Device Prototyping

littleBits is an easy-to-use platform of customizable building blocks that can create a variety of electronic devices with different functions. It’s fairly simple to make anything since all you need are a power cable, input, and an output. In the beginning, I just jumbled a bunch of inputs and outputs together to have a feel for how littleBits works. Eventually, as I decided to focus on User Group #3: Seattlelites Who Love Azaleas, it became more clear as to which combinations I had to create in order to serve my user group.

Placement of the prototypes in the azalea pot

My user group loves azaleas but find it difficult to take care of them due to the typical gloomy weather that is associated with Seattle. Azaleas need to receive daily sunlight, have moist (but not overwatered) soil, be in temperatures between 25°-86° F, and must be pruned. In order to tackle all of these requirements, my partner and I created a flow chart to designate each individual input and output to its placements. We decided that our prototype needed a temperature sensor, two light sensors (one to account for the amount of shade that is underneath the azalea leaves which would let the user know when to prune whereas the other one would measure the amount of sunlight the plant is receiving), and a moisture sensor. These inputs were paired up with mainly the same output (mp3 & speaker) that would call out different warnings.

Flow chart of the inputs & outputs

Playing around and eventually creating prototypes were incredibly stimulating, which led to a positive and high-energy work environment. At first I was a bit stumped, because I wasn’t sure whether I was able to re-use some of the same inputs and outputs for different functions, but after I cleared up the confusion, it was all smooth-sailing.

Individual prototypes

littleBits is a great introduction and gateway to those are becoming interested in prototyping. After tinkering around with these for almost two hours, I feel like I have a better understanding of human-centered design and engineering. If I can create such different devices with these kid-friendly building blocks, I wonder how much more I can invent with more advanced technology.

How can your prototypes help users? Do they actually provide any benefits to society even though they are not professionally manufactured and approved?

Although my prototype was created with the User Group #3 in mind, it can help anyone who has a plant. Even though these are just a product of littleBits, it can certainly provide other services and benefits to users if we just created different combinations. I don’t think a product needs to be officially branded like Apple or Microsoft for it to offer any services to the public.