Work in Progress: SPending time well
7 months | 3-person team | School project
Out of Sight is a family of products that helps people put their Phones down.
Comprising three time-keeping devices--an alarm clock, timer, and grandfather clock--each object brings a critical perspective to our interactions with smartphones, while still embracing current technologies to function.
This capstone project is a component of the Integrated Product Design Masters Program at University of Pennsylvania. Our a 3-person team has spent the last semester exploring how technology impacts and integrates with our everyday activities, and are currently testing our final design. Throughout this project, I have been responsible for bringing user perspectives into each stage of development, crafting our product story, and managing the project. We're prototyping features of our final design and anticipate producing a refined 'looks like, works like' prototype in May.
In the United States, 77% of adults own a smartphone.
Up until 10 years ago, our phones served a single, discrete purpose: offering a means of communication between people. But today, our phones are loaded with tools that allow us to access information with a swipe, connect with others through a myriad of media, tap into data in uncountable ways. In short, activities that once required physical interactions are increasingly shifting toward screens, with huge benefits and potential consequences.
Over the course of a semester researching the daily habits of city residents, our team observed how significant a role smartphones played in influencing people’s experiences, both to their benefit and detriment.
So much so that our team chose to bring a critical eye to technology’s role and influence in our environments. As ex-Googler and ethicist Tristan Harris points out, technology is vying for our attention and influencing our behaviors in unprecedented ways.
That’s led us to believe there’s an opportunity to rethink the way we interact with technology.
When we began our need finding process, we wanted to learn how people manage their time, so we looked to the daily habits of time-strapped urban commuters.
Our process drew on wide-ranging methods--ethnographic interviews, shadowing, body storming, journey mapping, camera journals, and user intercepts among them-- to understand user needs from all perspectives.
We also dug deeply into industry reports, popular media, and marketing data to understand how emerging technology, urban planning, and ridesharing companies are influencing the way people travel. And we analyzed our own commutes, tracking our bus trips and ride shares to compare speed, cost, and social experience.
Our commutes are a window into the wide-ranging time management challenges many of us face.
Our early research proved a few things: like a well-oiled machine, if perfectly constructed, a commute can be a gift -- free time to spend on whatever you want. But for most of us, commutes run the gamut, from uncomfortable, costly, slow, and lonely.
our commutes begin when we start to plan.
"Before I leave my house everyday, I check an app to see which station elevators are out of service, knowing there is 25% chance that when I get to the station the elevator won't be working."
Time is a tool we all use.
But, our everyday circumstances make it easy to miss out.
“My commute time is a gift. When I had to commute with my son and his stroller, I could do nothing. Those were four hours of my day that I just had to struggle through. After that bad commute, I appreciate this time, it’s my time.”
Our everyday decisions have cascading effects that impact more than just transit.
“Once I have one night of too little sleep, the rest of my week just tailspins: I can never catch up.”
Our ideation process further confirmed our two pathways for product development: consumer-facing products or infrastructural endeavors. Our brainstorm sessions explored both pathways, using a SWOT analysis, tech timeline, and audit against our insights to evaluate each. Ultimately, this led us to focus on consumer-driven products.
Our earliest prototypes explored ways to help people plan their days and reduce decision fatigue in preparing for their commutes. We tested wearables, chatbot experiences, and stationary objects that encouraged different user interactions.
Result: These prototypes illustrated the challenges that might come with integrating individual platforms and use cases: Our daily routines are all distinct and nuanced. They also proved that any time management device needed to exist where users are. For commuters, they must be mobile to remain useful.
Most recently, we explored how to incentivize use by adding tangible triggers to the user experience. We drew inspiration from mechanical forms. Using cardboard and simple arduino coding, we developed prototypes that responded to a phone’s presence and tested a variety of interactions the object could provide.
Result: We found that the interaction has to be seamless—the moment a phone is present, the object must respond. When it works, it’s magical!
Out of Sight is a family of time-keeping devices that help people stay present in their activities by taking phones out of the equation.
We’ve crafted the industrial design to make the user experience as seamless as possible. All three contain mechanical components that are activated when the user’s phone is present. Each product is designed to help people harness the everyday moments that matter to them.
Chime is an alarm clock that helps people unwind at night and wake up in the morning.
How it works:
Chime’s engineering and design create a simple, fun interaction: A dial pre-sets the alarm time and the press-open door discreetly stows and charges a phone. When a phone is present, the clock hands wind to the current global time.
Count is a timer that keeps track of time expended on a task.
How it works:
When you want to hunker down with work, Count is there to keep track of discrete amount of time.
Count has a simple dial on its face to set the desired time. When you’re ready, press your phone into the slot and watch the face wind up with color. When time’s up, your phone will reappear.
Flow sets the pace in living spaces, helping people focus on the activities they enjoy.
How it works:
While the clock face always shows the current global time, its pendulum doesn’t begin to swing until a phone is placed in one of the spaces hidden inside a retractable door in Flow’s base. Flow can store and charge two phones at a time, encouraging shared use.
Looking forward, we’ve diving into design for manufacturability with a part break-up. We’re also continuing our tech exploration to determine the necessity for Bluetooth and viability of electromagnetic actuation for the pendulum.
We’re also continuing to refine the form. In the coming weeks, we’ll gather user feedback to understand what users prefer regarding time indication (e.g. marking for hours), interface interactions (e.g. where/how to set the alarm time), and the alarm clock feedback (e.g. whether the global time needs to be shown at all times), and finally, how the phone is placed into each object.
We're also working toward creating refined 'works like' and 'looks like' prototypes that reflect our final manufacturing plans. For this, we'll be exploring injection molding, which would allow us to produce at scale while employing durable materials and soft touch finishing to encourage regular use.
Out of Sight’s style should reflect its modern technology with a clean, polished features, while hinting at its visual and mechanical influences from the past.