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FEELING THE WEATHER Adaptive and Informative Skin - Next Nature Students: Camila Mosso S. Number: s114682 Level: B1.1 Richard Kennedy S. Number: s118347 Level: B1.1 / B1.2 Combined Project Coach: Sander Lucas Project Period: Sept-Dec 2011


















ABSTRACT This is the project report pertaining to the Adaptive and Informative Skin project as conducted under the Next Nature Theme of the Department of Industrial Design Technical University of Eindhoven. Originally the project participants consisted of:- Yat Karel, Denise Maassen, Camila Mosso and Richard Kennedy. During the execution of this project the first two members left the course and hence the project leaving two participants only.


INTRODUCTION This project is conducted under the Next Nature theme with the initial brief that in old nature the appearance of a product is often highly informative of its functioning [1]. With the basic example of a banana being proposed that one may interpret the ripeness of a banana by observing its skin, since this varies according to the condition of the fruit. The conclusion is that a skin can be informative: can convey data and is adaptive according to the needs of the information being conveyed.


OBJECTIVES The brief was to transfer this phenomenon to product design, to generate ideas, scenarios and concepts for which this principal could be applied to. Suggested examples included [1]: The casing of cell phones that colors with the calling behavior A wallpaper that shows your agenda A remote control that camouflages its buttons that are rarely used A mobile hard disk that changes its appearance depending on the data it carries The brief instructed us to “Explore the design space for products that communicate through an adaptive and informative skin”. [1] The main learning goals were suggested to fall under the Competencies of ‘ideas and concepts’, ‘form and senses’ and ‘integrating technology’. The Deliverables were four to six well worked out concepts and a poster for the mid term exhibition and a working final prototype of the concept and finally a visual report of the Research and Design process.


INITIAL BRAINSTORMING We decided to first approach the project with a free form brainstorming session to just create ideas and to see if we could find some common idea of what actually constituted an Adaptive and Informative Skin. We both discussed what constituted a skin, and also what information could be communicated. At this early stage we concluded that a skin could be defined as a barrier between an artifact and its environment, and that within this context a skin was a selective barrier or boundary between an entity and it’s environment. We determined it was selective because we observed that many skins are designed or have evolved to keep certain things in and certain things out. For example a polythene water bottle keeps the clean water on the inside and keeps dirt and so on outside. Light however may pass freely through without impeding the operation of the product. A crowd barrier, those metal grill structures found around the entrances to an exhibition or a football match keep visitors or supporters from moving freely but a cat or a mouse for instance can travel freely. Again smaller animals are beyond the scope of the intended purpose. We observed that some things which are considered entities in their own right do not have a skin. For instance we decided that a cloud does not have a skin as an entity, rather that it was a cluster of uncountable numerous particles each with their own individual skin, thus although a cloud can clearly have a visual barrier, in other words we can say with some agreement that this piece of sky is not cloud and this is, the entity in itself it does not have a skin.


INITIAL BRAINSTORMING For convenience of brainstorming we categorized the information that could be communicated into internal and external states or changes, for instance tanning skin is an adaptation to an environment which also communicates information. To continue the example we investigated and discussed Flamingos. Apparently the pink or reddish color of Flamingos comes from Carotenoid proteins in their diet of animal (Shrimp) and plant Plankton. [2] The colour of the bird’s feathers varies in intensity of pigment according to their diet. The more vibrant the colour is generally indicative of how good their diet is. Flamingos with a poor diet, deficient in Shrimp and Plankton have a paler colour and in some cases are white. Thus the skin of the animal is communicating, perhaps inadvertently, the internal state of the animal. We conjectured that a Flamingo flying over a flock of vividly coloured Pelicans might infer that the food was particularly good in such an environment, even though this might not be a deliberate communication on the part of the animals.

Red-Hot Steel

and sword smiths to visually recognize the appropriate temperature for Furthering the idea of unwitting communication, we observed that a piece heat treated quenching for example [3]. of steel glows when heated and rather usefully the colour can tell you the temperature. For instance a very recognizable red hue is indicative of a With this research we realized that the interpretation of the information temperature of approximately 700 °C . This fact is used by blacksmith being communicated through a skin sometimes necessitates some special knowledge as well as context. Furthering our observations of nature, we also considered that certain skins had a lot more depth of communication than others, for instance some kinds of fish have an almost transparent skin, thereby it is even possible to view the internal organs and stomach contents of the animal. Other skins communicate at a very superficial level. Stones and rocks for instance convey the history of themselves in terms of erosion and other textures but communicate little else, including the internal temperature of the stone for example. Red and White Flamingos

At the conclusion of this phase we contributed our material to a presentation given to all students and staff in the theme of Next Nature about


the project of Adaptive and Informative Skin. With this research we realized that the interpretation of the information being communicated through a skin sometimes necessitates some special knowledge as well as context. Furthering our observations of nature, we also considered that certain skins had a lot more depth of communication than others, for instance some kinds of fish have an almost transparent skin, thereby it is even possible to view the internal organs and stomach contents of the animal. Other skins communicate at a very superficial level. Stones and rocks for instance convey the history of themselves in terms of errosion and other textures but communicate little else, including the internal temperature of the stone for example. At the conclusion of this phase we contributed our material to a presentation given to all students and staff in the theme of Next Nature about the project of Adaptive and Informative Skin.

Macropinna Microstoma


IDEA CREATION PHASE In our second creative meeting we moved from observation and comprehension and began more to focus on what we could do constructively with this topic. We began to approach the problem in terms of senses. We considered the senses to be the conduits through which information could be conveyed. We made the decision not to pursue any projects which utilized taste and smell as these were both difficult to implement technologically and we could only think of strange applications involving licking or tasting a product. We had similar conclusions regarding the sense of smell. Furthermore we decided that exploiting these senses was beginning to go beyond the scope of this Adaptive and Informative Skin project. For the remaining senses we observed that some were omni-directional, such as sound and ambient light, and that some were uni-directional, ones where you had to be directly observing or in contact with the artifact. At this stage we were interested in making combinations of the two senses of touch an vision and began our idea creation phase. After a second free form brainstorming session we created a Google shared Document and separated, in an attempt to create some diversity of ideas in our possible applications. The initial list of concepts was quite broad and is listed here with a brief explanation:

• A watch strap reminder system - A tactile non-visually based system for appointments or reminders

Senses clasified by uni and omnidirectional

• Some kind of feedback handle, for a tool or a kitchen implement perhaps - An application for a tool such as a screwdriver which communicates the torque of the screw etcetera. • A relax chair (some sort of biofeedback system) - A chair which detects the muscular tension of the seated, and feeds this back enhancing relaxation. • A Coffee mug handle that tells you when your drink is the right temperature - To be able to feel the temperature of your beverage without directly feeling the sometimes excessive and uncomfortable heat. • A rug that informs of the weather - A texture and appearance changing bedroom rug which either communicates the


IDEA CREATION PHASE immediate or forecast weather, perhaps depicting the time element of the forecast along its length, i.e. earlier in the day at one end, and progressing to the end of the day at the other.

• A vehicular satellite guidance steering wheel cover - Which would suggest to the driver via tactility which direction his next turn should be.

• A mobile phone case that changes texture and colour according to who is ringing you - as a supplement or replacement for assigned ring tones, a mobile phone case which changes colour and texture according to who is calling / texting.

• A waste bin that shows you how full it is (or how heavy, or smelly) - A way to visualize the relevant data about your kitchen rubbish without seeing the actual trash.

• A Mother / Child linked device - A child’s teddy bear for instance that changes texture the further from the mother the child goes (or the closer to a road or other danger). • A communicative bank card - That changes texture when your balance is low or when there is a transaction etcetera. • A table which changes colour and texture according to usage - Austere colours for formal occasions and more ambient or pastel shades for social usage. • A Pair of seeing gloves that let you feel things out of your reach - An aid for visually impaired people to be able to reach out and interact with their environment. • A timer mat for the shower - A non-slip mat which communicates when you have been showering for long enough, or for when you have a telephone call or a visitor at your door or some other application working around the loss of auditory and visual information when showering. • An informative Plant Vase - Which informs you when the plant needs water or minerals etcetera • An appointment Table or blotter - A texture and appearance altering desktop surface that could be employed to display and communicate forthcoming appointments etcetera. • A feedback keyboard or mouse - A mouse that increases friction when passing over certain kinds of files or windows or a keyboard which varies texture and colour.

• Chameleonic furniture - A general idea about changing the texture and colour of some furniture, which might adapt those characteristics to its environment, either blending n or contrasting to that. • Mood shoes or environmental shoes - A concept involving adaptive souls for shoes, changing the pattern and texture in response to the environment, for instance becoming nobly when you walk on wet grass or mud and becoming smooth when walking on dry tarmac. • A skin based cookery timer - A kitchen cookery timer which communicated the expired time or time remaining when cooking. • A door handle that communicates if the door is locked or not As a change from actually trying the door handle and opening the door if it was unlocked, a handle which changed texture according to the security state of the door. • The blanket that wakes you up - Bedding which becomes slowly less comfortable as it is time to wake up, altering its texture, thermal state or flexibility for instance. • Informative food cans - Which communicate the state of their contents or indeed communicate what that is without labels. • PC or electronics device colour changes - Computer peripherals which change colour according to their usage or connection state. • An informative Plant Vase - Which informs you when the plant needs water or minerals etcetera


INITIAL EXPLORATION At this stage we decided we had done enough abstract thinking and wanted to begin ‘thinking with our hands’, as the Eindhoven paradigm goes. We considered our ideas and divided into several explorations so we could have some more tangible things upon which to subsequent ideas and decisions. We broke the work up into sections and decided to investigate three tactile explorations and two pertaining to coloured light. Yat decided to explore ideas pertaining to the in car navigation steering wheel concept. Denise began making explorations with the informative carpet. Camilla did some general texture explorations and Richard investigated changing colour and light intensity. We produced several diverse functional prototypes, two pertaining to altering the length of fibres, two investigating altering the tactile effect of a surface and two Altering the colour and luminosity of a surface. In our next meeting we examined each other’s explorations and began reducing our long concept list to a more reasonable size, discarding concepts we felt presented fewer possibilities for learning and investigation. It was at this point of the project that Yat decided to leave the course and pursue his education elsewhere.

first explorations with light



first explorations with texture


MIDTERM EXHIBITION PREPARATION By this point we had generated a diverse list of concepts, done our initial investigations and had a good foundation in the subject. It was now time to prepare for the Mid Term exhibition.

Concepts ...Get out of bed... ...And make a Choice!

• Mother / Child linked device. • The weather informing rug. • The chameleonic furniture. • The informative plant vase.

08:00 12:00 16:00 20:00 .......

Forecast Rug

Feel the weather before get dress

Connecting Toy Mother and Child distance interaction

Prior to the exhibition we made a presentation to the Next Nature Theme students and supervisors, presenting our concepts and evidence of our explorations. There was some feedback pertaining to the Mother / Child linked device, especially the conflict between the age at which a child could interpret the meaning of the abstraction of being away from the Mother and yet still having a connection and also that projects along these lines had already been investigated. The fact that we had already made some explorations was positively received.

...which water...




...And informs us... it gets what it needs

Omniscient Chair Makes you feel the information Think a cookery timer is annoying? Appointments in a less intrusive way? n?

...Walk through the forecast...

Informative Vase Indicates wather/minerals levels

Our chosen concepts were:

There plant...

08:00 Wake Up...


After careful deliberation and further development of our ideas we selected four of our concepts for presentation at the Midterm Exhibition.

a goo ays lw

s d po

iti o

Get a multi-functional informative Relax-Chair

Concepts for Midterm Exhibition


MIDTERM EXHIBITION FEEDBACK Many of the visitors to our stand gave generally negative feedback to two of our concepts. As already suggested by comments in our midterm presentation, the communicative parent and child toy was apparently not a very original concept and there were many projects that had already been undertaken in quite some depth. The informative plant pot was also not very well received as several people pointed out that there was already a product you could insert into the pot that did that job and also another critic to this one was that it was “too much” a product in the way that it doesn’t interact with the user, is more like a gadget that you can put on your plant and that’s all. Not that this was a reason not to explore it further, it was just not very enthusiastically received. The chameleonic furniture interested some visitors who made some interesting comments and suggestions, however the weather communicating rug raised the most interest and much discussion. In addition we saw an inspiring exploration from one of our neighboring exhibitors who had made a fibrous texture which moved by unseen means. In fact his exploration was shown in a video which concealed a magnet which was used to move the fibres but it was very inspiring for us nonetheless. Following the midterm exhibition we participated in the Self Directed Learning period were we saw each other occasionally for workshops and other activities. It was towards the end of this period that we discovered Denise Massena had decided to leave the Industrial Design course to pursue her further education in Architecture, leaving two of the original four members of the team at the halfway point of the project. Midterm Exhibition


SECOND BRAINSTORMING SESSION After the conclusion of the SDL weeks, we recommenced work on our project. We began with a recap of our feedback from the mid term exhibition and had a new free form brainstorming-based meeting to resolve the work from this point forward. We concluded that we would pursue the weather communicating rug, since we had the most positive response to that concept from the visitors to our exhibition. Additionally we really liked the touch element of that concept and also the effect that changing the texture would have on the visual aspect of the texture We decided we could simplify the concept a little and still achieve our goals whilst account for the reduced number of team members. Also we decided to modify the specification slightly in order to facilitate exploration, not wanting to be restricted only by the specification (which was of course flexible since we made it). We started by deciding that our target group also had limited vision but not necessarily blind people, so we concluded we wanted to explore the two facets we had raised in our original ideation phase: tactility and the visual effect.

“a 50Kg person would exert a pressure of approximately 1.6kg per cm2””

During our design sessions we saw a limitation with incorporating a haptic system into the rug, namely that when a person actually stands on the rug whatever mechanism we employed would likely be disabled. We considered that even a 50Kg person would exert a pressure of approximately 1.6kg per cm2 of pressure which would prevent most of our solution ideas from functioning. However our target group and concept was still of great interest therefore we decided to relax the constraint that we would make a prototype rug and called it a texture surface instead.


FINAL CONCEPT Our new project concept therefore developed away from the form of a of a narrow bandwidth of its potential. rug whilst retaining the communicating weather idea. But which effect to represent? Which weather effects should be depictWe started by conjecturing that our ‘ideal’ design would be something ed? Our strongest candidates were rain, wind, snow, etc. paralleling a computer display, that in place of pixels we would have some kind of texture altering element, an array of which could potentially Given the Northern European climate in which we live and study, it was be used to depict a wide variety of tactile effects. This most general difficult to justify a more widespread effect than rain. Given the average display would also necessitate a tactile equivalent of a display driver, a rainfall in the Netherlands is 793mm per year[9], and given the popularity system to determine which points on the tactile matrix would have to be of the bicycle and further given the importance of clothing choice when cycling to work or study in foul weather we thought communicating the activated, and at what intensity. state of the rain to offer the most usefulness whilst at the same time beChoosing for this kind of hardware would permit a large variety of ef- ing a challenging effect to portray. fects to be produced which would now consist of something akin to a computer video file or several files which could be blended together to Searching for visual queues in the first instance we latched onto two give multiple effects simultaneously. This would be extremely versatile specific patterns which somehow was uniquely associated with randomapproach since most of the work would essentially be software in nature. ly falling water. Viewing videos of falling rain on the internet we noticed However the technical restriction for us was that we would have to make first the spreading concentric circles that are generated when something a each device ourselves, since there is nothing available ‘off the shelf’. is dropped onto the surface of water such as a lake or pond, or even a The number of units would of course grow considerably according to the puddle. These ripples have a kind of organic and flowing property and fidelity or resolution of the device that you specify. Even only 20 units a are especially marked when circles from two different sources intersect, side on a square format equates to 400 units to form the matrix. This was the effects interact but also continue in their own right. clearly an impractical approach. The second effect which was clearly associated with falling rain was the Although the general tactility display was attractive, it was not a reason- bouncing droplet phenomenon, that a drop of rain invariable produces a able project given the time available and the resources we had. A further peak or rod or crown of water to travel upwards from the surface of the idea was that we could choose an effect of the weather, one specific water as a splash. The intensity of this effect would clearly directly correeffect and try to model that, tailoring the tactile display to specifically late with the intensity of the rain and the size of the droplets. This can be readily observed in a downpour as the sound, which grows considerably represent that effect. as the rain becomes heavier and is itself a consequence of the falling This idea would allow us demonstrate our concept at least to the extent and splashing.


FINAL CONCEPT It is important to reiterate that our effect was an abstraction. One does not in fact usually experience rain through ones fingertips, and this is an important distinction regarding our project, we were attempting to make an abstraction of the effect of falling rain, to produce an effect that one could associate with rain, perhaps even if this produced ultimately a visual effect in the user’s mind.

ripplets and bouncing droplet effect


concept, way of use, when the user touches the product, feels if it is raining


FINAL CONCEPT HAPTIC CONTENT The word Haptic originates in the Greek word for the sense of touch (?pt? = “I fasten onto, I touch”). According to Gabriel Robles-De-La-Torre’s definition, Haptic technology does for the sense of touch what computer graphics does for vision. [4] It is a tactile feedback technology which communicates with a user by applying force motion or vibration. Haptic devices can either be active, involving a feedback loop between the user and the machine or passive or unidirectional, simply communicating in one direction from interface to user. The principal advantage of a haptic interface is its ability to convey information on a separate channel from the visual sense. One of the first applications of haptic technology was the introduction of ‘stick shakers’ to aircraft, devices which compensated for the lack of feedback normally provided by cable controls. When hydraulic systems were introduced the pilot lost the direct contact with the control surfaces and could no longer feel a stall approaching. A vibrating device attached to the primary control stick replaced the effect, although this was now a simulated tactile effect. [5] Haptics can produce effects which are not found in real everyday environments [6] and thus it becomes feasible to make a touch based abstraction of an effect or phenomenon to which a user may associate the real effect or counterpart to the effect being sensed. This ability to abstract an effect and suggest it with certain stimuli classifies our concept as a haptic device.

part of user test


FINAL CONCEPT SOLUTION EXPLORATIONS Having defined our specification and categorized what exactly what is was we were attempting to make, we began the design phase, trying to find solutions to produce our desired effect.

ments would necessarily intersect, as was the case with our concentric circles.

Focusing on this one specific contradiction led us to our first possible It was such an unusual demand that we really did not know immediately solution, employing electromagnetic coils actuating a magnetic fluid we how to achieve it. We brainstormed again for a third time, trying to make thought perhaps contained within a flat bag, the changing texture of a broad list of phenomenon, mechanical or otherwise which we might which the user would experienced as he touched the surface. exploit for our mechanism. The critical part of this solution was that the rings of coils could occupy We devised a list on a Friday, and spent the weekend searching on our different layers in the y axis of the surface, the magnetic effect traveling own, compiling our findings the following work day. a little distance and also past a neighboring coil. We had no experience of these coils nor the magnetic fluid so we spent a day making a number Our research list follows: of our own electromagnetic coils to test operation and shapes. We be• Magnetic Fluid gan with salvaged copper wire, removed from some stereo installation and rather naively began winding our own coils around steel rod which • Electrostatic Effects we had fashioned into bars, loops, curves and circles. Not realizing we • Solenoids had chosen the entirely incorrect and uncoated wire our coils behaved rather disappointingly when tested. • Static Electricity

• Pneumatics • Hydraulics • Non-Newtonian fluids • Display Drivers • Purlin Noise Starting with the two dimensional format of our effects we considered how to achieve a tactile change to a surface, especially one were ele-

Contiguously we had begun studying electronics with the assignment DG220 Introducing Electronics so we asked the course conveyor why our coils had worked so poorly. He explained about the coating issue to insulate the electron flow and also suggested that instead of winding our own coils we should purchase an old fashioned electromagnetic doorbell ringer, which apparently contained coils optimized for such a purpose. Such an old fashioned doorbell was duly purchased and tested with similarly uninspiring results. Furthermore the coils as manufactured for this application did not lend themselves to modification or adaptation. We would have had to assemble a hideously unwieldy apparatus, with a


SOLUTION EXPLORATIONS considerable number of such coils, arranged in pseudo circles, since the coils themselves were actually straight, and although they were reasonably short they were also bulky in width which had negative implications for our layered Haptic device. In addition the problem of how the magnetic effect could be translated into the required pattern remained. We had noticed the so called Ferro fluid, or magnetic fluid, which is simply a magnetically sensitive particle, usually Iron fillings, suspended in an oil with some other additives to give a useful colour and surface. However observing the behavior of Ferro fluid in other people’s projects through the medium of video, it seemed unwieldy and awkward or even uncooperative, would be a better definition. Ferro fluid gives a distinctive ‘spiky’ effect when stimulated by a magnetic field, an effect entirely unsuitable for our effect. We sought therefore another solution in the form of pneumatics. We sketched out a system of layers, with a rubbery surface which would serve as a top seal to channels below and also be the moving part that actually changed accordingly as the channel was slightly pressurized. Utilizing this system apparently denied us the possibility to overlap separate circuits, one for each concentric ring say, since layering the channels wouldn’t work, the effect would not travel through an upper layer. But the point effect we also wanted to achieve did seem feasible if we grouped them together by activation, in other words using a carefully structured pattern to provide air to a set of points distributed evenly across the surface. However in a moment of design inspiration, we realized we didn’t have to actually physically connect the concentric rings to give this effect. A pair of overlapping rings could be formed from sections of rings, not actually connected but separated by a small barrier, insulating intersecting rings and preventing them activating together, which would spoil the effect. Beneath the top level we could form channels which would serve

the individual elements. This approach seemed very promising and we immediately designed a circuit pattern to be cut into a sheet of acrylic plastic. For our topmost cover we considered Latex and after having found a supplier began testing. Latex is an odd material, very strong for it’s size and extremely elastic. Our former team mate’s long fingernails failed to puncture the material with a long extension, even though the sheet was only 0.45-mm thick. Our Acrylic circuit was duly manufactured and functioned save for some unwanted separation of the Latex from the Acrylic sheet. The design looked promising and we assumed we could find some way to properly attach the Latex if we could find the correct adhesive and technique. Unfortunately, despite our many attempts at approaches and testing different adhesives, including the adhesive used by the specialist Latex clothing industry as advised by the supplier of the material , this problem would remain throughout our work with this design and was very time consuming.

Some pneumatic and latex explorations


FINAL CONCEPT USER TEST In one of our weekly meetings we discussed our concept and the method we intended to employ with our project coach. We also discussed our reservations that we were assuming our approach and especially our patterns would evoke an association with falling rain.

students and designed an interview-based approach with two layers: the first stage not informing the subjects which effect we were trying to achieve in order to get general impressions and input and the second stage informing the subjects and gathering their opinions and feedback.

In fact we had intended all along to perform a user test and to let the outcome of that decide which pattern we would select for our final conceptual prototype. Our Acrylic circuit consisted of a number of diverse patterns and there was some conjecture n the team about which would be more appropriate.

Subjects were instructed to ignore the sound, if they could, as it was not part of the effect and the result of using the workshop’s air compressor. Furthermore they were asked to ignore the visual effect because it was not relevant at this stage (some of the subjects obligingly closed their eyes for the test). [To see detailed results check Appendix]

Also by this point our technical problems with attaching the different materials together had cost us a lot of time and our schedule was starting to deviate.

This was the list of questions we used:

1. Describe your sensation in general terms (texture / movement etc)

Our coach suggested that we move our user test forward in our schedule so that we would have more time to alter our design if needs be. He also advised us to make rough prototypes for the user test, that the data would still be valid regardless of the similarity to the finished product.

2. Prompt: Which natural phenomenon does this make you think of (if any)

We felt this was an excellent idea and decided to see what we could do to change our planning and design to try and achieve this.

4. With shape 1, this sample makes you think of falling rain (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree)

A number of small test pieces were manufactured, each with different patterns and different construction. We had began to experiment with sandwiching the Latex membrane under a secondary layer of Acrylic, using Silicone rubber and also mechanical elements to fill the slot back to the level of the surface.

5. Same with shape 2

We took advice on how to conduct a user test from one of the Master’s

8. How quickly can you see clearly when you wake up in the

3. Which shape do you like the most

6. Do you think the fabric covering interfered with the sensation? 7. Do you think the fabric covering will contribute to the sensation?


USER TEST morning? 9. It would be useful to know the weather before you get out of bed (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree). 10. If you agree, why would it be useful? We found 10 subjects, a mixture of Industrial Design and Architecture students and one member of staff form the Vertigo building workshop.

1 and 4: A silicon sealing was put at the top layer, in that way the latex is retained giving a smooth sensation of movement 2 and 4: little balls are contained under another layer of latex, the balls give the feeling of bouncing droplet



1 and 2: imitating the shape of ripplets 3 and 4: imitating te shape of bouncing droplet



User Test


FINAL CONCEPT USER TEST: INTERPRETING THE DATA After our user test, we deliberated over the data. A clear trend was visible regarding which pattern to employ: the point based system was undisputedly the effect which people were most readily able to associate with rain, even though no one suggested this unprompted (although two subjects were close). We were surprised at the speed with which people claimed their eyesight was available immediately after waking up in the morning. Part of the team was concerned that this outcome overturned one of the assumptions of the project: that the haptic approach was justified because touching, an alarm clock say, was the first data available once waking and the user test seemed to suggest the majority of people sprang into life with alarming rapidity and were immediately able to gather everything they wanted visually. However on reflection our scenario was one of being worked, perhaps in a darkened room and being able to sense the outside world before the lamps were turned on and so on. Further, our concept offered the potential to gather ones faculties without immediately turning on lights, something not presently available. Thus we concluded that our precept was still sound, that a haptic medium was suitable and advantageous to conveying data regarding the outside environment, in our case specifically information about the weather. Immediately after our user test we covered the appropriate area on our test circuit so we could see if the same effect could be reproduced with a low pressure hydraulic system, for which we had penciled out an actuation system (not wanting to utilize a high pressure air compressor at our exhibition!). Rather disastrously the membrane separated immediately with only the

low pressure produced from using the cylinder from a hypodermic needle. Disheartened we were forced to stop our prototyping to make our presentation to the Next Nature theme regarding the progress of our project and also the direction it had taken. Immediately after the presentations we had a meeting to decide what we should do. Given the data from the user test, we determined that the results also provided an unexpected opportunity as that now liberated our prototype from having to produce the concentric ring effect, the point based system being undeniably the most appropriate (the concentric ring system not being well received). With this realization we set our circuit aside and considered how we would design a prototype from scratch to give this effect, although it was difficult to look at the work we had done and discard it. We had a design session starting at the point of if we had to design our prototype Ab Initio, from a clean sheet of paper with the knowledge we had gained from our work and especially our user test which solution would we select? We sketched a mechanical solution, employing moving pins to produce the surface effect and driven from beneath with pins. The design seemed viable, but given recent experiences and the dangers we had experienced from proceeding under assumptions we decided to make a test piece before we made our final decision. We were reminded of two of our own original explorations which we


USER TEST: INTERPRETING THE DATA made before our mid term exhibition. one of these comprised a set of pins who’s height could be varied to alter the texture. The second was a set of camshafts which when rotated similarly altered the texture of the surface.

With shape x, this sample makes you think of falling rain

Subjectively we found it difficult to abandon the several weeks of work we had invested in our pneumatic / hydraulic circuit, however we resolved this by realizing that without this approach we would likely have not performed our user test at the stage we did, and how invaluable the data from that was. We also observed that the project had now described an extraordinarily circular form, returning to a design similar to some of our original explorations. 1 It would be useful to know the weather before you get out of bed




Which shape do you like the most?

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree




4 Graphics results from user test


FINAL CONCEPT USER TEST: SECONDARY USER TEST By this point our application for our haptic effect had become more concrete, we had decided it would be a nice feature to incorporate into the top of an alarm clock, since this was the first thing one searched for in the morning, mostly to turn it off! We had a clear scenario of usage and from this we gave consideration to the form of our final concept. We did a minor user test to investigate which angle and format would be more suitable for our final prototype. Two non functional mock ups were made, both of a roughly cubic form, except one had its upper surface inclined to make the haptic pad slope. The sloped pad received mixed reviews with the suggestion from several subjects that the angle of the slope would depend on the height of the night stand. Another factor was which side of the bed the clock would be on and whether the user was left or right handed. Everybody found the flat-topped layout commodious and since the sloped top brought more disadvantages than advantages we dropped that idea and pursued the basic cube form.

Angle user test


FINAL CONCEPT TWO PROTOTYPES Our final segment of work was directed at making a prototype which was both the functional and aesthetic prototype all in one. Our coach suggested it might be more informative to separate our work into two to produce a functional prototype and a separate aesthetic / ergonomic prototype. We agreed and split the work into two prototypes

FUNCTIONAL PROTOTYPE The next and most urgent step was to investigate the integrity of the new design, not wanting to repeat the failure of the previous design resulting from the assumption that we could attach the dissimilar materials together. A single cam and pin system was manufactured by hand, the cam profile with a 2-mm lift and short duration to give a distinctive effect. The shaft of the cam was operated by hand and an informal user test was carried out to gauge the tactile effect of the mock up, producing positive results. As the designers we judged that the effect was sufficiently similar, if not a better effect to the version used successfully in the user test. Most of the test subjects had commented that they preferred this effect because it was the most distinctive, with the wooden balls being driven upwards very noticeably.

To conserve space, to keep the solution neat and also to gain experience with a new thing, we decided to make an epicyclic (planetary) gearbox, remanufacturing one of our side panels to include more depth and to accommodate the fixed outside gear, within which the sun and planetary gears would rotate. This design was chosen as it offered a high reduction for a compact space and fewer moving parts. An explanatory video was found on YouTube [7] which demonstrated how to calculate the ratios of the gears and also the revolutions and torque increase. Having designed the gear set, we proceeded to Illustrator to draw up our gears and prepare a pattern for the laser cutter, using Rhinoceros and a special gear making plug-in to help. The planetary gears were very small, and we could not design satisfactory gears which could be made well enough on the laser cutter to function. Some of the teeth were less than 0.5-mm in thickness and we began to realize that this approach was unfeasible. Even the single sized gear train which connected all of the camshafts together was a dubious proposition as the teeth of the gears would similarly be prohibitively small and potentially fragile.

Satisfied that we had eliminated all possible risk from our solution, we set about designing our final prototype whit a change in the way of sensation generation since we found a similarity between the user preference and a previous texture exploration. This consisted of a mechanically driven matrix of tactile pins, lifted by a series of cams (sixty one cams and sixty one pins in total) linked together by gears and driven by a reduction gearbox and electric motor.

Gear diagrams


FUNCTIONAL PROTOTYPE Recognizing the pattern that once again we had ran into a dead end, we immediately stopped and sought other resources, sourcing a pre-made reduction gearbox unit and a set of gears from the electronics lab. We did not consider the time wasted since we also had the opCam development portunity to investigate a useful and elegant gearbox solution which will no doubt be useful in the future. Giving a varying effect of the intensity of rain necessitated an electronic speed controller so that the rotation speed of the cams could be adjusted accordingly. We wanted to use a simple approach but were encouraged by one of our Master’s student colleagues to investigate a Pulsed Frequency Modulation speed controller, which offered full variability without the fixed discrete speeds associated with the more primitive stepped speed controller. A potentially useful circuit was found on the internet [8] which utilized a 555 timer chip to release variable pulses to the motor which would result in a variable rate of revolution. The circuit was found to be ineffective at first, not supplying sufficient current to power the motor, although an analysis of the circuit with an oscilloscope indicated it was functioning as described, generating the Pulsed square wave as advertised. After a consultancy with one of the electronics experts, the circuit was adapted to accommodate a FET transistor, which allowed the motor to draw the current it needed directly from the power supply and with some adjustments the speed controller was completed.

Gears and Gearbox

Development Phases




CONCLUSIONS With our project we generated a unique concept and have explored and demonstrated one particular effect through a functional prototype.

A final extension would be to replay very low-level ambient sound effects which would be indicative of the external weather.

Throughout the process we continually generated ‘what if’ ideas, further possibilities and potential developments and products.

All of these ideas we considered in our brain storming sessions and several of them we dismissed because they did not qualify under an Adaptive and Informative skin, and others because we found them less interesting than others.

Naturally the concept could be expanded further by communicating other kinds of weather or pertinent exterior data. A more generalist haptic display would be unrestricted in terms of tactile effect, thus weather such Above all we believe our concept does offer something not presently as wind, snow, or even sunshine could be communicated via the tactile available in normal products, an haptic interface connecting the interior of your home with the exterior environment, in our case the weather. panel. Data which is conveyed during your waking phase, a phase which is An extension we considered was to alter the temperature of the pad to usually associated with a lack of light and demised sensory awareness. give an impression of the outside temperature. This would be communicated relative to the ambient room temperature in order for it to convey The project provided considerable learning outcomes, perhaps especially due to the fact that some of our designs and solutions led to an useful information. apparent dead end. One observation from our user test suggested a nice feature, if the texture of the covering could be varied in some way then that would also From the Communication and Teamwork aspect, the project was unucommunicate the impression of wet weather, since some test subjects sual since half the team left during the duration of the project leaving us implied the slippery surface of the latex implied wetness. with only two members. The loss of resources in terms of manpower and the contribution of ideas conversely forced the remaining team members Our prototypes were largely constructed out of transparent Perspex to depend on each other more. which suggested to us we could light the unit as well. We even bought and tested transparent latex to do some tests but did not have time to im- There were conflicts of ideas and methods of working, but with only two plement a lighting solution for our prototype. We did give it some thought teammates remaining we had to find a way to work together for the good and decided that a low intensity coloured light could also be conducive of the project. The solution was to deepen the trust in each other and in to waking up and also to communicating temperature, with the traditional our respective fields of knowledge. The remaining members were forced association of red for warmth and blue for cold. to become more flexible and dynamic as the resources diminished.


LEARNING OUTCOMES/JOINT REFLECTION The learning possibilities within our project were considerable and diverse, perhaps because of the necessity of trying different approaches we were forced to take to investigate the effect we were trying to achieve and then the several approaches we took to try and express this effect with our functional prototype.

tions we were forced to experiment with. This knowledge will be positively carried forward with more confidence for subsequent projects.

User Focus & Perspective - The core theme of this project was essentially driven from the user’s perspective. Whatever technologically based approach we employed and whichever design solution was secondary to giving the impression of the external weather to the user depicted in our Expressing our learning outcomes in terms of competencies: scenario. This helped us to retain clarity and a clear sense of direction Idea & Concepts - This competency and especially the importance of with our project. Interestingly this led to an emergent realization regardthis competency was perpetually reinforced throughout the duration of ing decision making and when to stop with a line of enquiry if the desired the project. Several times we were forced back to the drawing board effect for the user was unreachable. Focusing on this aspect made us to where are creative thinking and ability to employ lateral thinking saved decide to promote out user test forward in our schedule and showed the the day. danger of proceeding on assumption and not date. It was agreed that the experience would be carried forward to later projects, beginning with Integrating Technology - We had to research and experiment with pneuuser tests much earlier and also realizing the need for a new test and for matics, hydraulics, reduction gearboxes, Pulsed Frequency Modulation what purpose it should serve to keep the integrity of the project. electronic speed control and a good deal of working with new materials such as acrylic and latex. The internet does represent a considerable re- Form & Senses - From the outset this project was firmly nested in this source these days but we were reminded of being skeptical about infor- competency area since from our earliest brainstorming sessions we mation and especially solutions such as our electronic speed controller identified and reasoned with the medium of the senses as the conduit until we had built and tested them for ourselves. An interesting moment for information. We didn’t explore sound or some of the other senses to was when we saw the relevance of our Introducing Electronics assign- any great degree as they fell beyond the ‘skin’ range of the project speciment which we were studying contiguously, especially relevant to the fication, however our project took a decided turn into the direction of a modification which was needed incorporating a Field Effect Transistor. haptic interface which is defined by its interaction with tactile element of This followed one week after we had covered this topic in our assign- the senses, with a secondary emphasis on the visual sense. Form was ment and made the modification required very obvious and understand- explored briefly with our conceptual prototype. able while at the same time reinforcing what we had learned in class. Our respective knowledge in the competency of Integrating Technology Transcending the competencies, and above the obvious technical isis noticeably richer after the project that before, given the diverse solu- sues we learned a very valuable lesson was the danger of proceed-


LEARNING OUTCOMES / JOINT REFLECTION ing under assumptions, no matter how reasonable the assumptions are. Everything you will rely on as part of your solution must be tested. A single weak link in the chain can be the undoing of that particular approach. We experienced this firstly with our difficulties of using Latex, and on a smaller scale again when designing our epicyclic gearbox. Over all we gained the first hand experience of the value having the strength of being able to abandon an approach, no matter how much time one has invested in that approach to find a more viable or effective solution. Abandoning work in which one has considerable time and energy invested in is not or rather was not an easy thing to do, but this has been one of the most valuable lessons learned from this project: keep track of your end user and your desired result, and keep all else flexible and dynamic. Even a negative outcome can be useful and productive.


REFERENCES [1] [9] Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut - Projects/1011-semester1/long/1011-S1-NN-Longs.pdf [2] Hill, G. E.; R. Montgomerie, C. Y. Inouye and J. Dale (June 1994). “Influence of Dietary Carotenoids on Plasma and Plumage Colour in the House Finch: Intra- and Intersexual Variation”. Functional Ecology (British Ecological Society) 8 (3): 343–350. doi:10.2307/2389827. JSTOR 2389827 [3] Leon and Hiroko Kapp & Yoshindo Yoshihara - The Craft of the Japanese Sword ISBN:4770012985 [4] Robles-De-La_Torre G. “Virtual Reality: Touch / Haptics”. In Goldstein D (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Perception, Vol. 2, pp. 1036-1038. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA (2009). [5] Patent for Boeing Stall Protection System - US Patent 5803408, issued September the 8th, 1998. [6] Robles-De-La_Torre G. “Principles of haptic perception in virtual environments”. Grunwald M (Ed.), “Human Haptic Perception” pp. 363379. Birkhauser Verlag (2008).

[7] - Steve Tomsett, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, NZ. [8]



age: 20

1. Describe your sensation in general terms (texture / movement 1. little bit ticklish, and moving mechanical movement, quite fluent etc) 2. I can’t think of anything, maybe with 2 an animal that moves, under your hand like a cat bones under skin

2. Prompt: Which natural phenomenon does this make you think 3. 2 less ticklish of (if any) 4. 1:5, 2:3, 3:2 4:1 3. Which shape do you like the most 4. With shape 1, this sample makes you think of falling rain (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree) 5. Same with shape 2 6. Do you think the fabric covering interfered with the sensation?

5. 6. yes, couldn’t feel it as much 7. no, I like the more plasticy ones because they are smoother and that’s what I associate with rain 8. I use glasses, sooner than a minute 9. 5 10. because if it’s bad weather it would mess up my waking up emotional level, better for me not to know, useful for selecting clothing


7. Do you think the fabric covering will contribute to the sensation? Data: Female

name: Jacqueline peters

8. How quickly can you see clearly when you wake up in the course: Architecture Masters Student morning? age: 27

1. 2 is stronger 3 I don’t feel a lot, , 4 is more point I don’t know what the

9. It would be useful to know the weather before you get out of bed (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly goal is 2. no disagree). 10. If you agree, why would it be useful?


name: Danielle Peverelli course: Industrial Design

3.2 and 4 more accessible 4. 1:3, 2:2, 3:5, 4:, 5:1 but they are too acute 5. 6.yes 7.yes, preferred the fabric 8.straight away 9.1


APPENDIX 10. you can already anticipate your daily programme


name: Aylin Groenewoud course: Industrial Design age: 21 1. for me it felt like the texture was coming up number 3 was softer, 2 was more subtle compared to four, I recognize a hole pattern in 4 I guess number 1 and 2 were the same, number 1 the most subtle 2. number 2 and 4 were the best, they felt more organic like an animal skin 3. 2, with number 4 I recognized the pattern and that made it easier to visualize it in my head 2 was ambiguous, 4 was more familiar. 4. 1:1, 2:2, 3: 4:4, 2:4 3:5. 6.yes it did, because it’s more familiar, so I could make a visual reference so it engaged my visual experience 7. yes I think so, but it’s probably the surface, if it’s smooth then not so, if it was bubbly then yes, that’s more like rain 8. straight away 9. 2 10. for choosing clothes, talking a lie in etc


name: Angeliki Sioliou course: Industrial Design age: 25 1. well, I felt with 1, the air was only coming on the outer, I liked the second one more because the air was all over, with 4 it was in specific spots 2. something like moving, 2 was a natural movement like when you have wind or a fan, you can feel the resistance, like when you put your hand outside of a car window, I preferred the stimulation of the second one, especially with the sound 3. the second more organic 4. 1:4 , 2:4, 3:4 (because it was all in one point, that’s why I think of a tap) , 4:1 like rain in different spots 5.

6.yes, the air goes all over your hand, not solid 7.yes, there was a difference, you could feel the fabric 8. straight away 9.3 10.I am from Greece, where the weather is better, practically it doesn’t matter because you have to get up anyway, but emotionally yes it has an effect


name: Frank Van haastrecht course: Industrial Design age: 52 1. I feel some bubbles coming up, nothing specially sensational 2.2 and 4 the best, but no, I can’t say so 3. 2 I felt it the most, lifted the most, the nicest 4.1:5, 2:5,3:5,4:5 5. 6.yes the feeling was less, reduced the effect 7.depends on what on the effect you are trying to achieve 8. few minutes, five or so, depends whether I’ve been drinking or excited about the day etc, it depends 9. 3. 10. it depends what you are going to do, normally you just have to get up and get on with it


name: Maikel Mourao course: Industrial Design age: 21 1. 1 reminds me of an animal underneath something, like a mouse under a shirt, it’s very soft, but something expanding and back again, 2: much stronger much more precise not so floating as 1 what is funny, my fingers have to push against it, I like it because I have something to interact with. 3: less distinct, I just felt like an area is going up, also quite precise information, only here, with my fingertips I tried to search for something, feels like a rope in a coil, and then someone’s pulling it, like knots, 4: oh


APPENDIX yeah, it’s like fizzy drink bubbles, in your hand 2. more the movement is natural, it’s not mechanical, floating soft changes, reminds me of the pulse of the human body, image in my head that there is something playful with number 2 no, not really 3.number 2 from the interactive, passive feeling, number 4 4. 1:5,2:2,3:5,4:1 5. 6. yes of course, it was so smooth I failed in feeling everything, it is too soft 7.yes of course something like those nail boards, less organic but the experience would be colder, harder, not so natural, the rubber is more like skin, if it was warm much more so 8. oh it takes like five to ten seconds, circulation starts, rubs your eyes etc like babies 9. since I’m here in Holland & I have to bicycle, I always look for the weather on the internet (from Portugal) 2 10. decide what I wear or to delay my journey etcetera

9. yes, 2 10. I bike to school a lot, so if I know it’s raining it might take another ten minutes lie in

name: Joric Koghee course: Industrial Design age: 18 1. kinda like fingers on your hand, last one very tickly, first two very rough, number 3 barely felt 2. the fourth one like tickling the first ones very artificial and rough, very acute and direct pressure (first three very specific, 4 more natural) 3rd on also natural but didn’t feel much 3. kind of the same, I guess number 3 was the cleanest, the fourth 4. 1:4, 2:3, 3:3, 4:2 5. 6. yes, I did, because I didn’t feel much, perhaps the fabric isn’t correct for it 7. No 8. instantly




name: Bas Tijhof course: Industrial Design age: 18 1. I liked it, it felt relaxing like a massaging feel, and cool 2. especially number 4, sometimes it felt like gravel Astroturf also when it’s cold and you take your gloves off, tingly 3. Number 4 because it was sharper (more acute) 4. 1:4, 2:2 (tropical rain), 3:2, 4:4 (what matters is the pressure, this one high, so not as rain 5. not really (with 2 you get the ball shape) 8. within five seconds ( 9. 2. yes it would 10. when I wake up I immediately think what am I going to wear name: Frank Van Valkenhoef course: ID age: 21 1. Kinda tingly, really tender pressure, 2. there are two (2 and 4) they felt a bit like grass 1. not in any way, 3 almost like the bark of a tree 3. 4 funny because certain spots on certain times get the tingly effect 4. 1:4, 2:3, 3:4,5:2 5. 6.yes allot, it distracted me 7. it can if you have the right structure, and if it fits to the holes it would exaggerate 8. within 20 seconds 9.yes


APPENDIX 10.cos now I always check the window, before I get up, might change my decision to get up


name: Orfeas Lyras course: Industrial Design age: 23 1. The plates were different. The last one was chaotic 3 was funny and tickling, 2 was the most balanced between fun and feeling, 1 is the most serious. 2. yes, maybe the water thing number 2 a river or a lake? no smaller, like wavy water, placing your hand on water, 3 was maybe like thorns 3. number 3, it was more fun and tingling 4. number 3 strongly agree, number 1 disagree, 2: agree, 4 agree (because it is chaotic 5. 6. 7.yes like a pillow 8. very quickly 9. for me no, I’m not that interested 10. n/a


Adaptive and Informative Skin final report  
Adaptive and Informative Skin final report  

Feel the weather project at the TU/e Authors: Richard Kennedy Camila Mosso