Interaction Design Awards – Student Design Challenge
Screenless Navigation in Cities
In 2015 I competed alongside 5 other student designers in the Interaction Design Award's annual Student Design Competition. We were selected from 135 international entries and asked to answer the question, "What is the future of the wearable city". The challenge took place over the course of three days during the IxDA Conference in San Francisco California.
3 Days - International Student Design Challenge
Skills - Rapid, rapid, rapid prototyping, Ethnographic Studies
Before the Competition
As an SF Native I was already jazzed that the 2015 Interaction Design Awards would be taking place in my hometown. Even more so when I heard that the theme of Student Design Challenge theme would be centered around "envisioning the wearable city of the future". I submitted my proposal, a lyrical wearable that would help newcomers get acquainted with their new city. Essential a city wide scavenger hunt, it would rely on subtle vibration to create a "call to adventure", guiding you through the landscape, without tying your eyes to your screen. After sending in the video, I was delighted to hear I was selected to come to SF and had the opportunity to develop my concept and present my work.
The first day was quite the whirlwind, meeting all the other students, getting set up in Cooper and mentally preparing for the craziness about to ensue. We also got introduced to our co-chairs and mentors for the days. After a quick rundown of what is and is not a wearable, we were off, each student being assigned a neighborhood in SF to research. I got Northbeach, one of the most densely populated with interesting secrets and history. Walking the alleyways and side streets, I had to put myself in the position of a new resident. I knew behind certain doors and archways lay amazing discoveries, cafes with secret doors and bookstores underground, yet my advisor didn't have this local knowledge. Just simply passing by a building doesn't guarantee that you understand the significance of it, or the potential of what lies beyond the facade.
Heading back home for the night I started ideating how to make sense of the day's feedback.
Days two and three were all a bit of a blur, more ideating, testing and building concepts alongside the guidance of the mentors. Before everything kicked off, they brought us up on-stage in front of the whole conference – no pressure. We had the chance to interview with some contatcts the mentors had lined up , I spoke with a representative from the SF historical society and learned more about the kinds of information and hidden gems that the city is hiding just beyond the surface. We were also given the opportunity to test out a series of our prototypes and get feedback from conference goers. I was really excited to share some of the mock ups I had brought. One was a simple bracelet with a magnetic ball attached to it. The ball would roll back and forth subtly guiding you around. I had also made a paper prototype, trying to discover what things people were really interested in learning about their new city.
After a long night brining all the elements together, it all led up to presenting to the IXDA. For three minutes I stood before the conference and spoke to my final concept, 72 hours in the making.
The Final Concept
My final concept was named Pearl – based on the common saying "A pearl of wisdom ". It is a small necklace which subtly guides newcomers in cities and helps them to explore their new homes in a more meaningful way. The necklace has a built in gyro that nudges you in the right direction. By plugging in a pair of headphones into it , you can listen to audio linked to specific locations throughout the city. As you walk and explore more and more of your new city, you can uncover new audio tracks, hidden messages, historical significance, or just crazy local stories that took place where you are standing.
One of the key elements of this concept was to get people away from their screens, so all the information in the system is presented in audio format, simply plug your headphones into pearl to listen in on the audio.
In the End...
All in all the Student Design challenge was an incredibly rewarding experience, so many friends and co-works came to help me out and the support from the mentors and fellow students was more than I could have imagined. Finishing as a runner up was a great step for me and I can't wait to see how the competition evolves in the future.