Blog for 729

Designing the Future: Final Video

YouTube link: Final Video

Designing the Future: Final Video Audio Script

Alex and her dad Ethan are visiting the B&O railroad museum when Alex sees a locomotive she really likes

“Cool, Dad!  Can we make a model of this?”

Ethan takes a picture  of the locomotive and sends it to ModelMaker, a mobile device app that can form 3D models of objects and use a 3D printer to build the models.

While Alex and Ethan are walking around the museum, ModelMaker works on the uploaded image, using its image recognition capability to determine what the picture represents.  Once ModelMaker understands the image, it searches for 3D models that match the image or attempts to create a model from scratch.

When the base model is complete, ModelMaker signals it is done [ding!] and gives Ethan the option to print the model of customize it.  Ethan and Alex are busy touring the museum so they decide they’ll work on the model later at home.

Back at home, Ethan syncs ModelMakers latest updates with his table mobile device.

Ethan hands the table to Alex who uses ModelMaker to see what her model looks like.

By default, ModelMaker shows Alex the most realistic model of the locomotive it could determine which is an HO scale model.  It also presents Alex with the ability to customize or the print the current model.

Alex decides to customize the model.

ModelMaker shows the current model and a menu of model choices.

Alex decides to look through some models.

Alex decides she likes the LEGO model and tells the app she is done choosing models.

But Alex isn’t ready to print yet.  She’d like to add an extra set of wheels to more closely match the original locomotive.

Alex double-taps the back wheel and drags its copy between the front and back wheels.

ModelMaker elongates the whole model in order to accommodate the addition of the third wheel.  Alex is now ready to print the model.

Alex knows her dad keeps the printer turned off unless they’re going to print something.  She asks her dad if he can print the model.

In his office, Ethan turns the printer on and asks the app to print the model locomotive.

The printer finishes creating the model and notifies Ethan that it’s done. [ding!]

Ethan gives the new model to Alex

“Thanks, Dad!”

“Maybe we can make a model of you tomorrow so you can be the engineer.”

Reading #9: Participatory Design with Amnesiacs

This article demonstrates that individuals with memory impairment can be core members of a participatory design team.  In fact, the techniques used by the design team (highly structured design meetings, constant review, independent topics), what we might normally call excessive documentation, illustrate that team members without memory impairment also benefit (and frankly, all of us could use some of these ‘reminder’ techniques in everyday life).  There is also a nice parallel between the participator design techniques used and the resulting design of the product (the Orienting Tool) in that the design process was specifically designed to manage memory gaps and this is also what the tool is designed to manage.  In my opinion, the tools best feature is that it specifically categorized the contents of the reminder (when, what, where and who), forcing the user to follow a particular structure (something that generally assists in memory recovery).  This article is also a fun view into the recent past in that the application was built for an OS and product that we now consider obsolete (PalmOS).  However, nothing in the design of the OrientingTool would prohibit it’s use on today’s smart phone platforms….in fact, it’s probably a good idea.

Reading #10: Representing Users in Accessibility Research

I admit to being surprised that there is actually a problem with usability studies not including representative users.  This would seem to be the first and foremost concern of such studies since otherwise the results could be invalidated.  This is mostly due to my ignorance in the field of accessibility research.  Reading the article provides at least one very good reason why this tendency can exist:  the small size of the available population.  This can encourage the use of ‘acceptable’ stand-ins (blindfolded sighted participants in a study of a system for the visually-impaired).  But as the article documents, this can lead to missed behavioral details in the representative population (for example, while the performance and error rates were similar in this study, truly visually-impaired subjects used different navigation strategies).  The article also discusses the use of control groups (ensuring their use).  All of these are fundamental aspects of conducting psychological research.  The article indicates that the tendency to use non-representative users is a direct result of lack of suitable test participants when it comes to accessibility research.  Perhaps the drive to have a higher N (and therefore, the likelihood of greater statistical significance) must take a back seat to the notion of content validity in the form of the study participants.  Without it, studies run the risk of providing misleading information and should not pass muster for publication.

Designing the Future: Storyboarding

I actually went through a couple of revisions and got comments on each. The last revision also includes some photos

Initial Sketch



  • I like the concept but I think it needs to be fleshed out more;
  • not sure I understand it completely
  • What about graphics?
  • He uploaded the picture in the friends house? Does he need to wait home to print?


I changed the scenario to make it the environment more specific to trains so I could demonstrate mapping a real-life image to a 3D model (something kids like to do with current apps)

I changed the scenario to make it the environment more specific to trains so I could demonstrate mapping a real-life image to a 3D model (something kids like to do with current apps)


  • Which boxes should I read first?
  • First couple of frames seem too slow, too much?
  • Cool. If I can take pictures and the app can transform them into a model, I can make almost anything from the images I can collect.

Revision w/”photos”

I tightened up the storyline and added imagery; also got good feedback on what kids like to do to real-life images (add their own 'flavor').  This is reflected in being able to choose a 'rendering' or 'kit' (LEGO, Brio, etc.)

I tightened up the storyline and added imagery; also got good feedback on what kids like to do to real-life images (add their own ‘flavor’). This is reflected in being able to choose a ‘rendering’ or ‘kit’ (LEGO, Brio, etc.)


Final Revision – Added more photo realism; added more interaction with ModelMaker

Vignette #1

Vignette #1

Vignette #2

Vignette #2

Vignette #2 cont'd

Vignette #2 cont’d


Designing the Future: Brainstorming/Idea Generation


I tried “Time Travel” , “MindMap”, “Attribute” and “Iconic Figures” methods

“Time Travel” asks that you imaging your problem at different time periods and come up with solutions that appropriate to that context.    The suggested range is from 10000 years ago to 1ooo years in the future.  I focused primarily on the future since that is where we’re headed.

“MindMap” is a way to present ideas visually by organizing them into hierarchical relationships.  A nice little piece of software called “FreeMind” is available to do this.  I found this approach to be the most beneficial in capture random free association ideas (as well as ideas inspired by the other methods).

“Attribute” asks that you pretend to modify an attribute of yourself, your age, your gender, your race.  The attribute I found most interesting was ‘sanity’.  Indeed, what would a “crazy” person do with a 3D printing system?  Make the printer print itself?  I think the possibilities are endless.

The “Iconic Figures” method asks that you consider what an iconic figure would do to solve the problem.  What would Joan of Arc do with 3D printing?  Create a heat shield perhaps.


Each of the creativity methods is useful in it’s own right and all contribute toward freeing the mind to come up with new ideas, which, frankly, is very hard work, especially when you’ve already been thinking about the potential scenarios and concepts.  The one technique that I didn’t fully explore was “Group Ideation” which is akin to being in class and discussing our different ideas.  Several of the associations I made in the “MindMap” method were directly from class conversations.  Two minds are better than one.

Primary Scenarios

Child sees toy at a friends house, likes it, gets an image capture (or draws it); sends the image capture to parent; once at home, asks parent to send image capture to 3D creating/rendering software (or asks to have drawing scanned); printer software prints best matches; child selects from the matches or chooses to modify one, creating their own customizations; printer prints selected/modified image into the actual object; after a week, the child is tired of the toy, so parent ‘recycles’ it (feeds the object back into the printer that then dismantles the object into elements it can re-use).

Dad and oldest child build a new toy together using the UI. Through a combination of verbal, gestural, mouse and keyboard (how quaint) commands, they construct a completely new kind of toy. After printing the toy and trying it out, they have so much fun with it that they want to share it. Not only do they send it to friends, they decide that they can sell the specification so they publish it to iToys, the most popular toy specification site. iToys informs them that they’ll be happy to publish the specification, but there are some “housekeeping” mods that are required. Dad and oldest make the mods, print a test copy to verify compliance and send the spec back to iToys. iToys confirms the changes and publishes the spec.

Evaluation Methods

Primarily conversation with potential evaluators. Notion of 3D printing of toys was very well received, but the two conversation I had were with parents and not children (the main focus of the concept). I didn’t think it would be useful to talk about the ideas with children, but rather, they should be shown the storyboards to see if they make sense.

Raw Brainstorming

Time Travel:

10,000 years ago:

Toys formed out of rock/wood. Printer is a ‘wizard’ craftsman (pay no attention to the man behind the rock.

100 yrs from now:

Mobile controller is worn and reads neural output as a means for controlling software to specify the object to the printer; requests can literally be made by thinking of an objects specification and having a mental conversation with the software about what to print (don’t do this while driving); holographic UI is used for editing and confirmation.

1000 years from now:

We’ve merged with the computer; the holographic UI is also the printer and holographic renderings can be instantly transformed into physical reality.



Scenarios from MindMap:

Dad calls printer from car to request new toy; through verbal interface, specifies toy parameters; requests print; printer prints object and it’s there when Dad arrives at home.

Mom, making dinner and organizing notes for a presentation the next day, places a broken toy in the scanner; scanner analyzes toy for broken piece and produces a new one OR determines that the part is too integral to the functioning of the toy to simply be replaced; re-cycles the old toy and builds a new one of exactly the same specifications

Old toy is worn an placed in printer recycler; printer scans old toy during recycling process and asks if a new one should be produced; user confirms; printer prints a new toy.

Mom’s sister sends a toy specification by email; mom loads the specification into the printer and requests a copy; printer builds toys, but decides it looks better in a different color; re-cycles the test copy and requests the same toy, but in the new color scheme.

Dad and oldest child build a new toy together using the UI. Through a combination of verbal, gestural, mouse and keyboard (how quaint) commands, they construct a completely new kind of toy. After printing the toy and trying it out, they have so much fun with it that they want to share it. Not only do they send it to friends, they decide that they can sell the specification so they publish it to iToys, the most popular toy specification site. iToys informs them that they’ll be happy to publish the specification, but there are some “housekeeping” mods that are required. Dad and oldest make the mods, print a test copy to verify compliance and send the spec back to iToys. iToys confirms the changes and publishes the spec.

Child breaks toy while mom is making dinner. Mom does not have time to try to fix the toy. She uses her mobile device to scan the toy. The mobile device recognizes the toy. It flashes the image of the toy on the screen. Mom looks that the image and sees the toy is not the same color, but otherwise, it is the same. She asks the mobile app to make the toy red instead of blue. The app changes the color of the toy on the screen. Mom asks the app to print the toy and tell her when the print is done. The app sends the request to the printer and waits for completion. The printer finishes and notifies the app it is done. The app notifies mom who goes to the printer (next to the dishwasher) to get the toy. Mom gives the newly printed toy to the child.

Mobile app as object editor for printable objects; can scan library of products and parts and can modify selected objects by size and color

Printer that both produces objects and recycles them.

System action stages: acquisition, recognition, selection or editing, confirmation/permission (“mom, can I print this?”), recycling (“dang, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be”).


Sanity:  If I were severely depressed, I might use the printer as a creative outlet since designing and building things lessens my anxiety and lifts my spirits; a tactile holographic interface would let me create random 3D objects and systems freely

Sanity:  If I were schizophrenic, I might use the printer system to visualize my fantasies…this could make things worse or allow me to put them in perspective.

Iconic Figures:

Jesus – uses to printer to create miracles (cups of wines, loaves of bread); prints new eyes for  the blind and new legs for the crippled

Buddha – uses print/recycle cycle to show impermanence

Designing the Future – Personas Revised

Task and Environment

Parents are busy folks and kids are constantly exploring their world and making requests to see more. Toys are one of those items kids always want to explore. Toys are already available for purchase from stores, but there are often issues of size, color, and just whether a kid likes the toy or not. This is often because the child didn’t have a way to try out the toy before it was bought. A 3D printing system could print toys (and obviously other consumer products) in the home (kitchen, living room, etc.) without the users ever needing to set foot in a store. And, if we combine the notion of a 3D printer in the home along with a system that could recycle the items produced by the printer, parents might never need to make expensive trips to the store (or guess about the suitability of a toy when ordering on-line). Additionally, if coupled with image-capture and image-recognition software, a mobile device could drive the printing process and the child (or parents) could use their own environments to inspire them to design and print things that won’t just be found in stores.


Three different families with kids were observed while playing and discussing toys and games. Families were also observed in the process of preparing a meal while managing kids and play time. In addition, a field trip was made to Toy R’Us on a busy Saturday. Parents with and without their kid were observed shopping for toys (in addition, I was shopping for my son along with my wife). Among concerns/comments overheard or discussed were:

– can we return this if he doesn’t like it?
– is this appropriate for his age? not sure I trust the label on the box
– does this come in a different color?
– this one is too small. maybe there is something bigger?
– cool, but way too expensive
– yikes, that looks like it’s got a lot of parts. what happens if he loses (or eats) one? might be tough to replace
– I like this, but the eyes are kind of creepy…maybe if they were friendlier

The biggest concern at checkout seemed to be the return policy.

The store excursion primarily illustrated the parental perspective. The kid-perspective was observed at friends homes while the children were playing with toys. For young kids (4 – 9), anything that makes interesting sounds or changes color attracts attention, but the toys that command more long-term attention seem to be the ones that allow the child to use his or her imagination. Things that move and can be chased around the house (e.g., my son and simple blue plastic cylinder that rolls well on a wooden floor) are also popular. The main upshot is that the child can immediately touch and manipulate the product. This is one advantage printing AND in-kind recycling has over the traditional model: the toy can be tried and recycled, if necessary, with minimum of fuss.

One of the biggest pluses of a 3D printing system is it’s creativity.  Things that have never been made before can be made.  Both parents and children made comments about being able to make models of themselves combined with other objects (think a  rendering of the father as a ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ model train).  Other ideas were along the lines of making models of the family pets for show-and-tell.  These comments were made after the parents and children were exposed to the idea of coupling a 3D printer with an app that could take pictures and transform them into models, and then be able to customize those models, morphing an recombining them into new objects.

Further interaction with kids is necessary to find out if they can and do order things on-line as this is probably the closest existing scenario to a future toy printing system.

User Analysis

Who are these folks that will use a printing and recycling system? They’re a family with kids, ranging in education from pre-school to advanced college degrees. They are generally healthy, but at least one parent and one child is nearsighted, requiring glasses. They are an English-speaking household, but at least one parent is bi-lingual. One thing for sure is that they do not have a lot of time. This technology exists to make life a little bit easier. Thus, they use it to reduce trips to the store and to keep pace with the ever changing and growing demands of their children’s cultural and educational experience.

Age: 3 – 50
Gender: Mixed
Culture: Mixed
Language: Mixed; the UI will need to support multiple languages or better yet offer content that is language neutral
Experience: Mixed from toddler (secondary user) to college level technical degree.
Physical Characteristics: Mixed from 36″ tall first grader to a 6 ft. tall father; all generally able-bodied, but system cannot preclude disability or injury.
Tool Preferences: PC computer; game console (xbox)
Knowledge of Job: Domain experts from two different perspectives, parent and child.
Application Familiarity: Both parents are familiar with Star Trek and so are familiar with the replicator interface; the parents both have “smart” mobile devices and use them to stay in touch; no mobile devices for the children.
Primary/Secondary: Depending on the focus, both parents and children can shift between primary and secondary roles. The focus of this project will be to envision a system that can be used by children, but with parental permission/supervision.


MitchEthan has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and is currently a software test consultant. He is well-versed in current levels of computer technology. Since Mitch already does a great deal of commuting to work, he’s very interested in a system that lets him buy and try out toys without a lengthy drive-and-shop process to a bricks-and-mortar store.  He also likes to take Sally and Alex to fun and educational venues like museums.  He and his wife Sally are contributing members of the Smithsonian.

sally_avatarSally is a teacher with a MA in History who is currently the primary child care provider which means she’s home a lot. Her past experience makes her computer-literate, but she has zero-love of technology (she prefers delegating technical tasks to others, like Mitch). Sally does however a high interest in keeping her daughter engaged in creative projects involving learning, design, history, and art.  Her primary interest in the system is keeping kids occupied but safe and keeping the clutter down. Toys that lose favor get recycled.

alexAlex (7 years old): Alex is both a primary and secondary user since her parents will allow her to make some toy requests on her own. Alex reads and writes at a 3rd grade level, understands basic physics (she does posters on various scientific processes for her science class). Alex is very familiar with the gestural interface of an iPad and has used one in school and the one that her family shares at home. Having a system to create the thing she sees in her world or her imagination is her primary interest in the system.

Designing the Future: User/Task/Environment Revised


In-home consumer product printer, with a focus on toys, educational or otherwise. Used by kids and parents to order new toys, fix existing toys and recycle old toys. This system could be used to produce other household items as well (vacuum cleaner parts, etc.)


Any family with kids, with the focus being on the kids. Age range from 5 – 50. Kids are generally seen as the primary users, but depending on the family or the situation (complexity, parental permission required, etc.), the roles can be reversed with the parents being the primary users.


Print a toy from:

1) an on-line catalog
2) an image capture from a digital device
3) from a 3D drawing app

Recycle the toy if it’s not what was desired.



Alex sees a toy at a friends house and asks his friends dad to take a picture of it to send to Alex’s dad. When Alex gets home later in the day, he asks his father if they can print the toy. Alex’s father checks his email and sends the attached picture to the 3D printing app on the family mobile device. The app loads the picture and guesses at the 3D model and shows a list of the matching products. Alex’s father hands the mobile device to Alex. Alex looks through the products and finds the one that looks like his friends toy. Alex sends that toy to the printer in the kitchen. The app asks for parent permission. Alex hands the device back to his father who confirms the request. The printer prints the toy.


Dad is driving home when he gets a call from his wife who reminds him that he promised his youngest (Nigel – 2.5 yrs old) a set of practice alphabet letters (‘practice’ involves stringing the letters together to make words). Dad is driving and can’t look at or manipulate a UI with his hands, so he talks to one on-line, specifying what he wants: “letters of the alphabet, both upper case and lower case, upper case letters in red, lower case letters in yellow, material is plastic suitable for 2 year old child, size is suitable for 2 year old child.” Dad requests that the order be printed on the machine at home. He calls his wife to tell her that the letters are being printed on the machine in the kitchen.


Home office or kitchen, perhaps is installed as general appliance, like a dishwasher or refrigerator. While there is a UI installed with the printer, it can be accessed on-line, perhaps through a 3D printer app.

Optional Reading – Keyframes and Tweening

Most animations use the notions of keyframes and tweening. Keyframes are those frames that provide an objective and stationary background on which animation can be performed. The authors describe the keyframe as “an important frame that describes the start and/or end frame in a particular animation sequence.” Think cheap animation sequence in which the face of the character is stationary except for the mouth that moves with the voice track. The face is a keyframe. If the eyes in the face are to shift while the character is talking, that can be another keyframe.

The authors define tweening as the process of generating sets of frames between two key frames, the idea being that the properties of the moving objects are animated smoothly such that they seamlessly transition from one keyframe to the next.

The authors also discuss linear video, a technique that essentially brings a storyboard to life by showing the storyboard as a continuous interactive sequence. Basically, a movie is shot of a user interacting with a paper prototype and then judiciously edited to show the interaction without the facilitator flip the paper prototype frames, etc. This has the advantage of showing the transitions as the would actually occur instead of requiring the user to visualize them.

Reading #8 – Drawing and Animation

Anyone who has tried to describe the user experience with an as-yet-to-be built user interface has probably used the techniques described in these two chapters. In my own career, I have used variants of the storyboard and state transition techniques many times. Several of those variants, sequential, branching and narrative storyboarding are discussed as is the use of state transition diagrams, a traditional software design technique. While simple sequential storyboards lay out a scene-by-scene graphical narrative of the user interface to show state and flow of a user interface, the latter techniques add conceptual notions to increase their overall fidelity. Branching storyboards provide a method to graphically illustrate user decision points. Narrative storyboards add surrounding context to the description of the user interface (e.g., the people using the interface, where it’s being used – essentially a cinematic storyboard). State transition diagrams are often used to handle complex storyboards and provide a graphical means to show flow and decision points through the storyboards. Each of these techniques is extremely valuable. The decision on which technique to use depends on the complexity of the interface and, to some extent, the audience. A big state transition diagram may be very important for a design team, but a narrative storyboard might be best for a focus group, etc.