Physicality in the design and development of computer embedded products
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Computers have become commonplace in our daily lives; they are embedded within so many products that they have largely become invisible. Furthermore, computers are used to aid in the design of those products and it is possible for the entire design process to be performed digitally. But humans are physical beings; evolved to have an innate understanding of the physical world. In contrast, this digital world is very new. This research is an exploration of physicality in relation to the design and development of computer embedded products. Physicality is loosely defined for this thesis as the physical aspects or qualities of both an object and its interaction; this includes our physical bodies in relation to that object. The physical manifestations, or prototypes, used during the design of computer embedded products need to appear responsive to a user’s action. These prototypes can be made interactive through embedding electronics within the prototype or ‘faking’ the interaction. At the core of this research are two extensive studies for which a series of prototypes were created to answer the research question: can a better understanding of physicality help in the creation of more effective low-fidelity physical interactive prototypes? These studies uncovered significant new knowledge into the role of physicality in the design of computer embedded products. Specifically, the notion of active and passive physicality is proposed. Results suggest that, with a better understanding of active and passive physicality, designers can make more effective interactive prototypes for early stage user trials. Comparison of all the prototypes constructed revealed insights suggesting that the most effective prototypes balance both active and passive physicality equally. In addition, the notion of physicality can demonstrate why, in these studies; paper prototyping, screen-based prototypes and even Arduino prototypes produced unsatisfactory user data.
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