Nothing like an unsociable hours blogging.
For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter; not only are you terrible people for being responsible for global warming and the occupation of Middle Eastern countries – You are also not privy to recent goings on. Oh dear.
Well let me break it down for you. Designer style.
The New Brief
As of around (Three? I loose track of time) weeks ago we are working on a new brief, or the next stage of the previous brief – Whatever get off my case. The brief as you can imagine is a long A4 document (when I say long – I meant 3 or 4 pages – Too long for what it should be). Basically detailed in this brief was that the new objective was to make a soft product with an embedded technology. At this point I looked to Wikipedia to reference exactly what a “Soft Product” was – The top three hits were, in descending order:
- Soft Drinks
- Toilet Paper
- Cheese Spread
I’ll give you a clue – It is none of those. A soft product is exactly that – A product which is soft… Remind me to add that to Wikipedia.
In the scope of this brief it was acceptable to take an already existing product which was “hard” and make it “soft”. Giggling yet?
For example – A keyboard – Often a very clinical, clicky, un-tactile interaction. Why not make it soft – and more versatile?
So, to round up;
Got that? Good – Lets move on.
Usually within the Product Design department in Dundee when a brief is set it is common practice to come up with a set of insights surrounding the brief and from there generate 100 (yes – ONE HUNDRED) idea’s that meet that given brief. Thankfully, for my sanity and the health of my coffee machine this was waived in this case and between myself and my partner we set to come up with a few idea’s.
At this point I escaped outside to a local place where there were plenty of students to observe what every day objects they used that could be made better by making them soft. Either that or I was looking at girls…Its up to you what you want to believe.
….OK! I was looking at girls.
Anyhow along with the usual idea’s of the soft watch, soft keyboard etc being thrown around we settled on an idea.
THE IDEA (singular)
My fellow designer (Adam Chesterman) settled on an electronic pedometer – not to be confused with a peado-meter.
At first we had desired to make the pedometer a wearable pedometer that would encourage you to progress the amount of steps you take – and to be able to be seen – Leading to people being motivated to walk more. Good for the environment, good for your body and good for me looking at more girls…Oops.
However after consultation with our lecturer we decided to keep it simple. The pedometer would simply record and display how many steps you had taken that day (but in a cool way – obviously)
We thought it critical to tackle first how the product would display the amount of steps you had taken since last resetting the device. We decided that exact numbers were not necessary and were, in fact, boring. So we opted for a more Red-Green or Green-More Green display method. A little bit of cutting, sewing and swearing later and the first aesthetic prototype was born.
This is the stage we are currently at. After looking at several display methods (sorry I have no pictures) we have begun to move towards what we felt was the best. I also researched into how many steps the average Joe should take in a day;
It does seem like a lot, especially to a desk surfer like myself – However I cant wait to wear this thing for a day and see the results for myself. I decided to split this number into 5 equal ranges. As each milestone is reached – Another light shows in the band.
With this information in hand I set about developing the code; And to code you must first think like a computer – I find flowcharts very useful for this, computer aided flowcharts – Obviously!
I’m not sure “Fly Testing” Is a real phrase – But it is now – And it means testing…On the fly.
Once the code was laid out we began to slot the hardware together into a test rig. This also meant that I had to plug the Arduino module into the accelerometer that we will be using to measure steps. Once the relevant code was in place to read the accelerometer and print out the resulting readings on-screen I had to mount the accelerometer on a walking test subject (Adam) to get accurate readings. This involved literally strapping both the Arduino (Lillypad) module and the accelerometer to him along with all the prototyping wire and data cable. In the end he looked a bit like a camp Robocop.
With a good benchmark reading done I could begin to construct the code. Which is only one sentence but it requires the learning of a whole new language (C language) and more than a few spoken sentences and muttered words. I am happy to report that the code is now working with a mock prototype – And requires only slight tweaking before we construct the final product.
All that and still 2 weeks from deadline.