Time: May 4 – May 10

Brief: Design a way to counter some of the alienating effects of remote working online.

My group: Melanie, Nayla, Lea

This week’s focus was on creating prototypes. We decided to first review all the work we had done in the past three weeks. We mapped our project journey by following the IBM process and created a timeline to better understand what needed to be done. After surveying the findings we ideated and developed two prototypes.

IBM Process.

The first prototype focused on virtual drawing, for it can act as a tool to counter some of the exhausting effects mediation technologies have on the senses. This tool would act as an add-on feature to various virtual platforms. The idea was to encourage people to virtually engage with one another by air doodling. We created three different scenarios that demonstrated various uses of this add-on. The first one was a seminar where students could share their visions, answers or ideas by drawing on the screen and collaborating with others. The second one showcased co-workers sharing their ideas with each other through doodling, and the last one presented the scenario of playing an online game such as Pictionary with friends or co-workers.

Prototype 1: Virtual doodling.

The second prototype was centred on 3D sound. As we talked to various people many complained about the difficulty of talking to a larger group of people on the conference calls. They mentioned that it is unnatural, draining and that inability to jump in causes discussions to die. We decided to create a platform that addresses this issue with the help of 3D sound. I came up with the idea for the platform and features, and illustrated how the concept would work on screen. When you enter the chat you can hear different conversations and chatter, like in an actual space. You can move around, and as you come closer to a group, you can hear them more clearly. We did not want to take away from the video experience, so you can zoom in on people’s cameras as you are having a conversation with them. We also thought about the noisy interruptions that happen when someone experiences a poor connection and came up with the idea of stabilizing this sound to avoid the high pitched disturbances. The prototype also allows you to drag a boundary around your group and have a private chat. Users would also be able to add music to different parts of the room.

Prototype 2: 3D sound immersive experience.

Following the creation of the prototype, we created four storyboards that act as examples of various uses of this platform. The first one is a 3D immersive story, where you can listen to a story with your friends and interact while going on a guided adventure. This scenario could also be used for group meditations or exercises. The second one takes place during the lecture, where you can walk into a class, have a chat and once the lecturer arrives, the lesson starts. The localized sound makes it seem like the professor is present in your room. Later the class breaks into groups using the boundaries to create private spaces. If the group gets stuck, one can easily approach the other groups or the professor. We also included a workspace scenario where a company’s online office or freelancers can work alongside other professionals, share ideas and have private meetings, and even use the ‘Do not disturb’ sign to show that they are busy. The room filled with people then creates a real time white noise and working atmosphere on its own. The last scenario was a party where people could join, mingle and listen to the music together.

Prototype 2: Storyboards.

After creating both prototypes, we asked 16 people to share their initial impressions. For our doodling idea, responses were positive across the board, as it was easier than grabbing some paper at the last minute during teleworking, and better than using a track tool. For our sound prototype, the responses were great; the interface was well received, as were the private room function and room division.

Collaboration via Zoom.

The feedback we received from the IBM group was really positive; they liked both ideas and thought that it could really work well in the work environment. They mentioned that we needed to think about adding images and emojis for the people who do not feel very comfortable drawing. They also pointed out that we should consider the background noise of people living at home with their families, and think about the new normal after the coronavirus situation, how the prototypes will apply then, with some people in the office and some at home.