Synchro: Nanotechnology + Affective Computing.          —          Service + Product + Interaction Design          —          Winter 2019: 9-Week Project

Synchro

 

Nanotech and affective computing to ensure safety and responsibility in the party culture.

The Challenge

 

Advances in personal informatics systems allow people to collect and track personal data on a daily basis. In what ways could design enhance people's experiences with personal data? 

Use a variety of design methods to traverse the design process until you conceive and prototype a design response to the user need you have uncovered and framed through design research. This process will include research on the user and the context, problem framing, ideation, concept development, prototyping, and final design.

My Role 

Empathetic Research Methods

I was the primary researcher, gathering insights by facilitating interviews, cognitive walkthroughs, contextual inquiries, and more. I led the participatory design workshop which served as a critical turning point in

our design thinking.

Development of Interactive Systems

I created all digital interfaces, designing data sharing and automatic handoff between the adhesive wearable and smart devices.

Gesture-Based Methodology

Led the development of gesture-based aspects of our final design. Used alternative design thinking to explore interactive design concepts without the limitations of physical form.

Team Members

Devansh Gandhi

Min Jung Koo

Annie Xu

Timeframe

9 Weeks

 

Research

Outreach Questionnaire

We began our process by creating a survey with targeted questions to gather insights about the kind of information college students care about. The majority of the results indicated that health data was popular among students. While we were collecting data, we quickly realized that it's important to intricately word our questions in a way that helps us identify the student’s needs and priorities. Well-refined questions provide clarity to our process, allowing us to more easily identify trends and collect insights. Below is a categorization of our findings.

It was difficult synthesizing suitable research questions to ask our participants. We were unsure about how broad our questions should address personal data. To compensate for this, we conducted two rounds of interviews while making adjustments to our questions and overall approach between rounds.

Contenxtual Inquiry + Interviews

From our outreach questionnaire and additional interviewing, we narrowed down our scope from general health and wellness to better understanding alcohol consumption within the college environment. After surveying through campus asking students about their experiences at parties and college gatherings, we found that a majority of students were concerned about their alcohol consumption but had no means of intake tracking.

By conducting contextual inquiries within the context of the environment, we were able to gain some insight into the current methods students use to track their consumption and the pros and cons of these methods.

Insights

 

College students often do not track their alcohol intake, and thus cannot accurately gauge when they reach a level of incoherency. Students are also unsure about their alcohol tolerance levels, often drinking more than they can handle. In addition, students are interested in knowing their peer’s level of intoxicity to ensure their safety and well-being. Lastly, students want to understand their behavior patterns during and after alcohol intake.

From these insights, we formulated three "How Might We" statements:

  • How might we integrate personal data to improve drinking habits?
     

  • How might we ensure safety and social responsibility as a part of
    the party culture?

     

  • How might we equip intoxicated peers with the information necessary
    to help look out for each other, and thus prevent consequential accidents?

Additional Research Methods 

Photo Diaries

Fly on the Wall

Shadowing

AEIOU Ethnography

Design Principles

Indicative 

Personal 

Inclusive 

Always Ready

→          For both the user and the surroundings

→          Provides personal understanding for users

→          Adaptable across diverse user groups

→          Always out and ready to provide value

How might we ensure safety and social responsibility as part

of the party culture?

60 Ideations

 

Our research led us to brainstorm 60+ ideations that eventually were downselected to three of our most promising ones. Among our ideas, many shared similar elements. We categorized our ideations into wearables, services, and products. In the end, we chose the best ideation from each category: the car share service, ring tracker, and smart key for cars. Ultimately, we decided to pursue the car share service idea because the concept of designing a service was more impactful and inclusive than the other tracking ideas we had.

Downselection

 

We took our mutually exhaustive list of divergent ideas and organized them in appropriate categories. From our sixty original ideas, we narrowed down to fifteen of the most promising ones. These fifteen ideas shared similar aspects, so we were able to use factors of each idea to synthesize three ideations of higher quality.

1   RIDE SHARING SERVICE DESIGN

Why This Idea?

From our research we found that many people were worried about the safety of their friends after a party. A huge issue was vehicle operation under the influence of alcohol. We decided that by creating a service, we could improve the experience of those with cars.

2    SMART RING

 

Why This Idea?

In our research, we discovered that people seek a method to track the number of drinks they have consumed throughout an event. However, it was also important to the participant that the way they tracked alcohol consumption was discrete and personal. We decided that a smart ring would be a discrete way to alert the user and help the user understand more about their personal drinking habits.

3   SAFETY KEY

 

Why This Idea?

Through our research, we have learned that people wanted a device that was more seamless and automatic rather than requiring manual labor. Therefore, the safety key was purposefully designed to be incorporated within one's life, to a device that is directly associated with driving. The safety key automatically evaluates the user's status, determining if the user is fit to drive home.

Participatory Design

Participants as Collaborators

Our participatory design workshop created a thinking space where participants had the opportunity to become collaborators

of our design process. 

Behavioral-Based Identification

During a role play activity where we prompted a scenario of someone passing out, our participants did not know how to identify when a person needed further help. This often overlooked interaction brought up a new problem of indicating sobriety in a party environment.

Our Pivot

By then, we had discerned that our car share ideation had some flaws in addition to lacking the personal data element of the project. We decided to pivot our project goals to help address the subjective diagnosis of intoxicity. Without the help of our participants as collaborators, we would have never identified that subjective diagnosis was an issue, and thus, never came to a revelation.  

Prototyping

Designing With Gesture

Designing with gesture allowed us to focus on concept without the limitations of physical form. We settled on a wrist-bumping gesture as it would be natural and discrete, blending in with other gestural interactions in the context of the environment. The initial idea was that two people wearing smart watches could bump their wrists and sync their drinking data. This would help them better understand the toxicity levels of each other. During the peer critique, we learned that in order to be more inclusive, we would need to switch to an alternate medium such as a sticker or band because not everyone at the party would be able to own a smartwatch. Keeping the gesture as is, we pivoted from smartwatch hardware to a sticker that uses nanotech to track data. ​

Modular Design

To encourage group usage, we created a modular packaging design in the form of a hexagon, consisting six triangular modules within. Each nanotech adhesive would be individually wrapped in a module.

Product + Packaging

Initially, our package design held the form of a large triangular prism. However, our form did not seem feasible in the context of the party environment as it could barely fit into a pant pocket.

For the adhesive tab, we iterated different forms from squares to hexagons. We tested a myriad of materials including bandages, adhesive film, and flexible plastic sheets to find the perfect material for the nanotech device. To ensure water resistance, we opted for adhesive paper fused with a layer of film.

Information Architecture

Privacy & Ethics

Designing a system that fits into the party space within the college environment is a sensitive subject to work with. Diving into this space meant designing to ensure safety for people who don’t think they want or need it. As a result, it was a challenge for us to create something that was not intrusive design.

 

We took careful considerations into making sure students would not be releasing information to strangers or even friends unless absolutely necessary. Only the initial group of friends that arrived at the party together and are listed as trusted contacts on the application would be able to exchange drinking data and even then others can only view a limited set of data. The breadth of this data set is defined by the user in privacy settings. The data generated through affective computing is otherwise only viewable by the wearer.

Final Design

Information Hierarchy

After sketching wireframes on paper, we concluded that emotive symbols would be easier to identify at a [drunken] glance of the phone. We deliberately created a large emotive icon that users would relate to and help gauge their level of intoxicity before they glanced at more complex data visualizations.

Aesthetic Choices

Our interface aesthetic was largely driven by the natural conditions of the environment the design would be utilized in. The dimly lit environment inspired a dark color scheme that would be less glaring and obtrusive in the space.

 

Deliverables:

  • User Interfaces Across Platforms

  • Tolerance Data Visualizations

  • Notifications & Call-To-Action Methodologies

  • Holistic Data Incorporation

  • Adhesive Nanotech Prototype

  • Modular Share System

  • Product Packaging

  • Privacy Settings

Interaction Specifications:

Wrist bumping gesture with pre-synced friends to exchange tolerance data.

Bringing Empirical Data to Subjective Analysis

College students often cannot be certain how others behave while intoxicated. Using nanotech sensors to collect behavioral data and blood alcohol levels, Synchro tabs send data to the user’s smartphone, creating a holistic report to help them better understand their limits and behaviors.

By using a simple gesture to sync data between users, they can exchange data necessary to help ensure each other’s safety. Synchro fills the need for a more reliable and standardized method of identifying intoxicated peers.

Discrete + Integrated

Synchro tabs are designed to be discrete and utilitarian, fitting the party environment, helping people feel more comfortable using a tracking device. Certain venues can distribute Synchro tabs as an entry ticket to encourage usage.

Cross platform compatibility with smartphones and smartwatches so your information is always ready.

Non-intrusive

Even when medical attention is necessary,

Synchro doesn't display alcohol consumption to outsiders. This way, data privacy is preserved and  gamification of the system is prevented.

NO REUSING IDEAS!  —

© 2020 — Verliquaoar Chen