Prototyping an Interactive Experience
An MHCI+D, independent prototyping project, exploring a variety of physical and digital tools, software, code and embedded electronics.
Aero is an interactive prototype, simulating 'the experience of 'gazing out an airplane window'.
Our goal was to provide users with a unique visual & tactile experience that could recapture that joy and anticipation. The window screen slides open to reveal vibrant visuals which change each time with the use of sensors. A small corresponding LCD displays where you are ‘traveling’, whether it be the deep ocean, or over Manhattan.
Tools & MaTerials
Laser Cutter, Birch Plywood, White Acrylic, small LCD Display, Samsung Tablet
Processing.js, Arduino, Hall Effect Magnetic Sensor, Adobe Illustrator, Rhino
What IS AERO?
Using Arduino and Processing.JS we coded a variety of different visual experiences to appear on a 7" Samsung tablet. We integrated the 'hall effect sensor', (magnetic sensor) into our design in such a way that when the airplane window screen was closed and re-opened, it would trigger a new visual experience to appear on the tablet behind the window and a corresponding message to appear on the small LCD display.
The concept was inspired by world travel and the work of artist, Jim Darling, who paints birds-eye view landscapes within an airplane window frame (see more of his work here). We were inspired by this common thread of experience, the 'airplane window' and became interested in incorporating motion visuals and interactivity to create a more user-centered experience.
A Human Experience
Though many individuals know the 'airplane window' experience well, it is different for each person, each time; whether flying home, to a foreign wonderland, or a tropical paradise.
People attach strong emotions to these memories; users described recollections of nostalgia, sadness, excitement, anticipation and freedom, while some people just love to linger in the 'space between'. We wanted to tap into these visceral feelings.
Sketching, 2D and 3D Modeling, with Adobe Illustrator, Rhino3D. Using Rhino we laser cut birch plywood for the container and white acrylic to create the window parts.
We tested our concept by layering a smaller window frame on top of an iPhone 6 Plus and played videos from youtube. This allowed us to gather feedback on user's desired experiences.
Code and Electronics
After learning to set up communication between Arduino and Processing we embedded the hall effect sensor into the acrylic window frame. This sensor detects an embedded magnet when the window is closed and sends a message to Processing. Once Processing receives the message, it re-draws the video canvas to a new visual landscape. The small paired LCD screen displayed different welcome messages based on the scenery, but we struggled with the 2-way communication between Arduino and Processing.
Prototyping Studio Presentation
Students, faculty and guests came to our studio show at the CoMotion MakerSpace in Fluke Hall, providing us a great opportunity to test how users interacted and responded to Aero.
We were thrilled to see that users were enthusiastic and drawn to the participatory and interactive elements of our project and received great feedback about what they'd like to see or do with such a device.
Testing and Iteration
We began with low fidelity models using cardboard, then a smaller version to use for behavioral prototype testing. We encountered several challenges along the way. We tried multiple materials and had to experiment with coding languages to find the best method to integrate Arduino and the Samsung tablet we used as our visual display.
Eventually we had a working prototype; the code and sensing technologies were successfully triggering scene changes and the LCD was reflecting the correct display as well. However, there were still significant delays in video play, poor screen display quality, and sometimes poor wifi connectivity. This significantly interrupted the user experience, however with time and financial constraints we made due with the tools we had available.
With additional time we would love the opportunity to recreate a more reliable, high-fidelity prototype to test with.
It was very rewarding to take a conceptual idea and bring it to life. Margaret and I have considered exciting next steps for Aero. We'd love to see a prototype with larger screen and incorporation of additional sensors including eye tracking to adjust the perspective of the image related to the users spatial positioning and voice recognition software to enable the user to verbalize where they'd like to be transported to.
We think Aero has significant potential to be a fun and engaging educational tool, a relaxing bedroom escape, or contribute to a relaxing office environment by providing a portal to another place.