Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Tool-Building Project

Experimenting with many different tool designs, trying to sketch and prototype as much as possible to get a feel for different tool designs. Considering a few different directions for the project as well:

Direction 1: Build a Simple Tool Set for People With Limited Space (e.g. Apartment Dwellers)

  • Goal: Limit materials, parts, tools, and needless technology (smart design)
  • Goal: Look for opportunities for transformable tools for toolset efficiency
  • Goal: Keep the overall size of the toolbox down while maintaining power and quality

Direction 2: Build Tools For People With Limited Dexterity 
  • Goal: Augment certain tasks that require fine dexterity or complex movements 
  • Goal: Limit materials, parts, tools, and needless technology (smart design)

Direction 3: Create Just-In-Time Wearable Tools
  • Goal: Create "invisible" tools that are there when you need them and gone when you don't
  • Goal: Avoid All-in-One, One-Man-Band gimmicks

Direction 4: Conceptualize the Future of Tools

  • Goal: Iron Man's workshop
  • Goal: Enable visually impaired people to work with tools


Direction 1 Concepts: Apartment Toolkit

Work Knuckles: Brass knuckles meet home improvement. Built-in hammer head and removable screw tip, and claw


Direction 2 Concepts: Augmenting Dexterity 
C-Grip Hammer and Screwdriver: Enables hammer and screwdriver functionality without requiring any extra wrist movement

Direction 3 Concepts: Wearable Tools
Level Rings: Ring-based leveling tool. Could be worn on one hand when not in use (e.g. climbing ladder)

Collapsable Level: Leveling mechanism that could be collapsed and put in a pocket.

Wrist-based Angler: Wrist-mounted, watch-style tool for measuring 0, 45, and 90 degree angles. Considering merging this with a watch (thanks Julian)

Direction 4 Concepts: Future of Tools
Coming Soon...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Work Knuckles

The Angler

Wrist-mounted tool concept for determining 0, 45, and 90 degree angles.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Body Products

This week's assignment was to design and create a product that connects or interacts with the human figure in some form or another. I created a wide variety ideas including:

Musical motion-sensing children's clothing. Keeps kids active by playing designated instruments as they run, jump, and spin around (music varies with each motion type). Currently researching the technology to make this happen. It's probably possible using a simple pedometer as the motion-sensor.

Currently working out the implementation of a design I've created for a women's necklace that converts into a pair of headphones (while still remaining a piece of jewelry). The purpose is that the headphones will not need to be stuffed into a pocket while not in the use. 


Glove-mounted leveling tool for those difficult times where you need to level something but do not have the extra hand to carry a level. May or may not feature a laser extending from the pointer finger and thumb (for right edges).

[see prototype designs]

Calling All Dogs 
Remote-Alert Canine Collar & Online Network - Owners of lost dogs can remotely trigger an audio announcement on their dog saying "please help, I am lost". Corresponding text messages will be sent to subscribing participants in the areas where the dog may be found. This helps with the problem of spotting a dog and not knowing if it is lost or allowed to be wandering around. It's essentially the modern "lost dog" sign.

TiFi and ScarFi
WiFi enabled tie and/or scarf(need to work on that second product name)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Reily Storyteller

This is an authentic, manually-powered Reily Storyteller. Hand-crafted in solid oak with a dark cherry finish, this beautiful device fits as well on a mantel as it does as a functional projector. The Reily Storyteller's most striking feature is the vertical oak carousel that smoothly revolves to shift from one projected image to the next, telling a story along the way. Story visuals can be written on the carousel's transparent film with a dry-erase marker and easily erased with a small cloth. The carousel is controlled by a series of authentic brass knobs that circumvent the circular oak piece.

The Reily Storyteller projects imagery on a screen in a calming red hue by way of a stainless steel LED flashlight that is freely mounted on a solid oak light stand. Equipped for flexibility, the light stand allows for any small flashlight to be dropped in as a replacement.

Why it Matters:
Consider this quote from the Kinkajou Design Journal (

One in five adults worldwide does not know how to read. In rural regions of West Africa, up to 75% of the population is illiterate. According to Barbara Garner of the World Education Organization, "It's the lack of resources"—specifically access to books and lighting—rather than the lack of interest in education that contributes to these numbers.
This simple, low-cost, low-power product could be bring access to education for many across the world who do not have the resources. With very little effort, reading lessons could written on the Storyteller's carousal and later erased when the class is complete, thus reduced paper waste as well.

Product Images


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Reily Storyteller: Background Research

This week's assignment asks us to "de-technologize" a product, or in other words, design and build a product using appropriate technology for the rest of the world. I have been driving myself crazy for the last 5 days tossing around "non-technology" product ideas. My approaches to this point, including some preliminary results, are included below.

Background Research: Designing a new product is not difficult, but designing one that people may actually need is. In an effort to get a better understanding of what people actually need, I took to the internet! Early on, I discovered what I think is a very important point (from link below), which is that I as an American (or Westerner) need to be careful that I don't look at a problem from the developing world with a Western frame of mind. Just a few notable links...

Goal-Directed Task Analysis: This is a common Human Factors Engineering technique used to abstract a person's mental model by analyzing their goals, sub-goals, tasks, and informational needs associated with a workflow. I took this approach because it essentially ignores tools and technology as it aims to extract the person's mental picture and objectives. My hope is that it will prove successful in revealing gaps or opportunities for non-technical solutions. To this point, this approach has been helpful, but it has not provided the idea that I'm looking for. Sketches from the GDTA will be uploaded and posted soon.

Some results from the GDTA work include:

  • Wooden "Video Game" System for enjoyment of children (Sketch to be included)
  • Mechanical "Movie" projector for entertainment and story-telling (Sketch to be included)
  • Mechanical News, Weather, and Sports projector (Sketch to be included)

Ethnographic Research (Sort-of): While I have not had the opportunity to immerse myself in the daily life of a person in a developing country, I have attempted to illicit similar insights by observing people in my own environment and then "de-technologizing" the observations. For example, I have been keeping a keen eye on the types of activities and chores that my wife is doing around the house (and helping out too, of course). Every dial, button, or handle she touches, I try to think about the alternative approaches or tools that could have been used to complete the same task.

Some results from the ethnographic work include:
  • Washing Machine + See-Saw
  • Fruit Collector + Juicer 
  • Mechanical Blender
and on the 8th day...
After a week or so of throwing around ideas and sketching (designs to be uploaded), I decided to go forward with a wooden animation projector (i.e. a "de-technologized" movie projector).  Given the popularity of story-telling around the world, and my experience as a professional animator, this seems like a good fit... plus, it sounds like fun to make.

When I started designing this product, my intention was for it to be a wooden animation projector. Half of the design included a simple vertical wheel made of wood of which I could affix a wide roll of makeshift film. The other half of the design was a flashlight mount that would sit inside the wheel, aligned to shine light through the film and onto a wall.

The plan for the movie was to create a single looping animation, say a running dog, where spinning the wheel would simply play the animation over and over again on a loop. In addition to the primary animation, I wanted to attempt to build a second horizontal wheel that could contain a background image that would add the illusion of the character's running motion.

On Sunday, September 18, 2009, I got up at 8:00, made myself a cup of coffee and went directly into my workshop to start production on my wooden animation projector. Little did I know that I would be down there until 4:30 in the afternoon, leaving piles of sawdust and wood scraps in my path (pictures below). By the end of the day, the entire product was built, from initial cut to final coat of stain and brass knobs. Little did I know that on Day 2, the animation projector would evolve into something very different.

On the evening of Monday, September 19, 2009, it was time to begin movie production. I had a dry-erase marker and roll of painters tape to plot out my animation manually on the film before advancing to permanent marker. I started around 8:00pm, but work went on long after Beck (and even the dog) went off to bed. Despite my 2 1/2 years producing 2D medical animations for pharmaceutical companies, I just couldn't get my scribbles to animate. I knew this was a problem with the speed of the wheel, distance of the light from the film, and scale of the images, but I just couldn't nail it. After a few hours of tweaking, attempts at animation were done.

It was midnight, my animations were awful, and I had given up on this idea of this movie projection working... until it dawned on me: people across the world care about storytelling. it crosses cultural boundaries, transcends language (if told visually), promotes creativity, and most importantly, doesn't require animation.  It was this revelation that made me realize that the dry-erase marker I was using for sketching and planning was EXACTLY how the stories should be built. Once I thought of the wheel as a dry-erase carousal for projecting drawings, the wooden product took on a whole new purpose. At that point, it went from being a rather pointless looping animation to a customizable story-teller with scene-by-scene images. I figured a good traditional fable would be an appropriate story to start with, so I drew up Aesop's The Tortoise and The Hare.

Introducing the Reily Storyteller. Pictures below (note that my workshop is usually organized... like I said, it was a long day)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Minimizing Complexity

Great post on Smashing Magazine about reducing complexity in interface design - the usual points, but well demonstrated:

Minimizing Complexity