restricted me to learning anything new.