Group Work

Group tinkering

Servo Project
In week 2 we had the chance to interact with various building blocks and make our own servo-powered creation. We tested the modules in BYOR, LittleBits and for the project we had access to servos, cardboard boxes, markers and various other cheap "building block" type equipment. 

Our prototype was a mr.potatohead inspired creature made out of cardboard. We used servos to make the character do certain actions like take of her hat,which revealed a rat and change her eye socket.
Testing different materials was a nice group bonding exercise which also gave us inspiration when designing the table. I was personally inspired by littleBits quite a lot since I also ended up using them as reference for the individual work.
The project helped us get a first idea of what a hands-on tinkering session really is, especially in a group context. By using different materials and going through different iterations, from sketch to final design, we ended up with a final prototype of our creature.
Through this process we also developed a first version of THE TABLE which is a table that consists of different features that the building blocks we tinkered with had. The features we extracted were Affordance, Ease of Use, Price and Skills Needed. The list is quite short at this point but it should be expanded throughout this course.

Iterations & final creation

THE TABLE : week 2

Group Project
Our group decided to explore the topics of wearables in relation to the tinkering principles we learned in the previous weeks. Our proposal is WereWatch, a toolkit that allows the user to build their own wearable by linking different modules together. This will hopefully result in wearable tech being less of a "black box" for common users.

After a group meeting we decided to each come up with a lofi prototype or do some exploration that can help us get a grasp of how a toolkit would look like. Different ideas such as pen & paper prototypes, 3D printed models and in detail sketches were suggested. I decided to take apart an Amazfit GTR smart watch and a PS Vita, which allowed me to closely examine in depth the different modules that make up devices like that and brainstorm on potential solutions that take inspiration from the deconstructed devices.
The modules inside the Amazfit helped expand my understanding of how wearable devices work. Mainly I found myself to be impressed with how many different modules can fit in a such enclosed space. Features such as a touchscreen, heart monitoring, vibration and even a microphone were able to fit in a harmonic way in a sleek wearable device which is something that I was personally inspired by.
The components found inside the Vita can suggest an interesting, more gamepad-focused direction to the wearable idea. Modules such as a joysticks, shoulder buttons or d-pads were used for decades in handheld consoles due to their compactness and high adaptability to different games and apps, which is something that could translate to the wearable device very nicely, especially for gaming and applications that require high user engagement.

pWereWatch kit mockup

Amazfit GTR (top), PS Vita (bottom)

Another group member 3D printed different mock modules that were able to click together using magnets, which helped in visualizing a potential toolkit better. The size of the modules were approximately the size of the desired modules on a potential final design of a wearable. Combining their work with the dissassembled parts from the smartwatch and game console gave an even clearer potential design in the form of a non-working lo-fi prototype.This helped not only in visualizing multiple potential wearable devices that could stem from a toolkit that was composed by different modules.

3D printed magnetic mock modules

Mockup design 1

Mockup design 2

After this session we had a group meeting where we decided on the basic features and criteria a minimum viable product must fulfill. That led us to the following :
Possible basic Components / Material:
Heart Rate sensor
Crank module
Speaker module/Buzzer
Haptic motor/Vibrator

Possible basic Functionalities:
Setting Alarms
Tracking Steps
Tamagotchi Feature (Pet Hamster)
CO2 warning system

This first draft acted as a primer for our ideas. After discussing it further we chose to order and work with only the very basic compomnents/building blocks. We decided that they were the screen, the buttons, the heart rate monitor and the vibrator. We also conceptualized 2 different use cases and intented audience for our prototype, for education/children and for daily use/adults interested in tech. After discussing this as well we decided to focus on the first approach, since we felt it aligned with our original goal, which was making wearables less intimitading, better.

Direction Ideas

The chosen direction entailed having big-toylike modules that connected together to form different wearable devices. To create the prototype we decided to 3D print the casings of the modules. Although originally we had the idea of the parts clicking together via magnets, for the final design we used plastic wire connectors since it allowed us to create a first prototype that's more sturdy. The modules all connected to an arduino mini which acted as the "brain" of the device. 
It was programmed to read and display the heart rate from the sensor (when disconnected it also displays the appropriate message), have a simple game with a scoring system that becomes playable when the buttons are connected and show the time passed in seconds. Unfortunately we couldn't get the vibrator to work in time. Also in hindsight it would've been interesting to get an RTC module and have the time be accurate instead of a simple timer.
A workshop was conceptualized as well, which includes different activities that are shared via a card game, which may help in pushing participators to explore the possbilities of our modular wearable idea in a hands-on fashion. The following report describes a tinkering workshop/playground the way we imagine it

Card game example

Prototype with cardboard modules

As the above table mentions, a card game was also conceptualized alongside the prototype. It's goal is to assist in the tinkering session by giving the children different directions or specific tasks they can explore with the wearable.
The idea was to push children to get hands-on with the prototype and learn not only by building different wearable variations but also by breaking it down and closely examining each part.
At this point we feel like this is achieved on a very basic level but the tinkering possibilities are a bit limited since we only had 3 components including the screen. One solution to that was to introduce lo-fi modules made from cardboard that can represent potential building blocks of the wearable. This also allows the children to come up with their own modules which can open up the prototype to evolve in unique directions.
For the evaluation we conducted a pretend children session, were we went through potential scenarios that the prototype might be involved in and we also took into consideration the feedback and observations we had during demo day. We concluded that although the project has its limitations due to the lack of tinkerable components, the potential is there for future iterations that can be practical in the real world. Personally if developed further I can see a product like this educating young children on wearable and modular technology or at the very least introducing them to the topic in a fun and insightful way. LittleBits is an idea that I fell in love with in this course and I can potentially see how our solution can be the wearable equivalent of something like that.
On the software side there was also room for improvement. Even though this wasn't the main focus of this project there potential to push children to tinker digitally is there, for example by prompting them to create games or applications for the wearable. A simplified block-based programming framework can also be introduced to both make it easier for programming begginners and to match with the physical prototype.
Guest Lecture:
For week 6 we attended a guest lecture by Rochelle Spaargaren. The lecturer was doing research on how tinkering can help in education. Specifically in teaching on how to make games in Unity. For that we were given a set of different materials and exercises. By doing the exercises and working with the material we were able to ideate a game concept and create a very basic working prototype of it without using programming. 
We came up with GLOBAL WORMING, an action adventure platformer where after the wormpocalypse, Hatman and Frogzilla (the main protagonist and his pet frog ) are tasked with taking down the global worm, the evil ceo that is behind everything. The player must kill as many worms as they can (and feed them to the frog) in their way to go and face the final boss of the game.
In my opinion the workshop succeeded in what it aimed for which was enable us to learn about making a Unity game through tinkering. However looking at it through a critical lens some exercises were less impactful and the end result felt like it was barely our project since we just slighty tweaked a template that was given to us. The group format in this case had in my opinion its ups and downs. On the one hand it worked well for the ideation phase and coming up with interesting concepts but on the other hand it harmed the actual hands on approach of making the final prototype since only 1 person in the group was required to run Unity which resulted in everyone else having a more observational role in the final exercise. Even though the first 2 exercises, where we were given cards with different prompts and descriptions that were meant to guide us through the UX cycle, had a very neat presentation they included too much information, which could result in the participants being taken out of the process. On a positive note the template cards (shown in the image) were in my opinion a brilliant tool for coming up with objects, characters and all types of entities that the game could include. The way the template was presented, by already giving every object a checkbox for different properties (active,harmful,moveable etc), also was a very nice touch since it translated very well to the mechanics of Unity.

Template Cards (filled)

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