A touch sensitive set of weather data connected curtains designed for our user, Lucy, who goes to university in Glasgow but lives 31 miles away in Dunblane.

When —

  • September 2013 – November 2013

Contributors —

  • Andrew Cabalire, Industrial Designer
  • Hazel Semple, Industrial Designer
  • Stephen Macvean, Interaction Designer

Overview

Due to the distance between the two locations Lucy travels between, part of her morning routine is to check the Glasgow weather before getting dressed to ensure she is wearing appropriate clothing for her day at university.

At a Glance eliminates this task by advising her what to wear based on live weather data scraped from the web using Processing. Through the use of an Arduino, electro conductive thread and capacitive sensing, her touch is sensed when she opens her curtains in the morning, activating the text to speech advice that compares the weather that she can see out the window at that time with what she will find in Glasgow when she arrives later in the day, allowing her to better decide what she should wear for the day ahead.

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The Challenge

At a Glance is a project designed and crafted in response to a brief titled ‘21st Century Audible Information Objects’. The aim of this brief was to “build and craft what we will call an ‘audible information object’; by which we mean a dedicated, physical product that sits/hangs/lives in someone’s home and conveys some meaningful information to them, using existing data/content found on the internet, through sound.”

3 person, multidisciplinary teams comprising of interaction designers and product designers were formed to respond to the brief. Once in our group we quickly found our user who we would be designing for, Lucy, a student who attends university in Glasgow but lives some distance away in Dunblane.

Through the use of user research methods, including cultural probes used by her over a 2 week period, we were able to gain an insight into when Lucy seeks data, the kind of data she requires and the reasons why she requires it in the first place. As she attends university in Glasgow, it means she has to check the weather there each morning to ensure she is appropriately dressed for the day. Our user research set us the challenge of designing an object that eliminates this task by allowing Lucy to become aware of the weather, whilst fitting seamlessly into her busy morning routine.

The Approach

Along with the user research methods, we used bodystorming to gain insights, which enabled us to gain a better understanding of how our user’s needs could be met.

We brainstormed concepts that addressed Lucy’s need for weather data, how it could fit within her busy schedule and her need to know the weather in a location many miles away. After a lot of consideration, the final concept we conceived was to design a physical object that would instruct her on the weather in Glasgow when her touch was sensed when opening her curtains - the action which kickstarts Lucy’s daily morning routine.

The approach taken to the design and crafting of the concept was rapid prototyping with constant iterating based on high levels of participation from our end user, Lucy. Starting with low-fidelity functional prototypes and gradually iterating the product enabled us to tailor our product to Lucy’s specific needs and design it to fit within the context of her home.

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The Outcome

Resulting from insightful user research methods, participatory design and rapid prototyping iterations, the final prototyped product produced in response to the brief, is one that was absolutely tailored to Lucy’s requirements.

As she wakes in the morning and opens her curtains, her touch is sensed through the use of capacitive sensing and Arduino. As she stands observing the morning weather from her window in Dunblane, the prototype scrapes weather data via the web for both Dunblane and Glasgow and compares them, enabling text-to-speech through a speaker to compare what she sees out the window with what she will encounter in Glasgow later - giving her visual reference to better understand the weather conditions.

As a result of the participatory design methods used, the text-to-speech information that is read to her doesn’t convey the weather as numbers, MPH or oktas as these were found to be too difficult to relate to for the majority of people tested including Lucy. To tackle this, in Processing coding was used to convert the numbers into much more relatable and understandable turns of phrase. For example, a wind of 5mph becomes “a light breeze” and 0 oktas of cloud coverage “blue skies“.

Finally, with many people perceiving weather conditions differently, the user experience was crafted further by advising Lucy on appropriate clothing based on feedback from what she would wear in particular conditions.

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