Physical to Digital: Adaptive Path UX Week

Bridging Digital & Physical Protoytping (It’s easier than you think!)

THINK is proud to host a workshop at Adaptive Path’s UX Conference today. Michelle Berryman and Zach Pousman will lead our team as we walk participants through our hand’s on approach to bridging the physical and digital worlds.

The workshop will address the blending of virtual and visceral in experience design, where the design products (systems or artifacts) need to be embedded and embodied in the world. The mobile and ubiquitous-computing era is upon us — people have computing power with them in nearly every situation and context. And that means that design thinking and processes need to account for the multifaceted opportunities and complexities of context. This workshop will introduce participants to the trends and communities around:

  • the internet of things and the way that spaces, environments, and everyday objects like doors, lights, desks, and chairs are starting to be imbued with computational power
  • the quantified self, where data collection, sensors, and new outputs can help people to understand themselves and their behaviors in new ways
  • hardware-hacking ‘maker’ communities and philosophies, where tinkering, creativity, openness and personal problem solving fuse to create new design possibilities.

The key challenge that many designers and marketers face is that they approach problems (and solutions) from their own perspective and backgrounds. People from traditional design and marketing disciplines are often somewhat intimidated by code, wires, and computer chips. Others come from technical or analytical disciplines and may be unsure of their ability to create aesthetic and elegant experiences. The gulf between the two approaches can make one way of thinking and working seem more natural than others, leading to a feeling of being an interloper, a dilettante, or “out of one’s depth.” This gulf between the creative and the analytical are highlighted by the ubiquitous and context-sensitive future of technology, as it requires both approaches.

This workshop will use protyping platforms including Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and LEGO Mindstorms to bridge physical and digital design and delivery. Through these platforms, we will apply the following approaches to give structure and build confidence for participants:

  • Start small with mini-projects like lighting LEDs, detecting an RFID badge, or activating a servo-motor, etc., to get participants quickly working and succeeding on a prototyping platform.
  • Team-based learning because we have seen that small teams get further and have more fun than individuals working alone.
  • Initiate hands-on team-based design challenge(s) to apply learning against a conceptual design problem. In previous workshops participants have built an interactive ‘kissing robot’, a table tennis net fault register, and a pressure sensitive coaster to tell when a drink is needed at a bar or cafe.
  • Support through code snippets and technical guidance to keep the learning curve manageable and fun. We will also provide diagrams for the code which show ‘how the code works’ conceptually without getting stuck in the details.
  • Structured ways to frame and document the design process (good for participant’s internal teams, or to share with clients).

Toward the end of the day, we’ll reflect on the design workshop as a whole. As we expect workshop participants’ to desire to learn for themselves and also to be able to run their own workshops in the future, we want to arm them with a set of tips and show them some of the behind the scenes thinking we did (and some things we intentionally didn’t do) to pull off a successful workshop.