Sprint 5: Device Prototyping

Testing out a prototype with my classmates

For my first experience with LittleBits in Sprint 5, Device Prototyping, I transitioned from not knowing what LittleBits was to building small prototypes with the tools in the kit. In order to familiarize myself with LittleBits, I watched videos on how to make certain prototypes, looked through a gallery of prototypes people made, and then read a review of LittleBits. Once I was able to interact with the kit itself, my partner and I started clicking parts together. We found that we could use a light sensor or noise sensor to control when a lamp turned on. Sometimes, it was a little difficult to understand how each part of the kit worked, but we were mostly able to figure it out or watch a video; sometimes, it was difficult to use our prototype when we didn’t quite understand how we could set thresholds. After messing around and replacing some of the input parts, we finally built a few prototypes we liked.

Prototype: light sensitive light switch — turns on when it’s dark and turns off when it’s bright

While we were planning our prototype, it was difficult to think of new ideas that didn’t seem to infringe on others’ intellectual property. In my case, there were already light or sound sensitive technologies that would turn on house lights or a kitchen appliance. At first, I didn’t realize whether I should continue exploring that idea or not, but more about that later. Sometimes, I didn’t know when to stop prototyping a certain idea or to just move onto the next one. Through this project, I realized that there’s a time to continue developing an idea, and to just stop and move on.

Prototype: light sensitive alarm — plays music when it’s light out & stops when it’s dark

One question that kept on coming up to me during brainstorming and prototyping was: what if the idea for a product you prototyped had already been invented and marketed? I struggled with this for a while because I wanted to come up with original ideas, but sometimes the ideas I came up with had already been created and sold. While I was thinking more about this question, I realized that many things have already been invented, but they might not have the best design. As a designer, we must constantly be thinking about how to improve something to better suit the needs of people using the product.

My partner and I watching tutorials and experimenting with the LittleBits kit

Smart Homes seem like a good way to make our lives easier, but there are still many things, such as security, ethics, and privacy, designers and engineers must think about.

New technologies being created in the Smart Home Movement and cloud-based storage can be tricky in terms of security: there is more data being collected on us, which could be a privacy concern, and higher risk of finding that information because the cloud can be accessed merely with an internet connection.

The ethics of the Smart Home Movement interested me: how much data should be collected and what should happen with it? Where does it go? Who owns it and who should have access to it? Is it the user’s responsibility to keep track of their own data to make sure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands?

Ownership of data in the cloud can also be a gray area. Who owns the data and what can they do with it? Does the storage provider own the data because it’s in their cloud, or is it strictly owned by the person who stored the information? If the storage provider owns the data, what would they be able to do with the information? Should they be able to sell it or are they obligated to keep their users’ information private?

Although Smart Homes may not seem practical or feasible at the moment, designers and engineers must keep working to make lives for people easier.

Prototyping video demo: this system makes household appliances quieter once a lightness threshold is crossed