Friendship Space

Summary

Our world is becoming ever more digitised and the need to interact with others in the physical space is being less of a priority. The impact of less physical interaction with others can have a negative effect on our emotional wellbeing and ethical understanding of others. It is important to bring the best of both spaces together to create a mixed reality interactive experience, which emphasises the importance of building relationships in the physical space, but embracing the benefits of the digital space.

My 2 years experience working in South Korea, a country that is technically advanced has exposed me to the good and the bad aspects of technology. I was able to experience first-hand the negative impact of being dependent on digital devices as a method to connect with people. The lack of physical presence affected me emotionally and it also appears to be having the same affect for many other people.

Details

This MA project was a self developed to reflect my interest in mixed experiences in different spaces and the importance for building connections with other people.

The project's aim is to investigate how the mixing of the physical and digital spaces could create opportunities to build connects with others in the physical space by using experimental experiences. Many mixed experiences have been created for enhancing our personal entertainment experiences, but there's very few that focus on building connections with others on an emotional level in the physical space with digital techniques.

Skills

Hardware programming (processing), Adobe Illustrator, Invisionapp

Tools

Hardware programming (processing), Adobe Illustrator, Invisionapp

Duration

2015: 4 Weeks

Discovery: Research

1. Field Study

I did a field study in a local coffee shop to observe how people interact in a social space. The space had a diverse range of people from different ages, gender and race, which gave a more natural observational results. It was interesting to see how individuals and groups acted in with their surroundings and also with other people.

2. User Journey Mapping

My field studies extended to observing the users movements in the physical coffee shop space. From when they enter the shop, during their stay and when they leave the shop. This observation will make it easier to find points of entry where I'm able to bring in experiences to achieve my goal to connect people together in a physical space.

3. User Questionnaire Results

While doing an observational field study I conducted a small questionnaire with some of the users at the coffee shop. The users came from a diverse range backgrounds, which when combined with the observational study a clearer image of the users was be easier to define.

The results showed interesting aspects to how some people would spend their time in a social space and their openness to allowing the opportunity to interest with strangers.

4. User Personas

The field study and questionnaire gave me a clearer view of who I need to focus on as my core user. With the gathered resources I was able to create 4 personas that reflect the general type of users that you will meet on a normal day at the coffee shop. Each of the personas have key points that have been given based on the questionnaire results, this makes the persona tangible.

Part 2: Experimentation

Development: Process

Mix reality products

The blending of physical and digital spaces has been around for a number years and people have implemented their own philosophy on how we can create a mixed reality space to enhance our wellbeing. An exploration of products have reviewed to see different implementations, what effect they have on our environment and users.

Experimentation: Ideation

The first hand and second hand research that were collected from the beginning stages of the project helped to broaden the scoop of possibilities that can be created from blending spaces together. Furthermore, helping me to think of ideas that go beyond the typical messaging methods of communication i.e. social media, phone calls and video streaming. It was important to have elements of interaction that provide a tangible experience for the users.

Part 3: Development

Prototyping

1. Application Development

Developing an application that would be able to be used with a physical input device i.e. interactive table would provide to be crucial. The application is the glue that would help to connect users who are located around the same table or over distance. Therefore, the development of the interface needed to be high quality to make it self explanatory with guiding the user through the journey.

2. User Journey Mappings

To help me to imagine the flow of the application I drafted out a user journey map. This map would display all the possible journeys that a user is able to make and also highlighting what technical requirements are needed to make the product work.

3. User Testing

A user testing session for the application prototype was done with 4 users who have similar profiles to the user personas from the research stage of the project. For the user testing sessions I assessed the users ability to understand the context of the application, able to navigate and also to simulate the physical interactions needed to make the digital experience work.

Device Outcome

1. Table development

Developing an application that would be able to be used with a physical input device i.e. interactive table would provide to be crucial. The application is the glue that would help to connect users who are located around the same table or over distance. Therefore, the development of the interface needed to be high quality to make it self explanatory with guiding the user through the journey.

2. Table prototype

I took one of the table mock-ups to the next stage to become a life size product. This table will hold a screen, input device and an Near Field Connector (NFC) for linking up a physical object with the digital experience.

Post-delivery: Exhibition

An exhibition was arranged for the MA Design ourselves to show has the work produced by all the students. This project was presented doing the exhibition to give users the opportunity to interact and create

Part 4: Thesis

I wrote a thesis on the importance of building connections through digital and physical methods. The thesis highlighted the positives and negatives of both means, as well as how both can join together to create mixed reality experiences to create opportunities to form connects with other people.

Part 5: Personal Refection

The project has given me the opportunity to experiment with research methods to learn more about the users that I wanted to assist. Furthermore, I was able to experiment with mixed reality techniques by using new and old methodologies.

The final outcome was not able to completely accomplish the main aim, as it focused too much on the digital experience and physical interactions appear to be an after thought. My initial ideas began with a strong focus on the physical experience, but due to my lack of ability with coding digital experiences I my focused shifted. A project of this scale requires more time and further research, therefore I plan to continue the project in the near future.