The Story(boards) So Far

Victor Grajski
Apr 11 · 4 min read

We ended our last installment with a cliffhanger: a challenge from our client to come up with and validate as many wild ideas about the future of social interaction in automobiles as possible. We are excited to be able to reveal to you the craziest ideas we could think of, but what would a big reveal be without a build up?

Trying to Boil the Ocean (Hint: You Can’t)

In order to divine the future of mobility, our team took a number of approaches. One approach involved mapping sci-fi to social psychology. For example, on-demand, autonomous pods multiplied by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs equals spontaneous cross-car interactions.

Sci-fi x Social Psych

Another approach involved ideating the wildest possible solution to a common scenario faced today. For example, if you’re frustrated about being stuck in traffic, car wheels turn into giant springs and you can simply hop over the cars blocking your way!

Common Scenario x Wildest Possible Solution

And That’s Why You Always Do a Pilot Run

After individually wrapping our heads around visions of the future, we clustered our ideas as a team and created storyboards around the themes that emerged.

Our nine common technology themes. Which one do you find most exciting?

Our faculty advisors suggested we use our storyboards as an opportunity for generative co-design to see if we could stretch the boundaries of our ideas even further. In our first pilot run, we wanted to evaluate the effect of leaving different storyboard panels empty for participants to fill in with the designer. We found success when leaving the later panels empty as opposed to earlier ones. If we established a clear context and pain point for participants, they were often able to fill in a solution and resolution themselves.

In our first round of storyboarding, we left certain panels open for participants to fill in

However, since we were also charged with coming up with the craziest ideas possible, we found that participants, given the limited timeframe and their naturally surface-level understanding of our problem space, were not pushing the boundaries of solutions as much as we had hoped. We took this finding into our next pilot run where we, in order to allow the participant to stretch their imagination, we provided two solutions for them to react to.

A Second Pilot Run Doesn’t Hurt Either

In our second pilot run, we left out a final resolution panel in the hopes that, having stretched participants’ imaginations, they would co-design a resolution with us.

In our second iteration, we tried providing two solutions and having participants come up with a resolution

However, similar to the last run, by not providing a full storyboard, we weren’t being as clear as we could have been as to what we were testing. But what was it we were trying to test, again? After spending so much time peering into the crystal ball, we realized that our storyboards had moved away from the needs we had identified in our previous research. Those finicky “how might we’s” were demanding their voices be heard! By going back to our pretotype findings, we ended up finding the missing ingredient that unlocked the full potential of our approach.

Third Time’s The Charm

By simultaneously projecting our previous findings forward and working backward from wild futures, we met in the middle to produce six storyboards we felt confident testing more thoroughly. The format we settled on involves us filling in all the panels, however, we are presenting two solutions to participants (one at a time, flash-card style) to stretch participants’ imaginations. We are testing our storyboards with participants as this post is being written, and we look forward to sharing what we learn on the next episode of The Future of Social Interaction in Automobiles!

The Final Reveal

And now, the final reveal, the craziest ideas we could come up with that are also grounded in real human needs we identified!

How might cars provide new stress-breaking experiences?
How might cars encourage interactivity between people?
How might cars lift the feelings of being stuck and isolated in the car?
How might cars facilitate spontaneous social interactions around shared interests?
How might cars support the emotional context of people?
How might cars adapt to support specific social contexts?

That’s the story(boards) so far; catch you in the next chapter!

MHCI 99P Labs Capstone

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