The Living Postcard – an Interactive Digital Souvenir
For detailed project descriptions, please go to the project’s website.
Final Demo Video of Living Postcard:
The aim of this project was to devise a technology, system and application to support a world of ubiquity and connectivity. Our goal is to create an inexpensive, interactive, electronic device, similar to a paper postcard in look and feel. Displays images captured automatically during a visitor’s walk through a museum. The Living Postcard enables writing and sharing of messages in a form of “sister” postcards. The project explores ubiquitous computing themes such as augmented memory and automatic information capture. A storyboard above will be used to demonstrate the end-to-end experience of the Living Postcard. In this project, I served as project manager, UI designer, and lead interaction designer, where I set agenda plans and created innovative ways to collaborate online for design meetings. Moreover, I served as lead interaction and visual designer in helping my team to think critically of the end-to-end experience of the Living Postcard through storyboarding.
Phase 1. Observations and Interviews
In addition to hours of observations, we conducted interviews with four randomly selected museum visitors and four recruited participants.
Phase 2. Cultural-Probe Study
The four recruited participants and three of the randomly selected interviewees each received a cultural probe packet at the end of the interview. This packed contained three postcards, a map of the museum, brochures about museum exhibits, and three sealed envelopes, which participants were instructed to open one day, three days, and five days after their interview. Each of the envelopes contained a question to answer or a task to complete.
Phase 3. Space and Medium Exploration
We brainstormed several possible dimensions for systematically exploring the design space by trying to imagine the initial Living Postcard scenario frame-by-frame under the lens of the three main themes of the initial concept: change interval, sharing method, and content displayed. The diagram below represents an initial attempt at systematization:
All the dimensions we identified as possible matrix dimensions are listed below. Our choice was guided by a pragmatic principle of parsimony: Which of these dimensions could be set to one distinctive value that is likely to create strong enough reactions in our participants to allow us to explore the alternative values through interviews, and which of the dimensions require the participants to experience several values to form a preference or become aware of an expectation in testing a boundary? In general, we opted for those dimensions that we thought were likely to give us the most information from the fewest possible interactions.
Phase 4. Speed-Dating Design Matrix
Dimensions to test: Interval between changes, Proactivity, Control of sharing, Interactivity, Privacy of messages
Phase 5. Experience Prototyping
Findings from Experience Prototyping:
- The expectation of privacy around a Living Postcard is nuanced, and is different than around a traditional postcard.
- “Enhanced information” could be helpful in re-creating the museum experience, but only the right type of enhanced information.
- Users want more control over the device than we offered.
- Participants expect the form factor of the Living Postcard product to resemble a traditional postcard.
- Participants recognize the centrality of the art to the Living Postcard.
- Population with low technical proficiency could be a major potential user group.
- The participants do not seem to care much about the interval at which the image on the postcard changes, as long as it does not happen too frequently.
- Users want a subtle notification upon receiving a message.
- Though the multiple-postcard scenario confused users, people were intrigued by its interaction possibilities.
- The Living Postcard idea inspired a variety of comparisons and interaction metaphors. All users basically understood the concept of the Living Postcard, but had different metaphors and mental models for it.
Criteria for Prototype Selection
Based on the user enactment findings and the need to stay true to the project themes (pervasive interaction, augmented memory), my team and I developed the following criteria for choosing between concept variations:
- Maintain some measure of user privacy.
- Keep a significant ubicomp aspect.
- Keep the primary design focus on extending the museum experience.
- Don’t renounce completely a traditional postcard’s more casual nature.
- Aim for simplicity: keep the interaction streamlined and elegant.
Phase 6. Storyboarding for Video Prototyping
The Living Postcard would be a cheap, lightweight electronic device with the approximate size and dimensions of a real postcard, continuously connected to a network for sending and receiving messages. We envision it as a device that looks and feels like paper. Both sides of this device would be used for display, touch interactions, and writing. The writing would be done by hand, with a stylus. The device depends on an ubicomp infrastructure for the automatic capture of information of interest and on a system that loads this information on the device.
One of the main learning objectives for me was to effectively lead my team in time management. As an intensive research course focusing on a genre of technique that were all new to us, a lot of the process were learned hands-on. As a result, time was very precious and we had to use our time wisely. As the project manager, I looked for innovative methods in collaborating online. For example, congregating different opinions on research findings is a very time-consuming process. I developed a plan where I asked each team member to reflect on their own and to rate the priority ratings for each of the findings on a Google document. I would congregate the final results and proposed it to the next meeting for discussion. This saved us a lot of time for design meetings, where we could allocate most of our resources on the developing of the plan itself. Also, as the lead interaction designer, I guided my team through storyboarding sessions to think more critically of the end-to-end experience of our product.