Category Archives: Peter Maurer

Group 6: TheOne Ring (Smart Ring)


Design Documentation


Throughout our brainstorming and development of our system, we have had many changes. Starting from the very first week of idea development, our first idea was to develop TreeBot, an autonomous robot that would plant and maximize tree growth in a world where deforestation has begun to create serious environmental effects. After further discussion among ourselves, we decided that this idea would be very difficult to implement, and we had to brainstorm new ideas. We had a thorough list of cool futuristic ideas, ranging from Super-bugs too Artificial intelligence. In the end, we all came to a consensus to work with an imagine reality where advanced genetic modification was commonplace among the wealthy, and our system would be a physical augmentation device that could be afforded by the non-elite.

The next step was to decide on an actual device and system that we could prototype for our project. We looked at possible genetic modifications that could be mimicked in a simpler form. The idea was that in the future, people would have cybernetic implants that allowed “telepathic” communication between the wealthy who could afford these implants. This idea stuck with us, because designing a system that would mimic that sort of technology would be a fun project to pursue, and we had good ideas for our prototype. At first we thought of creating a braille glove that would send messages to other glove users through a braille language system. We also added aspects to our world that using phones were frowned upon by the upper class, and therefore using your phone to communicate was not an option for the lower class who could not afford the implants. Our next step was to do field work on our system.

After online research and interviews, we found that we got a lot of constructive criticism from other people’s thoughts on our idea. Some examples were that the Braille language would be hard to learn, our glove wasn’t discrete and people would know if you were using a device, the world was a little hard to understand, and how the receiving end of our messages would work. Our group then narrowed our idea to a gesture ring that would have similar functions, but lean more toward the functions of an actual phone. This led up to our current idea of our prototype.

World Description

In a world where the use of cellphones while in motion has been outlawed, the upper class can afford cybernetic implants that allow them to use phone functions through their mind. The less fortunate however cannot afford these implants, and don’t have a way to access functions on their phones in public while moving. To resist this world, we have designed a small gesture ring system, that will be affordable and allows users to access the functions on their phones, without breaking the law.



After deciding conceptually what our final project would look like and how it would function, we brainstormed what hardware components we could physically use to represent this device in our world as closely as possible.

We considered various mini computer and hobby micro controllers like a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. Ultimately, we decided the most important goal in bringing this device to life was to make the pieces as small as possible. So we dug deeper and decided the Flora line of wearable circuit boards would be excellent for this project since the emphasis in their design is minimalism. We ended up using these three Flora components to demonstrate the device:

Flora v2 -The “brain” of the ring. We used it to collect the data from the accelerometer and pass that data onto the bluetooth module which then passes that data wirelessly to our Android App (more on that below).

Flora Bluetooth – This is how the ring device sends data to other devices. For the purposes of this prototype, it sends gesture signals to an Android app.

Flora Accelerometer – The accelerometer acts as the main and most essential hardware component for this ring device since it detects motion.

The following lists off everything we purchased to assemble our prototype:

Parts List:

Prototype Sketch


In the above image, we essentially decided we would use an armband to hold the battery, Flora, and Bluetooth all securely in one place. The accelerometer is attached to a ring base with wires connecting it to the Flora for processing the accelerometer values.

Below are some photos of the prototype as we put the pieces together.

The images above show the Flora board we used. The left image shows the top side while the right shows the underside. Notice the bluetooth module is soldered directly onto the backside of the Flora. We decided this would save us the most amount of space as possible in our final prototype design.

This next set of images shows the accelerometer. The first two images show how the wires were organized. We wanted to keep the length of the individual wires uniform so we applied dots of hot glue to the backside of the wiring to keep them together. In the third photo, we wrapped the wire in a long strip of white electric tape. This helped us keep the final prototype design as clean as possible.


We also decided to wrap the accelerometer in red electric tape to conceal the appearance of the accelerometer and then hot glue it to the base of a ring pop ring. We believed this would keep the wearers of the device from actively thinking about the circuit boards they are wearing.

These images show the final design. The first image shows an overview of the prototype. It looks like a ring attached by wire to a box with an arm strap. The second image reveals the contents of the box. It holds the Flora, bluetooth module (soldered behind the Flora) and the battery pack powering the device.



Sightless UI (Blind user inspiration): During the decision process of our prototype, we had discussed similar real-world applications that could be used for a gesture ring. What came up during our research was the lack of technology for the blind. There were a few articles illustrating how modern smartphones are made as a visual tool, with a touch screen that can only be used by people who can actually see it. These smartphones are usually adapted for blind persons through screen reading software. While this works, it’s not entirely ideal for blind users. We found that technology for the blind consists of the use of touch or sound.

We also thought of some non screen based technology and UIs that perhaps weren’t intentionally designed for blind individuals but would work very well for them regardless. One great example is the iPod shuffle or any iPod with a UI designed for navigation via click wheel. These kinds of devices were and still are much more easy to navigate without a screen than today’s touch based smartphones because the UI feedback was either haptic (pressing physical buttons) or auditory (clicking sound while dragging finger around click wheel circle). We used this as inspiration to design an audio feedback based user interface that would respond to finger/ring gestures.

Android: For the software component of our prototype, our group decided on developing an android app that would hold a few phone functions that we wanted to control by our ring. We decided Android would be the best decision because we all had experience writing code in Java and some experience with android UI development.

We decided that the main features we wanted to implement were weather, music, and text messages. The first step was to setup the UI so that we knew what specific “button” functions we wanted. There was one main UI with buttons for playing, pausing, next, and previous songs, reading weather, and reading text messages. We wanted to implement access to the phone’s actual music library, text message, and a weather applications information, but decided that creating static fields for each functionality was viable for the purpose of our prototype.

To make the UI our prototype system more appropriate for how we intend it to be used, we switched the UI layout to match our rings actual gesture controls. To do so, we converted the layout into 4 arrows representing the cardinal directions that our ring gestures would understand. From there we made sure to implement what each direction would day according to our previous methods. Here is a look at the gestures of our ring:

  • Up:
    • Cycle through the menu’s of our app. Music -> Weather -> Text Messages
  • Right:
    • Music: Play next song
    • Weather: Read tomorrow’s weather
    • Texts: Read next text message
  • Down:
    • Music: Play/Pause song
    • Weather: Read today’s weather
  • Left:
    • Music: Play previous song

The three images below show how our app design changed over time and demonstrates the differences between traditional mobile UI design and our auditory feedback UI. The towo images on the left show what the UI of the mobile device would look like if it were button based and intended to for sighted users via touch screen. The image on the right completely removes the buttons for the purposes of sightless navigation via our smart ring. The two different UI types can function in essentially the same way but one requires a screen while the other (ours) does not.

Hardware-Software Integration

These are the following resources we used from the Adafruit website:

Bluetooth Module:

Bluetooth Android App:


Adafruit has a fully fledged Android app available for the bluetooth modules it sells called Bluefruit LE Connect. Basically it is a Bluetooth Low Energy Scanner app that allows you to connect to various bluetooth devices and interact with the devices services and characteristics. It allows more advanced interaction and options like updating firmware for Adafruit specific bluetooth modules.

The specific Flora Bluetooth module we used was designed to advertise a UART service by default. Connecting to that service allows devices to communicate with each other. The Adafruit BLE app has specific options for this type of connection/communication.

Although we had prior experience writing Bluetooth apps, we decided rather than starting from scratch, it would be best to use a source of Adafruit’s Android app, strip away all the non essential functions, and add our Ring Gesture auditory feedback UI code. This allowed us to focus much more on the functional components of our specific project rather then testing Bluetooth code we wrote ourselves that may or may not be compatible with Adafruit’s Flora Bluetooth module. After a two weeks of reading, running, and testing the source of Adafruit’s Bluetooth app, we were able to fully strip or comment out the unnecessary functionality while maintaining the connection and UART communication code. Our app ended up looking similar to Adafruit’s but with a lot of options removed and instead of going to the UART activity upon selecting UART as the communication option, it went straight to our blank activity that waited for commands.

The accelerometer used SPI communication protocol to send data to our Flora. Adafruit also had example code for this as well. We added a basic algorithm to detect certain gestures from the three X, Y, Z values on a single plane (hand/fingers pointing to the ground). The algorithm would then determine if an Up, Left, Down, or Right gesture was just detected and then send that data to the Bluetooth UART to send to our Android app. The Android device/app would wait for these Bluetooth signals to come in, active a function or change the menu, and announce the action taken via auditory feedback.

Final Prototype

These images above show one of us (Dominic) wearing the device with a connected Android phone to the left.

Here is a link to the video of it working: TheOne Ring Video Demonstration

Concept Video

We made the video primarily for presentation purposes on ICAT day.  We learned very quickly after feedback from initial presentations that our world was a bit confusing.  We needed a video to clearly show and explain the quirks of our world, and how our gesture control device supports a less economically prosperous class of people.

We shot the video with a digital camcorder device, and used Adobe Premiere to sequence the footage.

Evaluation Plan Discussion

Once we had the device and video we were ready for ICAT day. At first not many people came to our exhibit, but before long we had a slow but steady stream of people. Most people grasped our world quickly, and understood both the need that our project was filling, and how we went about filling it. When we moved on to actually demonstrating the device, most people struggled to get the hang of it at first, but once they got the first gesture or two to work, the others followed much more easily. Once visitors became comfortable with how to use the Ring they typically wanted to talk some more about potential uses, difficulties, or what the project would look like if we were to continue.

Our project could be improved in many ways. The main struggle that people had at first was not understanding what they needed to do, but rather doing the gestures right, in such a way that the device actually read them correctly. This often involved accidentally doing a downward flick when meaning to do an upward one, though this could just be because we always started them with the upward flick to demonstrate cycling through the modes. One thing we did not try was having someone who knew nothing about our world, or what our device was supposed to do, use it to see how easily they could figure out what the device does and how to use it. While we think that this is an unlikely situation, as anyone purchasing our device should know that it is a motion controller for their phone, we could have tested to see just how intuitive our device actually is.

While we received valuable feedback from visitors to our table, in a more formal setting we would have tabulated the questions that they had for us, as well has how easy they though our device was to use, how comfortable they felt while using it, as well as how they would rate their overall experience while using our device. This would allow us to determine how effective our device was and if it would be marketable. Overall we are quite satisfied with our project and the prototype that we created, and grateful for the learning opportunity that it provided.



Group 6 – Timeline & Parts


Parts List:

Flora Power guide:

3D Print Ring-holder for Accelerometer – Dominic



  • Tues 19:
    • Have most of app core functionality done by class (UI and back-end)
      • Music [Nick] – Functionalities to play, pause, next, and previous songs
      • Text Reading [Peter] – Acquire text messages from phone and read them out
      • Weather [Dominic] – Acquire weather information from online source and read them out
      • Bluetooth [Kelvin] – To connect hardware to app
    • Video storyboards/script
      • Make sure world is complete
      • Draw out storyboards for video
  • Thur 21
    • Putting together Flora-Accelerometer-Ring-Bluetooth and 3D print ring
    • Test output data of hardware and begin to connect to app
    • Complete video plan
    • Begin video filming, and also editing and adding needed special effects
  • Tues 26
    • Finish app testing and finish with prototype
    • Complete video 
  • Thur 28
    • Finalize prototype
  • Mon 2
    • Presenting
  • Tues 3
    • Presenting

Group 6 – Response to Critiques

Critiques Summary

For the most part, the actual “quality of our proposed system” was well liked by our critiquers, with most concerns stemming from a misunderstanding of our world.  In particular, we need to better explain the social stigma from using a smartphone, and the reasoning behind the law that bans cellphones while moving.

Individual Responses to Critiquers


Presentation and Communication: 4/5

“Well communicated idea. See comment below.”

Process and Methods: 3/5

“Think about the context. I don’t think you need to change much, just clarify. Why the implants? Perhaps they regulate health?”

Quality of proposed System: 3 – 4

You are definitely onto something. I encourage you to continue refining. Good job!


We were not being entirely clear on some details about our world and there was some confusion about the implants and why exactly certain people need our device. For safety? Law? Necessity? We just need to rework how we explain our world.

Dave Webster

Presentation and communication: 4/5

Clear presentation – well delivered. Need a video showing gestures.

Process and methods: 3-4

Very structured; survey did not support their original device. Needed to Iterate more at the beginning.

Quality of proposed system: 3/5

Just needed more literature review early on.

Net neutrality on steroids


We agree that a video would be very powerful for our concept.  In our final presentation, we will have a concept video.  We’re not sure what he means by “iterate more at the beginning”.  We spend more time that we should have on iteration, in my opinion.


Presentation and communication: 4/5

Visuals were relevant and humorous, but a bit rough/cluttered.

Process and methods: 5/5

Great to see the pivot in system design, and the research that informed it.

Quality of proposed system: 3 – 4

Clear act of revolution and resistance.

Unclear about the exact uses for the ring system.


Our visuals need to be more refined and clear.


Presentation and communication: 3/5

“Clarify the problem and purpose. Material supported the message, but difficulty receiving the message until the discussion part.”

Process and methods: 3/5

“Make some more direct connection with product review and what you are designing.”

“Create a clear connection between your customer discover and the product.”

Quality of proposed system: 4/5

“Make the world (managed world) more clear and what the “issue” is to connect system with the resistance.”


We didn’t present as much product review as we probably should have and there wasn’t a clear and definite connection between our interviews and our product. It was there, but we just we didn’t explicitly say “because of X in interview data, we made X product decision.”



Presentation and communication: 2

Too long to get to idea (spent too much time on the old system?)

Drawings rough.

Process and methods: ⅗ – ⅘

Used a WAAD.

Seemed unaware of powerglove.

Quality of proposed system: ?

Complicated future vision.


In our future presentations, we will iterate more quickly and get to our core idea faster.

We will also better explain our world.

Final Response to Critiques

Most importantly, we need to better define and relate our world to our audience.  First and foremost, we must better explain why the law exists which bans the use of mobile devices while moving.  It would be powerful for us to cite actual real world cases of injuries as a result of using phones while moving.
Second, we need to better define the social implications of non-discretely using a smartphone in a world dominated by cybernetic implants.  It would be prudent to draw an analogy to today world; for example, how would you feel if you saw a person using a PDA or 90s brick phone in today’s smartphone-dominated society?

Group 6 – TheOne Ring

Secondary Research

Related Communication Methods:

Related Technologies:


Imagined World Research:

Proposed Solution

A discrete wearable glove that understands finger gestures/movement through a 3-finger Braille system where 3 fingers represent half of a Braille letter. Messages are sent wirelessly to recipient’s glove where a message is read through six mini vibrating motors that represent one whole Braille letter.

Primary Research
Interview Questions:

Q1: How often do you use your phone while moving? And what do specifically do on it while moving?

Describe the world to the person:A world where upper class people have cybernetic implants that allow them to communicate wirelessly and discreetly and gives them access to information on the internet and supercomputer processing.

Lower class people do not have access to these implants.

Use of computers or other technologies to access the same system is seen with derision by the upper class. Utilizing a device while in motion is outlawed and companies are required to design their hardware to disable themselves when in motion.

Q2: If walking while using a mobile device was illegal how would you feel?

Q3: What would you do to get around that?

Describe the device to interviewee: It’s a glove that detects finger gestures/movement for typing letters and wirelessly sending text messages to other people.

Q4: How would you feel about using that device?

Q5: What do you like and not like about the device?

Overall Points acquired from Interview:

  • Positive feedback:
    • Would be discrete and cool way to bypass law
  • Constructive feedback:
    • How are messages received?
    • It would be difficult to learn the Braille language
    • Complicated idea
    • Glove is not very discrete, would be easily visible and police can tell you are messaging when moving your fingers
    • What if finger gestures are accidentally done
    • Lots of people would get around the law illegally through black market devices or hacking their phone so it can be used in motion

Interview Feedback

After organizing a WAAD, we noticed some common themes…

“How would the user receive output? Would you use an earpiece?” Q5, CR

It seems difficult because you have to memorize your keyboard. How do you read from it. Q4, MC

The device would be cool pretty cool but it doesn’t sound effective and practical. Q4, AP

It’s not really discreet because it’s a glove. What if it’s the summer. If a bunch of people have the gloves. It would be really easy to tell who has it for that purpose. Q4, MC

What about if we spoke to the phone and it wrote for us instead. I don’t see a whole lot of need for that. I could tell Siri. Q4, ZM

Pivoted Solution

Based on the interview feedback, we made some changes…

  • To make our device more discrete we changed from a glove to a ring.
  • Due to negative feedback on the difficulty of learning a 3-finger Braille language for typing, we decided to switch to a simpler system finger controlled gestures system.
  • A finger based gesture system could allow the user to control playing music, getting the weather, and listening to messages.
  • The ring connects to the user’s phone and allows them to control certain functions through finger gestures connected to the ring.
  • An audio earpiece will also connect to the phone and give the user audio feedback so they can determine where they are in the UI.



The images below represent two scenarios in our fictional world. In the first image, a person tries to use their phone in public while walking and couple of police officers notice and intervene. In the second image, the same person uses our discrete ring finger-gesture audio system in public without anyone taking notice.


Expected Parts List

Flora v2 – $19.95:

Flora Bluetooth – $21.50:

Flora accelerometer/magnetometer –  $14.95:

Conductive Thread – $5.95:

Batteries AAA – $4.39:

Batteries Holder – $1.95:

Genetic Modification VS. Physical Augmentations – Group 6

1. Goal:

In a world where advanced genetic modification has become commonplace among the wealthy to give their children greatly superior intelligence, strength, senses, health, etc, we intend to create a physical augmentation device that represents what the non-elite use to resist the system resulting from genetic modification.

2. Idea:

Physical augmentations that enhance the user’s physical and mental abilities.

3. Problem:

    • Genetic modification is expensive and widely inaccessible to lower class people.
    • The economically disadvantaged have difficulty functioning and sometimes even surviving in a society where intelligence, strength, etc. gained through genetic modification is expected.
    • Augmentations vary in price, with the more expensive ones being more discrete as well, while the easily accessible ones are much more noticeable.

4. Audience:

This idea appeals to disadvantaged people who do not have the finances for genetic modification or who are just uncomfortable with the ethics of genetic modification.

5. Approach:

An augmentation that aids the user’s intelligence by quickly and automatically accessing information and presenting data relating to elements within the environment.

These elements can include: people, animals, location, weather, history, events, politics, laws, etc.

Will utilize, speech to text, geo location, image processing, and potentially an augmented reality device word on the head to present information to user.

Example Situation:

  • Increased intelligence gives GMOed individuals increased reaction speed and interpretation abilities which allow them to be drive on roads at high speeds. To perform similarly non GMOed individuals use this physical augmentation to aid their driving abilities.

6. Challenges & Unknowns:


  • How are the devices powered?
  • Where does the data for intelligence enhancing devices come from?
  • How to create a useful contextually aware system within our parameters.


  • Can the devices be made discrete enough to go unnoticed?
  • Do non GMOed people ever have an advantage over GMOed people?
  • Are non GMOed people actively discriminated against by GMOed people?
  • What limitations are there on GMOed people?
  • Do all GMOed people have the same abilities and/or potential?
  • Would a GMOed person ever use a physical augmentation? Why or why not?


Pressure Project 3: MagneBulb



Our selected exclusion area is a combination of reaching and stretching as well as dexterity. Our group was interested in designing a system that will make tasks that require difficult hand motions to be easier for the target audiences. These problems are very common among the elderly population as well as people who have Motor Skill disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. People who suffer from these disorders can have a lot of problems in carrying out tasks that require accurate hand-eye coordination. This can lead to these people not able to carry out certain tasks or even putting themselves in dangerous situations. We decided to focus onto one certain problem that one of these persons would come across.

Ideation, Sketching and Prototyping

A problem that arises is the difficulty of twisting a lightbulb into a light fixture. This can be extremely difficult for people who have bad motor skills and have to replace a light bulb in difficult areas such as a ceiling that requires a ladder to get to. For people with motor disorders, it can also be a scary task to put in a new light bulb and accidently dropping the light bulb due to difficulty in holding and twisting the bulb. This can lead to a shattered light bulb on the ground that no one wants to clean up.

Our solution to make the light bulb system easier for our excluded audience is to create a lightbulb and lightbulb fixture that uses magnets to attach and stay put. This gets rid of the difficult motion of twisting in a lightbulb with an easy magnetic attachment.

Our initial storyboard of the problem illustrates the problem of an elderly person trying to put in a new lightbulb. The man needs climb a ladder to switch out a new lightbulb attached to the ceiling. Due to the dexterity required to twist the new lightbulb, the elderly man who has trouble with motor skills falls off the ladder and hurts himself because he could not twist the bulb in.



We wanted to hide the internal wiring and other hardware of our device within enclosures, which represent the enclosures of our hypothetical magnetic fixture and magnetic light bulb.  Without the embedding principle, we could have simply used the Little Bits LED component, and attached it directly to the Little Bits battery component. The Little Bits would create our prototype in one simple connection of the LED to the battery. However, the form factor and aesthetics would be severely compromised if we were to use the Little Bits.


We purchased an existing LED light enclosure, complete with internal LED hardware.  We took it apart and rewired it to work with our design, such that when our bulb component is attached our fixture component, the bulb lights up.


We used two primary technologies in the design of our system:  magnetism and LED technology.

Components of Prototype:

  • Battery powered light fixture w/ batteries
  • Black and Red Wires
  • Magnets
  • Cardboard
  • Duct Tape

To create our prototype we had to create the two main components below.

Light Bulb

For the light bulb component, we had to cut out cardboard into a small box shape with a hole just big enough to hold our led light fixture in place. We then opened up the light fixture and after analyzing its internal circuitry, we determined that we could easily extend it in a way that would allow us to place its battery power source external to the actual light while also ensuring it could turn on upon closing the circuit. We also removed the internal springs and set the internal power switch on its side to make the light portion of the circuit more reliable.

Ceiling Fixture

Our second component was the ceiling fixture that would act as the magnetic insert that would twist into a standard light socket. To create this part, we cut out another cardboard box and placed the light fixture’s battery power source inside. We also added wiring that would connect the negative and positive ends of the wires to the negative and positive ends of the first light fixture. To attach both parts together, we used magnets taped to the bottom and top of each component.

Final Prototype

The left image below shows the top of the light bulb component on the left and the top of the ceiling fixture on the right. The image on the right shows the bottom of the light bulb component and the bottom of the ceiling fixture on the right.

The magnets are taped to the top of the light bulb component and the bottom of the ceiling fixture. There are wires on each magnetic side that connect and close the circuit when the magnets pull the pieces together.

When the magnets connect to each other, the circuit closes and the light turns on.


5 minute in class presentation (by 2 group members) and online documentation (by 2 group members) of your prototype.

Individual written reflection on your contribution to the project.

Nick: During our first meeting we brainstormed a design exclusion and believe that there are a lot of problems that systems give people with bad motor skills. After deciding on this general audience, we thought of problems that specifically old people who have trouble in motor skills would have. We thought that twisting in light bulbs would definitely be a difficult task for the elderly so we decided to innovate a system that would allow for them to replace a lightbulb easily through magnets. Before the second meeting, we created a list of materials we would need. I brought scissors and cardboard used to create the prototype and we all helped to make our final prototype design and inputted ideas on how we should construct it. I mostly worked on typing up the online documentation.

Peter: I was, unfortunately, unable to attend our brainstorming session due to schedule conflicts, however I was at our design and prototyping session. After some initial conflict I think that our team gelled pretty well, and we soon had a relaxed atmosphere of jovial industry. I mostly helped create the physical prototype, cutting the cardboard and taping it and the magnets into shape. By collaborating with Kelvin, who was spearheading the electrical component of the project, we established a plan for how the components should fit together, tested our initial design, and – after discovering that the initial design was incapable of supporting the weight of the prototype – iterated to a design that was. Throughout the process we were telling jokes – one of which was rather relevant (How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. That’s a hardware issue.) –  and staying generally lighthearted. We ended, having completed our prototype to satisfaction, by determining who would present the project to the class.

Kelvin: This was a fairly simple idea but quite tricky to implement especially given the components we were using. The led light we purchased was very cheaply manufactured and there were a few clearly not thought out design decisions, such as the location of the springs. This was great in the end though because it was easy to come with the modification we need. We tried to modify the internals of the light as little as possible so we left everything as is and just tried modifying the battery holder. We tried using some copper wire from the local arts and crafts store but and after testing the connection, we learned that current actually could not flow through the wire so we had to unwire and rewire with our alternative wire from an ECE kit. The circuit worked perfectly when we would close the circuit manually but when we finally had the box components put together, we found out the light fixture’s button would switch on and off at almost random times whenever the light bulb fixture was moved. To resolve this issue, we had to modify the hole to make it just big enough to hold the light fixture in place and we set the internal button on its side so it would stop switching the light off. We also ran into issues with the magnets. We originally wanted to hide the magnets on the internal sides of each cardboard component but this put too much distance between the magnets that the light bulb would, in the best times, barely hold, and fall off at the worst times. To fix this issue we just placed the magnets on the external sides of both components and the connection was strong and reliable. I think a little bit more planning about where and how exactly each prototype component would be placed and used would have helped avoid some of the issues we ran into.

Dominic: I was present during our initial brainstorming session, and also during the design/prototyping stage.  During the design/prototyping stage, my primary roll was to draw sketches of our product and create scenarios using storyboards.  I chose to assist in this way because I’ve been trying to improve my drawing skills, as I believe that being able to clearly communicate ideas through sketches is as important as being able to clearly communicate ideas through the written word, and even more important than the word in certain situations.  Although the artwork isn’t legendary, I hope it’s a step up from my very sad bagel cutter sketch, and has taken us a step towards an atmosphere of jovial industry that we all crave so deeply.

Pressure Project 2: Transition Probe Kit


We are interested in viewing the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’s work habits, their definition of transition (time, space, thought, etc.), their perception of the world (as in all the places they may look during transitions), things that may (randomly) happen to these individuals, and the length of their transition periods. In viewing the recorded transitions, we hope that the viewer, either the participant or another person, will derive their own meaning about transitions and themselves.

We chose this group because they are an anomaly among the traditional lecture-test-project curriculums that most university students identify with. From our understanding, CAUS students regularly develop highly sophisticated proposals and implementations for designs that they have crafted, after which they are thoroughly critiqued by their peers and faculty. This not only requires an enormous amount of effort and creativity on their part, but also a ridiculous amount of time spent in the studio designing and refining their projects. We are speculating that CAUS students and faculty must view their productivity, time, and spaces differently than most out of necessity due to the nature of their work.


  • Materials
    • Discreet, wearable camera (Google Glass or pin camera)
    • Regular camera (smartphone)
    • Journal containing questions
  • Instructions
    • Record your transitions in your daily life using the wearable camera (up to the individual to define what a transition is)
    • Do not watch any specific recordings until instructed
    • Answer background questions before beginning
    • At the end of each week, answer the questions using the front-facing camera on the smartphone (read the questions into the recorder before answering them)
    • Participants will be compensated at a rate of $2/day given that they record at least once that day (note: the frequency that participants record is totally open-ended since their view of transitions is purely subjective)
  • Timeline
    • 1 month divided into 4 weekly phases
  • Method of distribution
    • Hand them the kit
  • Return
    • Take back the kit



  • Opening questions: background info
    • Name, Year, Student/Faculty (Week 1)
    • What superpower would you have and why? (Week 1)
  • Weekly reflections
    • Describe three sources` of inspiration. (Week 2)
    • Include some photographs of the space where you spend the most time (Week 3)
    • What was your most memorable transition this week? (Week 3)
    • Watch recording of this transition. What sort of events and/or behaviors do you notice now that you didn’t think you did then? (Week 3)
    • If you could describe this transition with a color, what would it be? (Week 3)

Participants are free to watch any of their transitions at this point

    • Did you get anything out of this project? If so, what? (Week 4)
    • What is your definition of a transition? (Week 4)




Participants can opt to wear either the camera glasses or pin camera (preferably both) to record their transitions. We want to make sure that their experience recording transitions is both subtle and functionally easier than a traditional video camera so that they don’t have to think about documenting their daily occurrences beyond pressing a button. Wearing the glasses also allows us to see the participants’ perspective in the most literal first-person view, which gives us insight into the things that they tend to notice and look at. The pin camera also gives a first-person perspective of their transitions, but it’s a more objective recording of the events happening around them. When participants go back to view recordings captured by the pin camera or the camera glasses, they may start to notice the sights that they’re eyes gravitate towards or ones that they’re surprised they didn’t see.


A journal will contain weekly questions for participants in order to get to know them. The first set of questions is targeted towards getting background information about the participants in order to both learn more about some of their individual details and avoid overwhelming them with questions that directly correlate to their recording activities. This also serves to disguise what the actual purpose of the probe kit is or what they might think it is. The second set of questions targets their creative and productivity drives. The third set of questions finally starts to spark their awareness for their personal definitions of transitions (spatial, temporal, task-oriented, and psychological components). At the end of the last week, after the participants are finished recording their transitions, the final set of questions encourages the participant to watch any of their transitions that they’ve recorded. Up to this point, the participant has been restricted from doing so to avoid persuading their unconscious perceptions of transitions and how they might unnaturally frame them after watching them. We are also curious what the participant thinks about a seemingly aimless experiment of passively recording moments that they aren’t usually thinking about.


Participants will use their phone to record their responses to the reflection questions. This is so that we will have their verbal response as well as the included body language. If participants do not have a phone, they can simply place the glasses on a raised surface in front of them and use the glasses to record.

Personal Reflections


Peter Maurer

Right from the very start we had our idea set. We spent a lot of time discussing and refining it, as well as figuring out what exactly to include in our kit, but it was  clear from the start what we wanted our theme to be. I think that we worked well as a group, each of us asking questions when we didn’t fully understand something, and we had a very relaxed atmosphere as we worked. I really liked the redundancy in our kit, which provides the user multiple methods of recording everything that we are asking them to record. Overall I think that the probe process is an excellent way to get to know a community, and, when done well, produces good results.

Omavi Walker

Upon brainstorming our idea with the team, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to go with the project, as well as why.  However, it proved challenging to convey these thoughts to my peers.  Over the course of two days, I found myself refining and revamping my words to explain what I was thinking in the most accurate and precise way possible.  Through countless question exchanges with our team, we threw out any garbage that had us individually confused and molded our ideas into quite an interesting probe project.  I definitely enjoyed creating this project with my group.  The conversations that this process produced were quite intriguing.

The benefits of our kit are that we provide two cameras for each participant to use.  They can use the glasses camera or the pin camera if they would rather not wear glasses.  The participant could use  both to produce the most data possible.  A downside is that the kits would, most likely, come without a phone to record participant reflections on.  If the participant did not have a smartphone, they would be left to find another camera or use either the glasses or pin cameras included.

The probe process would be beneficial because participants would become more aware of the interactions and transitions that they experience on a daily basis.  Other viewers could always learn by “seeing through the eyes of another” or “walking a mile in another’s shoes.”  A viewer could pay attention to things such as where the participant looks when walking around or maybe how much conversation time the participant gives every friend that they run into on the street.  Anything could be reflected on by the participant or another person depending on what they were trying to get from this study.  The biggest disadvantage of this probe process is that all interactions would be affected by the participant knowing of the camera. We hope that the discreteness of the cameras would allow this worry to affect the wearer as little as possible.


Evan Merkel

To me, this probe kit is about different ways of thinking. Students and faculty in other majors and colleges lead completely different lives than other people, and the level of diversity is astounding. The architecture studio culture is a tightly knit community of creative thinkers and makers who often develop a microcosm of unique ways of seeing. How can we, as observers, gain insight into their world?

I think our kit is a good way to scratch the surface. It involves some unsubtle and direct methods, but I think it could help us see what they see, how they see it. Of course, the weakness is that some of the participants would realize that we are after raw footage of their lives, so they might doctor their interactions accordingly, thus skewing our results.

Sam Blissard

This Pressure Project was interesting to work through mainly because of the community that we chose as the target for our probe kit. Although the members of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies are close to me geographically, I couldn’t feel more isolated from them as a student. I have the utmost respect for their work ethic after hearing anecdotes about how much effort they put into their projects with successive all-nighters in their studios. Although CS has dealt me a few projects that seemed insurmountable at the time, I always got through it eventually, and in retrospect they never seemed to be even nearly as impossible as I initially imagined them to be. Hearing horror stories about CAUS students spending most of their waking hours slaving away on whatever project they’re working on the moment made me realize how they must have to view productivity and time differently than me. I’d also say it’s true that if you devote that much time to any one thing, it usually alters the way you think about that problem space. I would assume architecture students view the aesthetics and functionality of any building they encounter, whereas I usually don’t even take a moment to appreciate it. This notion of altering your perception when passionate about something led our group to focus on the spatial, temporal, and psychological transitions that happen in a CAUS student’s daily life.

One benefit that I think our kit has is the subtle, wearable component of it. Rather than creating an artifact that has to be actively engaged with, the camera requires minimal effort to operate but still gives the participant control over the transitions that they choose to capture, despite the fact that these are usually unplanned. I think providing something unobtrusive in a kit like a wearable device is a thoughtful accommodation to anyone’s schedule, but it’s probably especially true of CAUS members.

One weakness I think our kit has is a lack of variety in the materials. Because we chose to focus on transitions, a very subjective and abstract concept, I felt like I wasn’t able to think of a diverse set of ways we could gain insight into the community’s transition. This is probably a product of time restraints and our theoretical focus, but I wish I could have at least come up with some potential ideas for items that might gauge the user’s engagement in a particular moment.

I found this Pressure Project to be considerably more difficult than the first one for a couple of reasons. First, I think designing a probe kit that cleverly stimulates the way a certain individual works and thinks for a relatively unknown community is especially challenging. Rather than feeling sure about how our probe kit would be received by CAUS members, I couldn’t help but think that we were just designing for what our perception of them was which, as restricted by the project, was largely uninformed. While I have respect for CAUS members, I could never claim to fully understand how they think and how they perceive the world. Given more time and resources, more research into their backgrounds could have helped remedy this.

The second challenge we faced was determining how to incentivize use of our probe kit. On one hand, a probe kit should be innately interesting to use by our target audience. On the other hand, given our perception of CAUS students’ schedules, it’d be hard to convince them to isolate time to participate using the kit. To work around this, we tried to make the activities in our kit as unobtrusive and easily accessible as possible. Ideally, starting to record a transition should no more complicated than a press of a button on the camera(s), and the rest of the activity is passive and natural. Still, our group had doubts about justifying a month-long participation. When the idea of compensation was brought up, our members struggled to identify the balance between compensation and genuine participation. If money is the main incentive for participation, the participant’s perspective of using the kit to solely to gain rewards will skew the data they produce. Conversely, will absence of a compensation component promote a participant’s apathy towards the kit? I think this is a failing on our kit if it can’t fully justify itself, but given the values of the of our target audience, I believe we made our best effort.
Overall, I personally didn’t feel this project was an absolute success, but I thought it was an interesting approach to learning about a community nonetheless. With any design good process, iteration and refactoring is very important. I think the probing process would benefit most from creating small-scale prototypes, testing it on a subset of the target audience, and receiving feedback not only about the insights participants generated but the kit itself. Researching and surveying the community formally can only go so far in understanding a them.