Tangible Interaction Design
Industrial Design Graduating Thesis Project, OCAD University 2013
BITSKIT is a task management device and application that creates physical links to digital information.
Goals & Objectives
Why a tangible user interface? Why productivity tools?
In the past couple years we’ve seen many smart and networked products, especially in healthcare, personal well-being, home, and entertainment. There are very few examples for the workplace. With a particular interest in work productivity and project planning, I decided to dive into an area that is seemingly saturated with digital applications in order to explore its parallel potential in the physical world. I'm excited about its ability to create new human interactions and behaviours that live outside of screen-based devices. Can we apply software thinking to our physical environments?
The intention was never to design a solution that would ultimately be "better". The thing with productivity tools it that it is a matter of personal preference. There is no singular method for managing projects, tasks, or to-do items. Most people are already mixing methods and techniques to come up with a regimen that works for them.
The process of finding a method that works can be difficult; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the wide variety and complexity of some methods and tools.
1 in 4 Canadian workers described their day-to-day lives as highly stressful, causing reduced work output and affecting work performance. The economic costs of stress and stress-related illnesses are high. [Source]
Excessive use and dependency of the Internet and other technologies has caused us to be impatient, impulsive and forgetful. People are relying on devices that act as external memory to their brains. [Source]
10 individual user interviews
3 office observations and shadowing
Market landscape (digital and analog)
Literature review of Internet of Things and Tangible User Interfaces
Productivity hacks, methods, and techniques
RESEARCH SYNTHESIS & INSIGHTS
Using too many systems, tools and methods to organize can be incredibly difficult, leading to work paralysis and inefficiency. The challenge for the individual is to use the solution that is best suited for them and maximize it’s functional potential.
“I don’t know, there’s just so many different systems...it’s kind of insane.”
Tools that record and track project plans are often designed to be linear and sequential, representing an inaccurate measure of how long things actually take. Project goals and milestones can be easily misunderstood.
“I want to be able to use [productivity software], but I just don’t have the time to learn it, they’re so complicated.”
Just because something exists, it doesn’t mean it has presence. As with software and applications, when things become hard to find, they are useless. That has a tremendous impact on productivity, execution and morale. For that reason, many people write things down and keep important notes and reminders always in sight.
“The act of writing things down helps me see what I have to do, it’s physically in front of my face.”
People and organizations have a tendency to take on more than they can handle. There is a disconnection between industry demand and human capacity. Project plans are often imperfect models of ambitions. Planning is essential, but plans should just be guidelines and nothing more.
“Realistically, my responsibilities are more than the time I have.”
I prepared and facilitated a co-creation session with several users. Research insights were presented and then we played with several different design activities and games to generate ideas.
The overall result was positive and generated interesting ideas. The activities also uncovered additional user insights. Most importantly, it was a fun experience that allowed users to play a key role in the design process.
After several days of ideation, I had a wide variety of ideas and directions to work with. Many ideas were inspired by children’s board games and toys because playfulness was one of the attributes that it needed to have. Sketching the ideas out really helped me visualize the way the product would function in a number of different scenarios.
In the early phases, I created several concept prototypes to explore different possibilities , including a phone dock and a desktop version of a Kanban board. Once I settled on a concept, I began to explore form and materials. However, to demonstrate the project and exhibit it at the year-end grad show, the form was largely determined by the size and configuration of the electronic components that were available to me.
I also had the chance to work with a developer (Alejandro Gonzalez Barrera) who generously helped me get to a working prototype. When a Bitskit (embedded with a unique NFC tag) is placed on the device, an Axure link is launched on the computer to show a prototype of the desktop application.
For the reason that there are many existing project management and productivity applications available, I prioritized the physical interface over the digital one. With that said, this means the product could easily be integrated into an existing application. But because I wanted to demonstrate the relationship between the device and the application, I designed several key user flows, such as linking a Bitskit tag to a project.
Most design decisions for the desktop application were made based on research, rather through iterative testing with users. What I would have done differently is to have users test Bitskit from the physical interface to the digital, and then back to the physical.
View the video below to see how the Bitskit can be used.
FILE TRANSACTIONS REDEFINED
Access, distribute and exchange digital assets with physical tokens for richer social interactions.
ONE-TOUCH TIME ENTRY
Spend less time tracking and more time on doing what you love with a simple and intuitive interface.
MEANINGFUL DATA OUTPUT
Track progress and learn about work behaviours overtime to gain insight for planning future projects.
The Changelog function, combined with the physical interface, is one of the key differentiators from other productivity and time tracking tools. When a user places a Bitskit tag on the device and pushes it to start the timer, the application begins to start logging the time spent on that task. When the user stops the timer, the user is prompted to make a note of what they were able to complete during that timeframe. The screen above shows two separate work sessions where the user has described what wireframes he worked on.
There are three key benefits to the Changelog:
This concept was inspired by the Done List, where visualizing accomplishments is more powerful and productive than itemizing things to be done. It encourages people to be more reflective and aware of how they work.
The task's progression is logged so that other collaborators can stay informed with with its status or the reasons behind each change.
Overtime, the user can learn about their working habits alongside the time it takes to complete a particular task. This can be especially useful for planning future projects with similar tasks.
EXHIBITION & FEEDBACK
Bitskit exhibited at the school's year-end grad show and drew a surprisingly diverse audience with overwhelmingly positive feedback. As I watched hundreds of strangers interact with Bitskit over the 4-day event, I couldn't help but feel excited about how inviting and humanistic interfaces can be if they were physical objects. Many people told me how they would love to use it at work (and of course there were a few who felt that it would never work at their office).
One of the best moments of this project was watching kids interact with Bitskit. Even though they are not the intended users, they were able to show me what I have designed is something truly playful. The kids' interactions reminded me that a sense of play and discovery is often inherent in physical objects, eliciting behaviours and emotions different than those of digital products.
Bitskit was then exhibited at ACIDO's Rocket Industrial Design Show & Competition where Ontario's graduating Industrial Designers showcase their final projects to a panel of professional designers and invited guest judges. Bitskit was honoured the juried Blackberry Award.