Bitskit

Tangible Interaction Design
Industrial Design Graduating Thesis Project, OCAD University 2013

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BITSKIT is a task management device and application that creates physical links to digital information.

 


 

PROJECT CONTEXT

 

Problem Statement

Many productivity applications and project management software can be too complex and feature-heavy. When coupled with the use of physical products, such as notebooks, whiteboards and sticky notes, it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed by switching between multiple mediums, and therefore reducing work productivity and causing stress.

Design Brief

How might digital productivity tools and analog task management methods be streamlined to create a simple, engaging, and efficient experience?

Goals & Objectives

To create a simple, engaging, and efficient way for freelancers and small-teams to track, organize, and present complex tasks. The solution should allow them to be better organized, more informed, and achieve more goals.

 
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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.

 


SOCIAL TRENDS

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Work-related stress

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]

Self-employment economy

In a competitive job market, many people are either working as freelancers or are looking to entrepreneurship. This leads to alternative work places, like at home or a co-working space. [Source]

Culture of forgetting

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]

 

 

RESEARCH OVERVIEW

 

10 individual user interviews

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3 office observations and shadowing

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Social trends

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Market landscape (digital and analog)

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Competitive analysis

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Technological feasibility

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Literature review of Internet of Things and Tangible User Interfaces

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Productivity hacks, methods, and techniques

 

 

RESEARCH SYNTHESIS & INSIGHTS

Synthesis of literature review and primary user research into various categories, including key quotes, behaviours, painpoints, and tools. These were then further grouped into high level themes.

Synthesis of literature review and primary user research into various categories, including key quotes, behaviours, painpoints, and tools. These were then further grouped into high level themes.

 
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Hyper-organization

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.”

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impersonal frameworks

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.”

out of sight, out of mind

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.”

imperfect estimations

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.”

 

 

CO-CREATION SESSION

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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.

 

 

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

 

CONCEPT IDEATION
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.


PRODUCT PROTOTYPES
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.

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APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

 

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.

 

 

FINAL PRODUCT

 

View the video below to see how the Bitskit can be used.

 
Assign projects created in the application to physical  Bitskit  tags. Now consider the tag as a physical token to access everything related to that project, such as key dates, collaborators, project plan, files, etc.

Assign projects created in the application to physical Bitskit tags. Now consider the tag as a physical token to access everything related to that project, such as key dates, collaborators, project plan, files, etc.

Easily keep track of time-based changelogs and accurate timesheets by starting the one-touch timer.

Easily keep track of time-based changelogs and accurate timesheets by starting the one-touch timer.

Use the  Bitskit  tags to link physical project assets to corresponding digital files. The tags are magnetic and have a dry-erase surface for writing what project is linked to it. Use them to plan, display, and share projects.

Use the Bitskit tags to link physical project assets to corresponding digital files. The tags are magnetic and have a dry-erase surface for writing what project is linked to it. Use them to plan, display, and share projects.

Work wirelessly away from the computer. When the lights are on, others around you know that you're busy. The lights can also be configured to respond to notifications, such as an incoming email, or an upcoming calendar event.

Work wirelessly away from the computer. When the lights are on, others around you know that you're busy. The lights can also be configured to respond to notifications, such as an incoming email, or an upcoming calendar event.


 
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FILE TRANSACTIONS REDEFINED

Access, distribute and exchange digital assets with physical tokens for richer social interactions. 

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ONE-TOUCH TIME ENTRY

Spend less time tracking and more time on doing what you love with a simple and intuitive interface.

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MEANINGFUL DATA OUTPUT

Track progress and learn about work behaviours overtime to gain insight for planning future projects.

 

Viewing Information of a task, such as key dates, description, collaborators, and sub-tasks.

Viewing the Files associated with a task, grouped by the source of the file.

Viewing the Changelog associated with a task.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. The task's progression is logged so that other collaborators can stay informed with with its status or the reasons behind each change.

  3. 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

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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.