For gateway 2 the direction of my project has been digital communication focussing on making it closer resemble face-to-face communication, for both the work from home market and families and friends living apart. The three prototypes targeted different areas of digital communication with the aim of gathering findings from all three that might be useful in creating a more immersive feeling, and therefore more lifelike form of communication.
These three areas were:
+ The addition of short uneditable subtitled videos to work-related messaging apps with the aim of better conveying human emotion.
+ Making use of peripheral vision as a stimulus for those working from home.
+ Using motion control to create a more immersive chatting experience.
These three areas will be explained below in relation to their respective prototypes, and the findings will be discussed at the end of each prototype description.
The addition of short uneditable subtitled videos to work-related messaging apps with the aim of better conveying human emotion.
From some discussions with people who actively work from home either due to the pandemic or had previously been working at home prior to the pandemic, I was able to highlight some issues that they had found problematic with digital communication. The area that I have chosen to explore is how to better convey tone and human emotion as I found that a lot of people find text-based messages regarding work degrading and lacking in tone, something that they also find difficult to emulate in their own text-based messages.
This prototype would allow individuals to record short video messages and have subtitles added automatically. These messages would then be sent to the receiving party immediately after being recorded and would automatically pop up on the receiver’s screen with the aim of creating a message that better conveys tone and emotion.
Hypothesis: The addition of a video to short work-related messages will feel closer to face-to-face communication that would happen in an office environment and therefore heighten the emotional connection between the two individuals.
To test this prototype I edited a short video that would resemble a working prototype and asked a number of individuals to watch the video and comment on the addition of these short video messages and their feelings after receiving these messages. I have attached this video below.
Many of the participants said that it was nice to hear a voice and see a face, and liked that they didn’t have to click anything for it to pop up, saying that this made it feel closer to real life as in an office people would pop up to them without them having to fully remove themselves from work to listen to them. They also found that the messages sounded less passive-aggressive, and could imaging themselves sending messages and it being easier to convey their tone and would ultimately take less time out of their schedules. One thing that was found though was that it would be annoying if these messages popped up during work calls.
The addition of a physical busy/active button that would allow the user to very easily share whether or not they are free to receive messages. It was also noted that the addition of a log or history of messages would be helpful if you missed messages or if there was lots of information to process.
Making use of peripheral vision as a stimulus for those working from home.
This was a self identified theory that I chose to test in this prototype. In an office full of people, your peripheral vision is stimulated throughout the day with people getting up to use the loo, or to make a coffee, or simply to come and chat. This is something that I believe is missing from the home office environment.
Hypothesis: The stimulation of the peripheral vision with movement will communicate the presence of other individuals and emulate a shared working environment.
In order to test this, I build a curved display that I then attached a mirror to reflect the motion of the user, this I believe would emulate the movement of other people around you in a shared office environment.
Movement was noted but it was too close to the screen to be noted in the peripheral vision. Sadly the mirror also made it too obviously their own reflection so failed to emulate the feeling of others. One thing that was noted though was that the peripheral vision was seen as a less intrusive means of communication, something that might be able to be used for notifications to seperate them from the work on the screen. Another aspect that was noted throught the testing of this prototype was non-verbal office based communication such as when to stop for lunch or when to clock off at the end of the day, something that would be easily seen in an office as people leave their desks, yet difficult to read from a home office.
Use this curved screen as a notification system to make notifications feel less intrusive during the work day. The next improvement would be the ability to convey non-verbal office communication such as when people are stopping for lunch or when they are clocking off at the end of the day.
Using motion control to create a more immersive chatting experience.
The aim of this prototype was to test the use of movement within video calls, and if translating the movement of each party on a video call to the movement of the camera of the other user would make for a more intutive video call experience.
Hypothesis: The addition of movement controlled by parties on video calls will increase the immersive feeling of that call and therefore heighten the emotional connection between both parties.
To test this I designed a low tech movable arm that would allow one user to move the camera of the other and therefore allow them to explore the surrounds of the individual that they were chatting to. I made the two parties wear headphones and chat through there video call to make sure they were communicating through the prototype and therefore truely testing the immersive nature of the product. A video of this test can be seen below.
The design was successful in making the call more immersive and made individuals feel more comfortable in a conversation as it allowed them to explore the other users environment, putting them at ease. One area that it didn’t do as expected was in gestures, I believed that it would be used to gestate, ie moved up and down when answering yes to questions, but upon asking it was found that because it was controlled by the hand it didn’t feel natural to gestate like that. One downside to this prototype was that it was quite distracting for me on the side of the non-controller as I had to look at the screen to see the other user which meant I was unable to maintain eye contact with the camera, which also reduced the immersive nature of the product from my side.
One addition to this prototype would be controlling the camera with head movement, this would make the movement of the camera feel more intuitve and therefore make the call feel more immersive. The other addition to this design would be the placement of a screen along side the camera meaning that you would be able to continue to focus on the screen as well as the camera and then maintain better eye contact with the user you are chatting to.
Re-foccused project statement
The re-framed focus of my project is an exploration of the inclusion of other senses (ie movement & peripheral vision) in the design of digital communication to create a more immersive and intuitive experience, focusing on both remote working and connecting families in different locations.
One area of findings from these prototypes that stood out was non-verbal communication within the office that is not replicated in the home environment, these forms of communication also help to create a community that is missing when working in a home office and an issue that I believe needs to be addressed.
Areas to Explore
+ What does a fully digital world look like?
+ What should we look to avoid in a digital world?
+ How to emulate all nessessary human interactions digitally
+ What makes human interactions feel inately human?
+ Where do communities form?
+ Suspension of Disbelief
+ Mapping Spaces
The areas of these prototypes that I will continue to explore are the addition of movement into video calls to futher develop the immersive experience, and the use of peripheral vision in notifications to create a less invasive from of communication and notification.