Hsin-Chien Tsai Ilyas Zholdasbayev Jayeon Song Lisa Lauinger Luis de Sousa
Design With Data May 2018
Blog: http://dwdexplorer.wordpress.com Video: https://vimeo.com/268465567
As part of the Design with Data course a group project had to be conducted together with the National Trust of Scotland (subsequently NTS). The requirements were to not just create a digital standalone work but also have a physical component with it. The use of NTS data from either live sources, sensors or databases were essential to the project. Through different stages of development, we started with an introduction to NTS and a brief overview about the different possible topics and data provided. We decided to focus on wildlife preservation, specifically St. Abbâ€™s Head National Nature Reserve, as it is close to Edinburgh and offers a lot of different species throughout the whole year. After visiting the park and talking to the park ranger we identified issues we could help them with, especially in regards to visitors. After collecting and analysing the information obtained during our visit, we decided on creating a navigation device for the park that is connected to a phone application. Park visitors can download the application and pair it with the digital compass â€œExplorerâ€?, available at the Nature Centre. After a short survey about the visiting group and their and interests, the application calculates the best route to take. The device indicates the path to visitors and displays relevant information on the phone, whenever they reach a predefined geotags.
During our initial meeting with the data holders, we quickly understood that there were many limitations with the data provided. Unlike other NTS areas, the available wildlife related data came from a unique nationallevel database, the nbnatlas.org. Being such a large platform, it mainly stores information organised by wildlife species, rather than location. Unlike other groups, we could not pick one location and one data-set associated with that same place. We rather had to define a specific location and a specific type of wildlife, and then gather information from the database, the NTS website, and any associated reports. As a group, we decide to choose St Abbs as it was the only available location that we could easily collect data about, but most importantly, it was close-enough so we could personally visit the site. St Abbs main attraction are seabirds and seals, and NTSâ€™ main concern is they preservation.
At that stage, as a class, we were requested to present around fifty sketches of basic ideas for our projects, and we took the opportunity to individually develop ten of them, and then present them to each other. This way, we could identify possible outcomes for the project, but mainly find a way to bring our diverse views and opinions, and align them in a coherent direction. The majority of the ideas presented focused around providing users with an experience, and consequently raise awareness around wildlife conservation. In order to prepare the trip to the park, we took advantage of a time-plan we had to prepare, and arranged it in order to help focus our onsite investigation. We decided to focus on the themes of park visitors (our main users), wildlife, and conservation. Simultaneously, we contacted the data holders, and requested to be put in touch with the park ranger, so we could get a better grasp and deeper knowledge of what happens in St Abbs. To take full advantage of the visit, and gather insightful information, we decided to take an ethnographic approach, and equipped ourselves with media tools for our observations, and also prepared questions for our interview with the park ranger.
Upon our arrival to the park, we were greeted the park ranger Liza that took us to nature centre and gave us leaflets other information pieces about the location. She explained us that they are a very small team that heavily relies on voluntary staff. Amongst other activities, they monitor wildlife, ensure a code of conduct in the area, maintain footpaths, trees, and control species. Unlike other NTS locations, they cannot charge visitors for entrance due to the right to the Scottish right to roam, but she wishes visitors could see St Abbs as a year-round experience, rather than a summer attraction. Due to the contrast between the number of visitors in the summer and the rest of the year, a lot of damage is made to property grounds in only one season. As such, they cannot advertise the area in an attempt to control the influx of people.
Defining a Concept Based on the interview, we came up with three main ideas for our project.
With the initial research in mind, the main concept could be formed out of the gained information.
1. Digital Navigator: suggest different route with various themes 2. VR Goggle: Virtual experience on wildlifeâ€™s perspective 3. AR: information guide with visual effects
Interview Insights The interview with Liza definitely gave us more empirical information and perspective to approach the project. It helped us to realise and understand their concern and issues as a conservation park. The rangersâ€™ main concern is below: They are not interested in attracting summer visitors, but rather all year round. Their main purpose is to protect the natural environment of St.Abbs, and therefore do not have any advertisement. They want to collect visitor information. Since the park is free entrance, there is not many opportunities to collect visitor information, even as basic as the numbers of visitors. The park rangers used to provide guided tours for visitors, however, especially during the popular season, the current number of rangers cannot handle the task. Also the guiding time can be vary depends on the visitors, which is hard to manage. They do not want any physical artefacts on the park, for the preservation purposes and wildlife experience purposes. Objects cannot be permanently placed in of the park. In conclusion, our final product should attract visitors throughout the different seasons of the year, and cannot be installed in the park. Also it would be useful if it could collect visitor information.
The Concept The concept of our project is to give a tour guide to visitors based on the insightful knowledge of the park rangers. It provides directions and interesting information depending on the different locations inside the park. We also do not want visitors to be dependent on their mobile devices but rather enjoy the beautiful scenery, which led us to the idea of a digital compass. Also having one device per a group can bring people together as a group, making the experience more personal and bonding. As for the information provision and the collection of visitor’s data there comes an application alongside the digital compass. The compass will inform the user by vibrating that interesting facts about the current position inside of St. Abb’s are available and just then the visitor can take a look at the phone. The app will start at the beginning of the trip with a survey designed to collect visitor information. They will be used to customise a route based on the visitors’ interests and intentions for the visit. When the route is selected, the information will be transmitted to the digital compass which will start the guidance through the park. There are two different kinds of geo tags. For guidance there are directional geo tags which just communicate with the Arduino and not with the application. When the visitor must take a turn, the directional geo tags will tell the LED lights to display a new direction. For the information provision there are informational geo tags which are connected to the application. As soon as the visitor reaches such a point vibration will tell him to look at the phone. But the LED lights won’t be influenced by those geo tags. In the application the visitor can see interesting facts about their current position like wildlife, architecture, plants and more.
Assigning Roles In order to achieve our goals, we divided in sub teams according to our areas of expertise. The following gives a brief inside of how the work is allocated. 1. Technical Team: Ilyas and Lisa - Develop Arduino hardware and the coding for the digital compass - Work out the Android-Arduino Bluetooth connection - Create a way of pointing to the correct direction with the use of GPS and True North - Include the Arduino code into the final app 2. Application Team: Hsin-Chien and Chai - Plan a virtual script/ flow of the app - Design a survey to collect information & assign a route depending on the answer - Prototype a wireframe and design the interface of the app 3. Prototype Team: Luis - Design and create a prototype for the exterior of the compass - Develop the 3D model for the 3D printer
Artefact As we could not display or place artefacts in the park, we decided to make an artefact that would be carried around by the visitors. Nevertheless, we did not want to remove the userâ€™s attention from the park, so both artefact and interface needed to be minimal. In that sense, the object would only display the navigational pointer, and whenever further information was required, it would pair with the phone to display it. At the same time, it needed to allow the user to roam hands-free, hence the decision to place cord, so it can be attached to a backpack, or worn around the neck.
App Development In order to an appropriate application there are some steps which need to be followed. First, the question about which system will be used for the initial prototype has do be answered. We decided to go for Android because it gives the possibility to generate a particular file for developers. It allows us to install a prototype on Android mobile phones and run a trial. The next step was to create wireframes which concluded into the final prototype. The first sketch is a typical wireframe design (Figure1) with simple rectangles to represent buttons and tick boxes. In this initial step the use of colours wasnâ€™t considered. The second version adds some green to the background. This colour decision was made because of the connection of the project to wildlife (Figure2). The third and final version is more detailed and refined in order to provide the user with a satisfying visual experience. It is guided by the Corporate Design of St Abbâ€™s and the NTS by using their logos and colour. So we could test and simulate the app design, we uploaded the layout the prototyping web application inVision (Figure3).
Figure 3: The wireframe for inVision, to simulate the functions. Figure 2
There are four layout types, one for each function: homepage, survey, route information, and introduction of each landmark. The homepage shows a welcome slogan and the title of our project. In the survey pages the simple questions for gaining visitors data are shown. Examples are the size of the group, age, frequency, gender, and preferences. After the survey, the app configures the best route for the visitor and displays it. 10
Technology Since our aim was to create a device that will lead visitors through the park and will be as simple as a compass, we decided to create our first version of our project with the Arduino hardware and some additional modules/ sensors. The following is a description of the additional technology which is used. To understand where the Explorer faces we used the Grove 3-Axis Digital Compass. While simple to use, it has broad functionality and is relatively small in size (2). The connection of the sensors and Arduino are made with a Grove Shield (3). To connect the Arduino with the Android Application we use the HC-05 Bluetooth Module (4). We decided to show the direction with the use of a Led Light Ring with 12 LEDs. The circle shape makes it look like a normal compass and it is relatively easy to programme (5). As power source a 9V battery was used (6).
Figure 4. Tech parts: 1. Arduino board; 2. Grove 3-Axis Digital Compass; 3. Grove shield; 4. HC-05 Bluetooth module for Arduino; 5. 12x Leds Ring; 6. 9V battery
For the first version of our project we managed to establish communication between Arduino and Android app with the help of Serial interface, which means that we were able to get the location of the user and bearing from that location to destination locations (geo tags) and pass it through the Serial port to Arduino (Figure 5). When the user reaches a specific geo tag, the app gives a signal (for testing purposes it is mobile vibration and alert). Finally, it shows the appropriate information page on the phone about that certain location. For future iterations, there will be a buzzer integrated into the Arduino.
Figure 5. Android side bluetooth communication code snippet (Arduino Project Hub, 2016) 11
There were some issues with the first version. First, the GPS was not very precise, and in small spaces it didn’t show the actual location. As a result, the user could miss or not reach specific geo tags. Secondly, that the default getBearing() function provided by Android API gave us values that were not expected. FInally, we also had issues with the Grove 3-Axis Digital Compass and its communication with the LED ring, as the calibration of digital compass module was difficult, and had some errors. After considering those issues we decided to get a more precise compass module. Furthermore, we uncovered another method for bearing, which made the GPS more precise. After some research we found the 3-axis compass sensor module HMC5883L, which is more precise and easier to calibrate. Moreover, it allowes us to discard the Grove shield (Figure 6), thus saving space inside the artefact.
After some investigation in geo related fields, we finally found the right formula to calculate bearing from one location to another (GiSMap, 2015) and by knowing the ‘True North’ with the compass module we managed to show the direction to specific geo tags. Having a 12 light LED ring helps us to precisely map compass degrees to the LEDs. It is also important to mention that at that part the compass is made for the wide area of the St Abb’s park. Due to the imprecise geo location provided from the users phone the Explorer doesn’t work in small areas or indoors. The geo tags in St Abb’s are as quite far from each other, thus making the phone pick up the location accurately and provide the correct data.
Figure 6. Tech parts: 1. Arduino board; 2. HMC5883L 3-Axis Compass sensor module; 3. HC-05 Bluetooth module for Arduino; 4. 12x Leds Ring; 5. 9V battery
Refining the Concept WIP Show As part of the feedback loop there was a Work in Progress Show at the 27th of March in Evolution House. It gave us the chance to test our prototype and get feedback from people outside our group. We were able to show a semi-finished prototype and explain our project background. The case of the prototype was already 3D printed but there were some issues with spacing and the placement of the holes for the wires. Furthermore, the surface wasnâ€™t yet treated or designed. The final artefact was built based on the issues found from the first 3d printed iteration. Simultaneously, it was also made more attractive, but still design for its outdoors context of use. In regards to hardware, the digital compass sensor wasnâ€™t working properly so this had to be exchanged for the final prototype. The code for the Arduino hardware still had some bugs regarding the correct output of the geo tags, which was also related to the non-working compass sensor. To demonstrate how the final Explorer work we decided to make it point to a predefined point rather than geo tags. One of the most important points for the final version was to write a fully working code which cooperates satisfyingly with the Arduino hardware. In terms of the application, there were at that stage still two separate Apps: one for the demonstration of the final look and the questionnaire and one for the geo tag provision and the coding of the Arduino. For the final prototype those two apps are combined to provide the user with a satisfying visual experience and a working technique.
Final Product Explorer is a new form of experiencing wildlife in St Abbs. It allows users to take advantage of the insightful knowledge of park rangers, while providing them with full independence. The device is available at the park entrance, and after the downloading the corresponding app, users only need pair both devices. The setup is easy, as users only need to insert some non-identifiable personal data and provide their expectations about what they wish to see in their visit to the park. After the setup, personalised route is defined, and users just have to follow the path. Whenever an interesting spot is detected, the Explorer informs the user and their device, which automatically displays information about it. The data collected from the device allows the park to understand more about their visitors and the most popular routes, so they can respond and maintain the area appropriately. Nevertheless, as this data is non-identifiable and stored in a non-personal device, there are no risks of privacy. Finally, the most important aspect of Explore is that with its simple interface, it allows people to look away from their phones, and simply follow a point rather than a map, thus providing a real sense of adventure and immersion in Wildlife.
Overall this was an enjoyable project that allowed us to contribute in our own unique ways. Even though we could focus on our areas of expertise, it was still challenging at times, especially in regards to the technology. Nevertheless, working on tech side allowed us to deepen our knowledge in programming and critical thinking, as well as to get some knowledge in non-technical fields such as geodesy and geomatics. The most critical part of the project was definitely the on-site visit to St Abbs and meeting the park ranger, which provided crucial information for the projectâ€™s progress. Thanks to that visit and our ethnographic approach, we were able to pinpoint a concept based on real value. It was also very beneficial to assign roles and tasks to each member, as it made everyone take responsibility for their part, while ensuring continuous support. Thanks to our team spirit and dedication, we feel proud of the work we accomplished, and knowing that we developed a strong story where technology doesnâ€™t a take a central part, but still makes the whole experience possible.
St Abbs Explorer - Project Report