Device Prototyping

This week in HCDE 210 we worked on deice prototyping. Using prototyping kits called littleBits, we started off with a tutorial on how to use the kits, and quickly moved into creating basic prototypes for one of three potential user bases. The user group my partner and I decided to think about was pet owners who are concerned with their pet’s activity levels.

We started out by thinking of typical ways people get pets mobile. We noticed that most pets respond to light and or sound, so we wanted to incorporate these into a prototype. Before we got to actually putting pieces together, we wanted to draw out a potential situation where a sound/light system might come in handy. We thought of the following system and solution. Under a pet’s bed, there will be a button that counts each time the pet lays down. One the button is clicked three times (meaning that the pet has sat three times) a sound will play. This interaction looked like this:

Now that we had a basic idea for what we wanted our solution to do, we had to begin to prototype. We first thought about the littleBit pieces we had and how they could work together to perform our function. We came up with the following schematic that would do exactly what we wanted:

This sketch easily translated into a physical prototype that looked like this:

Notice that in the physical prototype, we decided to add a light element that would only play when the speaker started playing. We thought that combining sound and light would be more likely to attract the attention of the animal, so we added the functionality.

Big Picture

Looking at the prototyping process as a whole, I really enjoyed getting to use littleBits. I think that the kits are perfect for beginners who want to really easily connect pieces and learn about circuits, plus these kits made prototyping super easy for us. Meanwhile, they were durable and portable, so we didn’t have to be overly concerned about accidentally breaking one of the pieces.

As a bit of a side note, the studio setting and the whiteboard tables made ideating really convenient and efficient, especially for this activity. My partner and I not only had a great time ideating through potential solutions, but felt empowered to erase everything and start over if something wasn’t working quite like we thought it would. I think that the setting was perfect for this week’s studio, and I wish that everyone experimenting with littleBits had the experience my partner and I had in the studio.

Looking Ahead

Thinking about potential applications of this process in the future, I am highly considering buying a littleBits kit myself just to have around to play with in my spare time. I think that these kits opened up a whole new world of ideating and easy-prototyping for me, and I hope to think of some cool new ideas in the future.

Meanwhile, I think that loads of prototyping situations could benefit from using littleBits. A lot of times, in this class and in professional settings, there is a need for an easy, medium-fidelity prototype, and I think that littleBits has nailed the middle ground of being easy to use and actually functional. On the other hand though, I don’t think littleBits would have been much use a few weeks ago when we were primarily working on interface development since the littleBits aren’t programmable, so they definitely have a limit in their usability.

All in all, this was definitely the coolest studio session we have had in this class. Getting hands-on experience with a really cool, and really easy, prototyping medium was an incredible experience, and one I hope to get again soon.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Kyle Simpson’s story.