Columbus: More than Wayfinding
P3 designs an innovative approach to helping users navigate while implementing forward ideas about the future of wearable technology.
There are two divergent paths of trends when examining the budding industry of wearable technology: engineers and scientists creating wearables for utility and possibility and fashion designers using existing technology simply for the purpose of aesthetics. Respectively, one end of the spectrum struggles to connect with an audience because they create pieces no one wants to wear for some reason (we’ll get into that later), and the other designs wearable technology that has no life beyond the moment that it is shown. Ironically, the fashion forward ideas become antiquated and suspended in time.
When we began this project, Talia, Mint, Jose, Hilary, and me decided that from the affinitized trend presentations from each group in the class, that we would define standards that would guide us through each and every decision when designing Columbus.
We came up with three that became our group name P3:
Pure: What is the one interaction that will differentiate the device from competitors?
Potent: Is it adoptable by people who don’t live in a social vacuum?
Purpose: Is every facet of the design useful? Will people use it?
When three design ideas were being pitched by each group with rough storyboards, it was obvious that the research that was conducted by many of the groups was ignored when the ideation process had begun. What we saw from the groups, including our own, was a definite lack of depth. It was very much a continuance of the tried, trued, and failed ventures of wearable technology that exist in the graveyard of this industry with a whole new universe to be explored. It got us thinking about the incremental and disruptive innovations that have taken place over the centuries for various industries; we should consider the social ramifications of what we create and approach this visionary project as if it was going to be made and could either help or hurt people’s lives.
Columbus began simply as a hat with LED lights to help users locate their friends at concerts, parties, and raves. Continuing this idea, we thought a more innovative way to way find others visually would be through hologram projection. We had designed a clip with a lens that through an accompanying phone application could turn off and on a hologram projection to find people within your own network of friends and colleagues when you were within proximity of one another.
Per the constructive critique of our professors, we saw that there was much more potential to expand upon our initial concept of frivolity. It was suggested that perhaps we could find another interaction that did not rely on the individual visually (a screen/image/icon).
P3 scrapped its original designs and began again. We discussed: How could one filter out other people who have the same device? What could the other interactions be?
During this reconceptualization of our project, it was argued that the only way we could accomplish filtering was with a visual screen over the eye. The direction being offered by some in the group was a device in the eyewear realm of wearables. Immediately, every tangent of that idea felt like a riff off of Google glasses. Even the format of an interactive contact felt contrived.
Frustration in the group sort of built, but it was good for our process and rapport because the constant proposals of ideas helped us frame why the new concept would not be successful. The constant dialogue about our potential precipice of something great narrowed our focus to the final version we introduced to the class as Columbus.
Finally, we had an epiphany:
“It has to be adoptable. I (universal) do not want to wear something invasive on who I am. Technology is over zealous in appearance at times and can appear fashion future not fashion forward. I want to adopt technology to enhance my identity not shape who I am.”
Wearable technology needs to be versatile in the very same manner that a person can mix and match different designers and pieces in their wardrobe. With a profound thought process like that, we decided it would be best to continue the double-diamond process and diverge as group, conducting more research as to how this device could work and function.
I proposed we use 4D programmable material that through the utilization of GPS navigation and tilt sensors could direct a person where they could go. This became our threshold for the design of the device. Talia offered up an idea, taking inspiration from the first methods of way-finding like star maps and compasses and designed a circular device with concentric circles made up of fragments that could rotate around an anchor point that would direct a person towards their destination.
From this meeting we delegated who would be doing what in our short time frame:
Talia (Industrial Design):
Design the device
Make our storyboard (collaborating with Hilary and me)
Rough cut of the video using the thumbnail sketches from the storyboard
Jose (Service Design):
From Talia’s sketch create a 3-D model that could be handed off to Mint
Mint (Jewelry Design):
From Jose’s model build a physical prototype of the device
Hilary (Jewelry Design):
Create appropriate vector images based off Talia’s storyboards and Johnathan’s direction for animating
Johnathan (Fashion Design):
Re-record commentary for our Intel “Make it Wearable” competition submission
Animate the film to demonstrate how the device works in the context of a story based on the storyboard Talia made using the initial vectors created by Hilary
We thoroughly enjoyed this project. While frustrating at times, the rigorous design and creation process strongly substantiated our concept, creating an in-depth and innovative approach to helping people find their way through life.