Beyond the Desktop:
Networking the Everyday
Tangible User Interface Course, Heather Martin
Adam Little, Siddharth Muthyala & Eilidh Dickson
CIID/DKDS Pilot Year
Design a pair (or series) of networked objects that illustrate
digital information (bits) in a physical form. Your objects must be
manipuable by your specified user group (i.e. they should not just be
ambient physical objects that only reflect and display digital data) but
must enable people to interact directly with data through your objects.
Your concepts can be of any scale (i.e. jewelry-like, hand-held devices,
interactive lighting, interactive furniture, interactive environments etc.) but
your final concept must be physically interactive, contain no display or
screen (LCD) and be produced as fully working electronic prototypes by
the end of the course. You also need to consider what physical
interactions, affordances, attributes and metaphors are
appropriate for your user group.
Key Resources: 2 Books that
proved to provide us with great
inspiration regarding using
computing within everyday life
to provide new and meaningful
Statement of Intent v.1:
Given a world in which everyday objects are networked through an
internet of things and pervasive computing helps augment our lives, how
can this technology help us gain insights about our daily routines? How
can these insights be delivered in an emotional way that encourage us to
reflect on the way we lead our lives and the affect it has on others in our
We believe one of the greatest values of this new technology is the ease
in which it can provide information about specific products and help us
gain new perspective on our daily actions. We feel if we could motivate
people to take make these small changes to their lifestyle, the
collaboration could have a greater affect on our society.
Brainstorming: Thinking different contexts for our project. Some of these included
Health, social responsibility, use of technology & media and sustainability.
Context: We decide to explore how people can access information about the food they
buy to make informed decisions about their actions and help build a sustainable world.
Idea Generation: Sketches of initial ideas and thoughts. Generally get everything on
Feedback after Week 1:
As a group we were trying to design A TUI that would allow you to see the
impact of the food you are buying is having on the environment. Our initial
idea was to give the user an overall (good/bad) rating of how their
purchases are effecting the environment by using the metaphor of a
scale, and weighing your weight in “Food Miles” The technology used for
this is based on the idea that in the future, everything will be tagged and
have a database of information about that product. We want to pursue
the idea of Personal Informatics and how these can provide people with
meaningful and relevant data to help make more sustainable and socially
responsible decisions. After a Feedback session on Thursday with
Heather, Christopher and Durrell Bishop our approach has changed
We were given positive feedback on our context and approach
towards social and sustainable responsibility, but we were advised to
provide a deeper and more meaningful experience for the user, so it
becomes more of an exploratory and useful tool for the user to see the
differences in their purchases and understand how they can change their
daily routines if they wish to do so! The following week was to focus on
making rapid prototypes to develop our idea further and to do user
testing. By building prototypes in the following weeks we gained great
insights from doing so as we were able to engage with the user and get
Initial Prototypes: A portable device that you take shopping with you, to see rating
about different products. It doesn’t give you rich enough information without a GUI.
Initial Prototypes: Exlporing the metaphor of
a scale/balance to see environmental impact
of different types of food...trying to work out
Initial Prototypes: Exploring how two scales can
be network to provide comparisons about two
different products ie. the amount of chemicals
used in their production.
Initial Prototypes: Building a scale that you can compare two types of fruit, with re-
gards to the distance they travelled, amount of water used and chemicals used.
Initial Prototypes: Developing the previous idea so you see the environmental impact
of the product by adding weights which represent a rating system.
Developing Prototypes: Refining our idea of the
balance to see the environmental impact of the food
you by. Starting to prepare for midway critique.
Developing Prototypes: Whilst User Testing this idea we found that our rating system
we had developed was confusing when combined with the scale metaphor.
Developing Prototypes: Prototyping ways to
select the information that you want to
explore. In this case we look at how a slider can be
used to select questions.
Statement of intent v.2:
The rise of network and RFID technology and the emergence of products
like CueCat and Mir:ror are pointing to a time when everyday objects will
be connected to an untold amount of information. We are interested in
how people can access this information, especially when connected to
consumer products, to make informed decisions and help build a
Our project is a hypothetical grocery store shopping tool in the form of an
installation piece. It is a balance scale that allows people to measure the
environmental impact behind common food items from the grocery store’s
produce section. It will allow people allow people to explore
environmental issues and discover that the ingredients in a simple salad
are sometimes better travelled than most people they know.
Our aim is for the scale to be hands on and fun! As an exploration tool,
the intention is not to provide answers about organic agriculture, carbon
emissions or the global food economy. We want to raise questions and to
let people look at the food they eat in a different way. We believe this is
important information and remains hidden to most people, but hopefully
for not much longer.
Our scale works like a traditional analytical balance that compares objects
placed on one arm to weights placed on the other arm. Using RFID, the
right side arm on our balance will recognize food products placed on it.
The balance will download specific data related to that product. This data
will represent weight and the balance will adjust accordingly. To measure
this data, the user will place objects that represent weights on the left side
weight sensor on this arm will determine how many objects have been
placed there and will adjust the balance accordingly. Once the arms are
even, the user will know a relative value of that data.
Prototyping, user testing and the need to satisfy a particular brief have led
us to where we currently are. We originally intended to create a product for
the home but found little desire to see the environmental impact of a par-
ticular food after it has been purchased. On the other hand, a portable or in
store device to compare different products based on these
factors was desirable but needed to be compact, efficient and to the point.
Through making quick and dirty prototypes we were able to get
Instantaneous feedback that provided meaningful results especially with
understanding the mental model and metaphor of the “scale” Whilst user
testing different conceptual elements of our experience, conversations led to
a co-design approach.
Midpoint Presenation: Adam talking during our midway presentation. During this we
got vital feedback on our conceptual idea.
Dinner Meeting: A night of reflection after our midway crit. During which we iterated
our concept taking into account the feedback we were given.
(Scale is in idle state with no
fruit or weights on it.)
User puts either a
User decides what fruit FRUIT WEIGHT
User adds a weight
fruit or weight on the
they want to explore
represented by a tree.
and places it on the
Scale calibrates, as if
The scale doesn’t move
reacting to the weight
of the fruit
User decides what fruit
They user starts to add
they want to explore
the weights to the other
and places it on the
side of the scale
Scale detects weight
and moves as more
weights are added
The user can now see
When both sides of
The user keeps adding
User decides to NO
or removing weights in
effect by the physical change the fruit over? (Scale is in idle state with no
Balanced a light comes
till the scale is
amount of weights fruit or weights on it.)
needed to balance the
Electronics: Hooking up the RFID reader and the first stepper motor to the arduino
Electronics: Hacking a digital scale to
retrieve the load cell from it so we can then
use it to sense when weights are being
placed on our scale.
Developing Final Concept: Building a 2D foam core model of how a mechanical
kitchen scales work, finding out which points should pivot and which are fixed.
Developing Final Concept: Building a full
scale 3D scale mechanism out of
foam core before embarking on our final
Developing Final Concept: Our completed Foam core model, with acrylic plates to
represent where the product and weights will sit.
Developing Final Concept: AutoCAD
drawings for the final scale
mechanism that had to be laser cut
Developing Final Concept: Sid and Eilidh working on assembling the scale after we
had laser cut the pieces out of acrylic.
Developing Final Concept: Assembled scale
mechanism ready for the electronics!(the structure was
build in a flatpack style so it could easily be
Data Collection: During our concept development we calculated the number of tree’s
required to offset the CO2 emissions created during the transport of specific products.
Building final prototype: After the scale mechanism was build we had to design a
custom bracket to mount the motor in place which would drive the scale.
Building final prototype: We custom cut
gears on the laser cutter to attach to the
motor and the pivot point of the scale. When
they engaged they would move the scale.
Building final prototype: We wired up two limit
switches under each side of the scale to prevent
the scale from going to far and breaking. They act
as a safety switch!
Building final prototype: Soldering a new power supply to the motors driver board to
try and increase the voltage going to the motor. We hoped it would give it more strength.
Building final prototype: The motor and driver
wired to the arduino board. After testing we
realize our driver is not producing enough
Current to lift the weight we require.
Building final prototype: Experimenting
with the weights for the scale. Each piece
will represent a number of trees required
to offset the CO2 emissions used in the
transportation of a specific food product
Building final prototype: After we got the new
driver board attached to the motor, the weight was
far more powerful. The next problem we had to over
come was to find stronger gears. We slavaged some
from a printer and custom built fixtures on the lathe
to attached them to the stepper motor.
Time to Print: Unfortunately this book has to be printed now, so this is the last photo of
Sid, Adam and Eilidh hard at work two days before the final hand in!
Everyware, The Dawning age of Ubiquitous Computing,.Adam Greenfield
Shaping Things. Bruce Sterling
Alternatives, Exlporing Information through Conceptual Design Proposals. H.Martin & B.Gaver
Environment based websites
social Mobiles by Crispin Jones & Graham Pullen: http://www.ideo.com/work/item/social-mobiles/
Greenwich Emotion Map by Christian Nold http://www.emotionmap.net/
We would like to give special thanks to the following for all
their help and support during our project.