My Role: Designer
Platform: IOS / Android
Current State: On-Hold
Fall 2013-Spring 2014
North Carolina State University, College of Design
User Experience Design, Systemic Design, Product Design
This project was the second design investigation in my final project for master of graphic design at NC State University. The initial objective of this investigation was designing a set of features for a smart wearable device that helps city activists to participate in the process of city management. The target group in this study is limited to citizens who want to engage actively as reporters or volunteers in city services. These citizens are called “city activists” in this investigation. Aside from being a tool, ring has been a symbol of engagement for thousand years. Therefore, the smart ring will presents the person’s level of engagement to the city. This project still is in progress and I am developing the scope of experiences and interaction that the user might have with this product.
Over the course of this design investigation I applied the human-centered approach for the design process to get the real user needs and design the best user experience that ultimately facilitates civic participation and encourages citizens to engage in the process of city management. In this light, I used following design methods to understand the problem and come up with the best possible solution. This below diagram shows my iterative process through the design methods that are used in the process and presents how different methods inform and impact each other.
Mapping the Experience
The offering-activity-culture map is a design research method that I used in this design investigation to expand my thinking from an innovative product to activities and a larger cultural context. This method uses three lenses to look at an innovative product, including the features and functions (offering), the experience and actions that users may have with the product (activity), and, lastly, the general contextual implications that the product may have (culture). This helps in identifying the smart ring as a product in a larger context (e.g. communication system) and studying its influence on other elements, systems, and a user’s behavior.
Market Review and case study
The next step was conducting a quick research about other similar products to understand the most recent advances in the tech world. Following are three similar prototype that I identified for this purpose. All of these products are in the development and were not released at the time I was working on this project.
- Sign Language Ring
- Smarty Ring
For this project I created three provisional personas. The smart ring is designed for these personas in order to support easier and more efficient experiences in their activities regarding city management. One of these personas is Nina, a city activist and reporter. Nina is a 25 years old woman, born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She is a city activist and does some volunteering for the city in her spare time. She is very sociable and loves to show her city to others, especially tourists and newcomers, and enjoys helping and connecting people. Nina has a BA in management and works for a small company in downtown Raleigh. She loves the city and lives close to downtown.
Scenario and User Journey Map
For this part I created a scenario based on three different personas. The scenario portrays one-day stories of regular behaviors and activities of three personas in the urban environment. Scenarios follow their interests and have different interactions with elements of the city. There are also points in which they interact with each other.
This scenario mapping consists of three story lanes for all personas. User 1 intends to explore events and activities in order to expand his connection. User 2 tries to connect people and support them in different ways. She is also interested in doing some volunteer activities for the city. User 3 has created an artwork and wants to share it with other citizens and eventually have a social relationship with them via his works. Besides these mentioned experiences, there are moments in which three users interact with each other or share an experience indirectly. For example, in this scenario a public meeting is happening in downtown Raleigh. All three personas receive notifications regarding this event from different channels. The connecting lines in the scenario map indicate these moments. At the end of the story, all three personas meet at the event, which is about one of Sam’s artwork.
After investigating the smart ring, I made three physical prototypes to simulate some of experiences that it it could afford when considering the system. There were some initial experiences that I listed based on the needs, activities, and behaviors of the persona. In addition, my study of relevant cases helped identifying some hypothetical features for ring. I gave the prototypes to three participants and asked them to wear the ring for couple days assuming that the ring can do whatever they want. Then I asked them to give me feedback about their experiences with ring. The feedback was great and I collected very helpful insights from the participants.
The above design research methods helped me to come up with different use cases for the smart ring and map the user experience. In fact the smart ring, like a smart phone has unlimited affordances and it’s more like a platform on which others can build software and tools. For this step I narrowed the use cases to the following city management experiences.
In the way from home to downtown user identified several issues such as a vandalism case, potholes, and broken signs. City activist reports such issues via smart ring. Smart ring allows mark up and taking picture of issues. User may also record a voice memo. There will be additional application for tablet, smart-phone or desktop computers through which user may write a description, add further information, and report the issue to city service system. There might be issues that the user cannot mark them. For example a pothole that user may recognize when she is driving. In such cases, the city activist may take pictures and add more information, description later.
The city activist may want to add further information in the form of a brief description for the issues she identified and recorded in the city. However, reporting issues needs more detail in the form of a brief description. This software helps the city activist to complete her report of issues and send these to city service. The city will map all the issues that users report, which will help other expert to identify patterns or larger issues.
Communication with Other Citizens
The user simulated different hand gestures in order to communicate with other citizens or express his feeling about an event or activity. City activist reacts to events and activities or responds to other citizens by hand gestures. The smart ring will convert gestures to icons and the user may reflect them in her/his social media.
Send and Receive Information
User used the ring for getting information in different situations such as directions, searching for free parking, and sending information to other online platforms. The smart ring communicates with different element of the city. For example, it may help the user find free parking or get information regarding buildings. Besides all of these functions, the ring could be a symbol for city activist. In fact, by this symbol other citizens can easily recognize them. The user may interact with the smart ring when driving, the ring may help user to find free parking or get direction.
First, I gave these prototypes and the list of behaviors to three individuals and asked them to use the ring for couple days. Then, I collected their feedback that were mostly about the dimension of screen, and the different ways that they tried to use fingers for interacting with the device. Based on these, I made adjustments in the model and created new prototypes.
In the next step, I asked different individuals to play parts of the scenario in various urban environments in order to simulate the same experiences that are defined in the scenario. Following are some actions they played in different moments during the journey, captured in photos.
Interaction Design and UI System
The ring has a cylindrical touchable screen that enables the user to interact with it. Because of small real estate the UI is icon based and sequential. Each cycle has a set of icons and by tapping on each icon the next cycle will slide in. This UI system allows quick interaction with the device by using only the thumb.
Expansion of icon-based interface of the smart ring that shows how the user interact with the ring when notices an issue. User may mark the issue, record a memo, and take a picture. Information such as location or time will be recorded automatically. Eventually, the user will review the recorded issues through another interface and after adding more information she send the report to the city services. The user interface design in the next page shows how the user can add more information through a tablet application.
In addition to the touchable screen, the user can also interact with the smart ring by some hand gestures. The ring will recognize the different hand gesture and movement. These gestures can be used for commands or communication to other devices or people. For instance, the user reacts to events and activities or responds to other citizens by hand gestures like a V sign. The smart ring will convert gestures to icons and the user may reflect them in her/his social media.