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Engineering through Designerly Conversations with the Digital Material: The Approach, the Tools and the Design Space
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Media Technology and Interaction Design, MID. Mobile Life Centre.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The role of IT devices and technology in our everyday lives is growing. The commercial availability of sensor and wireless communications technologies has led to an increase in the number of systems utilizing these to provide compelling experiences. Designing embedded systems is challenging, as the properties involved are often hard to observe, touch, and experiment with. Being that these technologies can inspire, drive, or limit design processes, methods and tools must be developed to create a shared knowledge for multidisciplinary design teams. This thesis focuses on how engineers can better communicate their knowledge of digital materials to non-expert technology designers and multidisciplinary design teams.\\

In particular, this thesis focuses on a class of embedded systems that we have named Proxessories. Proxessories consist of sensors, actuators, and wireless communication together forming accessories placed on or around the body that communicate with other devices, acting as accessories to other devices and objects. The goal of this research is to contribute new approaches and tools to help engineers convey their technological knowledge while working within a multidisciplinary design team. To accomplish this, the emerging topic of materiality in interaction design is introduced and used to discuss how an engineering perspective can be altered to cater to processes wherein digital materials are utilized as a design resource to create a better understanding of their experiential properties.\\

The research method of this work falls broadly under the header Research through Design (RtD). That is, this work claims that through designing a range of Proxessory applications, a set of tools and methods can be extracted to better support the dialogue between engineers and other competencies in a multidisciplinary design team.\\

This thesis results in providing an engineering design approach that is instantiated and materialized through hardware and software tools. The first tool, Inspirational Bits, is an approach where bits and pieces of technology are revealed to a multidisciplinary design team in a playful manner, exposing them to the interactive, dynamic properties of digital materials. The second tool, the rFlea, is an Arduino-based board, with an inbuilt ultra-low power wireless connection, the size of a coin cell battery. rFlea can connect wirelessly to another rFlea or existing tablets and mobile phones by means of pre-made libraries. The third tool, Insbits Studio is a cloud-based visual programming platform that can connect to the rFlea, adding cloud services abilities and connections to Internet of Things products and services. Together these three tools point to a novel philosophy of how to approach engineering. Instead of solving a given problem, engineers must open the design space and expose the material properties and affordances in such a manner that the team can experience them in the early phases of a design project.

Abstract [sv]

IT produkter och teknik spelar en allt större roll i våra liv. Den kommersiella tillgängligheten av sensorteknologier och trådlös kommunikation har lett till ett ökat intresse för att använda dessa till att designa tillämpningar som erbjuder engagerande upplevelser. Att designa med inbäddade system är utmanande eftersom teknikens egenskaper ofta är svåra att se och uppleva vilket gör det svårt att experimentera med dem i design. Därför finns ett behov av att utveckla metoder och verktyg som kan skapa förståelse för teknikens egenskaper och möjligheter så att den på ett framgångsrikt sätt kan inspirera, driva på och avgränsa designprocesser. I den här avhandlingen så kommer jag att fokusera på hur man kan underlätta kommunikation rörande teknikens egenskaper mellan ingenjörer och andra, mindre tekniskt kunniga deltagare, i multidisciplinära designteam.

Mer specifikt så kommer detta arbete att fokusera på en sorts inbäddade system som vi kallar för Proxessories. Sådana system består av sensorer, aktuatorer och trådlös kommunikation som vi bär eller har nära kroppen. Proxessories kommunicerar trådlöst med andra enheter, eller agerar som accessoarer för andra enheter och objekt. Målet med min forskning har varit att bidra med nya angreppsätt och verktyg som gör det möjligt för ingenjörer att bättre förmedla teknikens möjligheter och begränsningar till team-medlemmar med annan bakgrund, t.ex. medlemmar som är experter på design. I den här avhandlingen så diskuterar jag hur den typiska ingenjörsattityden kan ändras, till att bättre stödja arbete där tekniken, det digitala materialet, blir en viktig designresurs. Jag gör detta genom att utgå från den växande diskursen kring materialitet inom interaktionsdesign och människa-datorinteraktion.

Min forskningsmetod utgörs i huvudsak av så kallad “forskning genom design”. Genom att designa ett antal Proxessory-tillämpningar, så har jag tagit fram metoder och verktyg som stödjer dialogen mellan ingenjörer och teammedlemmar med andra kompetenser.

Resultatet är en ansats för ingenjörsdriven design med tillhörande mjukvaruoch hårdvarukomponenter. En central komponent i ansatsen är Inspirational Bits, en metod där egenskaper i teknologier utforskas och görs synliga för teamets alla medlemmar på ett lekfullt sätt. Detta bidrar till en ökad förståelse för interaktiva och dynamiska kvaliteter hos det digitala materialet. Hårdvarukomponenten i ansatsen består av rFlea, ett Arduiniobaserat kretskort, stort som ett knappcellsbatteri, med inbyggd trådlös lågenergianslutning. rFlea kortet kan trådlöst ansluta till andra rFlea kort, surfplattor eller mobiltelefoner genom ett specialutvecklat kodbibliotek. Slutligen så består ansatsens mjukvarukomponent av Insbit Studio, en molnbaserad visuell programmeringsplattform som kan ansluta till rFlea korten och lägga till molnfunktionalitet, samt ansluta korten till andra tillämpningar. Tillsammans så ger Inpirational Bits, rFlea, och Insbit Studio ett stöd, grundat i ett materialitetsperspektiv, för design av Proxessories. Dessutom gör de det möjligt för ingenjörer att arbeta på ett nytt sätt. Istället för att lösa ett givet problem, så blir ingenjörens roll att öppna upp en designrymd genom att göra det möjligt för andra teammedlemmar att uppleva teknologins materiella egenskaper tidigt i en design process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , xvi, 89 p.
Series
TRITA-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2015:18
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Human-computer Interaction
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-178015OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-178015DiVA: diva2:875831
Public defence
2015-12-18, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20151202

Available from: 2015-12-02 Created: 2015-12-02 Last updated: 2015-12-02Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The lega: A device for leaving and finding tactile traces
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The lega: A device for leaving and finding tactile traces
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2011 (English)In: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction, 2011, 193-196 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper describes experiences from development and deployment of the Lega, a hand held device for physical sharing of experiences during an art exhibition. Touching and moving the device in different ways creates a tactile trace that can be experienced by others through their own device. The system was successfully deployed at an art exhibition for two months where user studies were performed. Here we present some general observations regarding the systems performance and discuss issues that we encountered.

Series
Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction, TEI'11
Keyword
Gestural interaction, Individual and social use, Tactile interaction, Hand held device, Systems performance, User study, Hand held computers
National Category
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151430 (URN)10.1145/1935701.1935739 (DOI)000286918700031 ()2-s2.0-79952335637 (Scopus ID)9781450306287 (ISBN)
Conference
5th International Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction, TEI'11, 23 January 2011 through 26 January 2011, Madeira
Note

QC 20140922

Available from: 2014-09-22 Created: 2014-09-22 Last updated: 2015-12-02Bibliographically approved
2. An Extension of Computer Engineering Methods for Interdisciplinary Design
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Extension of Computer Engineering Methods for Interdisciplinary Design
2011 (English)In: PerCom 2011: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Pervasive Computing  (Workshop paper), 2011, 584-587 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This is a case study that focuses on design methods developed by a computer engineer engaged in an interdisciplinary design project with a classic designer. Of interest is how the computer engineer initially found the task of achieving the shared design goals to be almost impossible, primarily due to the differences between the codified design methods of the engineer, and the tacit knowledge based methods of the designer. The study describes how the engineer developed new design realization skills enabling him to reconcile these differences in a way that allow the tacit knowledge of the designer to influence the codified engineering process in a repeatable way. These methods referred to as dreaming and mirroring represent a potentially learnable extension to the classic engineering design realization process.

Keyword
engineering processes, interdisciplinary design, product realization
National Category
Other Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-63392 (URN)10.1109/PERCOMW.2011.5766957 (DOI)2-s2.0-79958071361 (Scopus ID)978-161284937-9 (ISBN)
Conference
IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications. Seattle, WA. 21 March 2011 - 25 March 2011
Note

QC 20150701

Available from: 2012-01-23 Created: 2012-01-23 Last updated: 2015-12-02Bibliographically approved
3. Inspirational bits: Towards a shared understanding of the digital material
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Inspirational bits: Towards a shared understanding of the digital material
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2011 (English)In: Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2011, 1561-1570 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In any design process, a medium's properties need to be considered. This is nothing new in design. Still we find that in HCI and interactive systems design the properties of a technology are often glossed over. That is, technologies are black-boxed without much thought given to how their distinctive properties open up design possibilities. In this paper we describe what we call inspirational bits as a way to become more familiar with the design material in HCI, the digital material. We describe inspirational bits as quick and dirty but fully working systems in both hardware and software built with the aim of exposing one or several of the dynamic properties of a digital material. We also show how they provide a means of sharing design knowledge across the members of a multi-disciplined design team.

Series
Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings
Keyword
Accelerometers, Bluetooth, Design, Design approach, Design materials, Digital materials, Multi-disciplined design teams, Radio communication, Radio signal strength, RFID, Sensor nodes, Wireless sensor networks, Multi-disciplined design, Wireless sensor, Human computer interaction, Human engineering, Product design, Sensors, Systems analysis, Telecommunication equipment, User interfaces, Materials
National Category
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151205 (URN)10.1145/1978942.1979170 (DOI)2-s2.0-79958091930 (Scopus ID)9781450302289 (ISBN)
Conference
29th Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2011, 7 May 2011 through 12 May 2011, Vancouver, BC
Note

QC 20140919

Available from: 2014-09-19 Created: 2014-09-15 Last updated: 2015-12-02Bibliographically approved
4. Immaterial materials: Designing with radio
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Immaterial materials: Designing with radio
2012 (English)In: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, TEI 2012, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2012, 205-212 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Designing with digital materials is sometimes challenging due to material properties that are for all practical purposes invisible. Here we present our work on exploring one such material, radio, and how we have worked with making radio a more tangible and accessible design material for multidisciplinary design teams to work with. Starting from an account of a previous project of ours, the LEGA project, we describe a design situation involving radio that exemplifies some of the challenges that working with radio can involve. We thereafter describe how we have used the Inspirational Bits approach to further investigate the peculiarities of radio as an immaterial design material and what possibilities it holds for interactive systems design.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2012
Keyword
Design, Design Material, Radio communication, Design materials, Design situations, Digital materials, Interactive system, Material property, Multi-disciplinary designs, Interactive computer systems, Materials, Systems analysis, Digital radio
National Category
Other Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-99661 (URN)10.1145/2148131.2148177 (DOI)2-s2.0-84859042851 (Scopus ID)9781450311748 (ISBN)
Conference
6th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, TEI 2012; Kingston, ON;19 February 2012 through 22 February 2012
Note
QC 20120801Available from: 2012-08-01 Created: 2012-08-01 Last updated: 2015-12-02Bibliographically approved
5. Exploring the Design Space of Proxessories
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the Design Space of Proxessories
2012 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Human-computer Interaction
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-177997 (URN)
Note

QS 2015

Available from: 2015-12-01 Created: 2015-12-01 Last updated: 2016-02-14Bibliographically approved

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