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Exploring Interactions 2010.09-2011.01

Improving eating experience for Chinese female international students

“Design for electronic candles” Chinese female international students often complain about gaining too much weight after they come to the Netherlands for education. The author gets excited by this phenomenon and assigns it as the topic for the course “Exploring Interactions”. Current interactions between users, food and environment are analyzed. Next to that an interaction vision is developed. In the end the concept of electronic candles for connecting friends is generated and draft prototype is developed.

“Design for electronic candles�

Ideation Design goal The target uses are Chinese girls who live in the Netherlands for education without families or partners. The author aims to develop innovative products to improve their eating habits and experience, which prevents them from increasing weight.

Research Firstly, field research (including interviews, observations and workbook tasks) is conducted to obtain insights about Chinese girls’ perception of weight. Next to that their changes of eating habits as well as the reasons behind is studied.

Interviews: Five girls participate in the interviews and the mind map below illustrates the results.

“Design for electronic candles” Observation: Several girls’ daily activities related to eating and drinking behavior are observed and recorded. The activity map below presents a typical girl's food routine.

“Design for electronic candles” Workbook tasks: The author invites six girls to participate in the workbook task. Each of them receives a workbook and spends 10 to 20 minutes to fill in one page per day. The questions are about their eating habits and reasons behind. The figure below illustrates one example page of the workbook.

Data from workbook tasks is collected and analyzed. Several keywords related to eating behavior are extracted and the relationships between them are defined as the figure below states.

Conclusions • Most Chinese girls gain weight after they come to the Netherlands. Instead of the number on the weight balance, they care more about the feeling of their body and waist measurement. • Overeating is always related to emotion problems. When girls suffer from negative emotions, such us pressure and loneliness, they tend to go for eating disorders. • Girls enjoy sharing healthy food with their friends. They communicate about daily trivia and cook healthy food when they are together, which helps to bring positive emotions. However they do not always gather because they live in difference places.

Interaction vision Togetherness: Creating an atmosphere of being together with friends when a girl eats alone.



Based on the design goal, research results and interaction vision, the author generates five initial concepts. Next to that the author builds quick prototypes, conducts user tests and then integrates them into a final concept.

“Design for electronic candles�

Emotion color Colors implicate different emotions of human being. However their representative meanings depend on culture and nationality. The figure below illustrates the relationship between emotion and color in Chinese culture.

Final concept scenario

“Design for electronic candles”

The final concept is the electronic candle, which can be used to connect friends and communicate emotions, when they live in separate places. Girls place candles in their rooms. The product is mainly used during dinner time, when girls feel particularly lonely and desire companions. The rest of time they can also play with them when there is a need. The user changes candle’s color to express her feelings about the day. Her friend receives the information from her candle and provides feedback. There are three types of interactions in the feedback: warming, shaking and music.


Technology development Instead of implementing all the functions in the prototype, the author only needs to simulate the products’ interaction: color changing, shaking and music playing. To accomplish the three types of interactions in the prototype, the author makes use of Arduino board to control the LED and vibrator. Coding with laptop changes color of LED, shakes the candle with the vibrator, and plays music from the laptop, controlled by the Arduino board. Next to that, the author takes existing lamps apart and makes use of their circuit to save the time for technology development. As the figure illustrates, the color of candle is controlled by the panel and the shaking function is controlled with the Arduino. 3D modeling and rendering The author draws some sketches for the shape of electronic candles and selects one for further 3D modeling and rendering as the figures below illustrate.

“Design for electronic candles�

“Design for electronic candles”


Evaluation test

To conduct the evaluation test, the author develops the prototype based on the final concept and 3D modeling. The candle is mainly made of organic glass and implemented with the Arduino board as well as the circuit taken from existing lamps. In the prototype, the color of the candle is controlled by the panel and the shaking as well as the music is controlled by Arduino, vibrator and laptop.

The concept of electronic candle and the prototype are tested with five participants. Generally, the evaluation results are positive. The product stimulates the communication between the girls during dinner time and makes them feel accompanied when they are alone, which improves their interaction experience with food. Besides, the participants come up with suggestions for concept future development and they are listed as below. • The number of users should be controlled. Too many users make the interactions confusing. • Sounds and shaking should not happen at the same time. It makes the interactions and information difficult to recognize. • When the concept and prototype are introduced to users, a storyboard illustrating the interactions should be presented to make the product understandable.

Concept storyboard Based on the feedback from evaluation test, the author draws the concept storyboard which illustrates two girls communicate their mood and accompany each other through three types of interactions with the electronic candles. The storyboard is used in the project presentation and exhibition to support concept quick understanding.

Electronic candles (product development)  

Chinese female international students often complain about gaining too much weight after they come to the Netherlands for education. The aut...

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