SociaLight: Social Interaction to Activate Space

Fall 2016
Role: Design strategist, 4-member team
Partners: Georgia Tech Facilities Management Department

Prompt: Identify a problem on Georgia Tech’s campus and design a possible solution.

My three teammates and I (Mo’ Research Mo’ Problems), began by searching for a problem space. We approached offices on campus that we thought might know of unresolved issues facing students or other large populations on campus. After speaking with facilities management, we found that efficient use of space, and therefore energy supply, is a problem.

To explore the problem, we began with contextual inquiry to see how students currently use campus spaces when not in class. We approached students who had either just sat down or had been sitting down in common spaces and asked them questions about their thought process in selecting a space and seat. In addition, we conducted a task analysis to see how students use the current system for booking group work/study spaces in common areas. We created an affinity map from the responses and were able to categorize our findings into social interaction, convenience, loss of time, physical environment and ambience.

We decided to narrow our problem area to social interaction, which seemed to correlate with every other category in one way or another. Moving on to the ideation phase, we rapidly came up with ~20 possible solutions and posted them on chart with axes for feasibility and impact.

In the next phase we created lo-fi prototypes for the three ideas with the highest levels of feasibility and impact. The prototypes included an arduino cube that would be placed on tables in commons spaces and let the first user(s) who sits down select one of three options: seats are available, and I’m open to talking, seats are available but I’m focused, or seats are not available. The cube would turn a color coordinating with the option so that passersby could quickly gage the situation. Users would also be able to send messages to the cube, such as “I’m working on a project for cognitive psychology if you’re interested in chatting.” Another prototype showed an AR way finding app that would allow a user to hold up their phone in a common space and see what seats are available and what level of social interaction the people already sitting at a table are interested in. The final prototype combined ideas for a kiosk that would go on the each floor of common spaces with door kiosks at enclosed rooms that required reservations for access. The common space kiosks would involve the user swiping their university ID card, viewing a floor plan with filled/empty seats, seeing if those seated had left any messages and possibly their class year plus major, and then selecting a seat. The door kiosks would allow users to swipe their university ID cards, see space availability and reserve a space.

To discover which features potential users liked and disliked, we participated in a design sprint. We presented each idea and then potential users placed stickers indicating like, dislike, neutrality and confusion on the prototypes. The arduino cube received all positive feedback as well as additional ideas.

For the next phase of the project, we used Raspberry Pi to create a working prototype of the cube. In accordance with the feedback, we added an on/off button so that users had the option to opt out of using the cube. We also refined the way in which someone could communicate via the cube. The prototype enabled someone to scan a code on the cube using their phone and open a messaging webpage that linked back to that particular cube.

Our plan is to evaluate the adoptability and usability of the cube to see what changes we might make for the next iteration.

SociaLight from Morgan O. on Vimeo.