3D Modelling Made Easy – sketch and get a 3D model

In a TED talk I just learned about Gravity Sketch. The company develops a software for 3D modelling. It was founded in 2013 from students at the Royal College of Art London. Development focus lays on a usable interface to make 3D modelling a fast and easy process that is open to all people (with a tablet). The interaction concept bases on sketching forms on a tablet. Dependent on the applied function the form is then transferred into a 3D model. From the first impression the interface is looks much less crowded than in other 3D software and it was possible to design the 3D model of a glass in a few seconds (demonstration). However, they apply different gestures, so it remains for the user to learn the functions that the tool offers and how to apply different gestures. Don Norman talks about challenges in gesture design. The first questions are: What can I do and where and how? The user needs signifiers in the interface and for a good memorable interaction they would need to make sense to the 3D modelling action. The interaction should fit to the conceptual model that the user has of creating the 3D object. At best the signifiers are such that are used in other tools as well. There still seems to be no standard for that. Gestures can be adapted from typical interaction with a touchscreen, e.g. swipe to move objects or the two finger gesture for zoom. Perhaps the tool could offer a guide talking the user through the interface, meanwhile showing a video of the specific interaction. Experienced users could have the option to turn the teaching mode off.

In the video tutorials below you can see a bit of the functionality. Keen explorers can watch their YouTube channel and can learn in their tutorials how to design different 3D objects. If you want to have a go then get a free version of the program from the ITunes. The tutorial below explains how to design a 3D giraffe (a child’s version):

One major aim of the software is to make 3D printing, specifically 3D printing of self-designed objects, easier. As 3D printers are still expensive it is unlikely that customers have them at home yet. The software bridges the gap through collaboration with other companies. A link to a 3D printing company is already integrated in the software. Users can upload their 3D model into the other company’s wensite and order a 3D print.

100% usable Product by Scott Adams

Categories: Everyday usability

Interface design: The gulf of execution explained in a funny way

Everyday Usability 38 – Usable doors, an up to date topic since 25 years

Don Norman recently shared a video, featuring him, about a very classic object of usability discussion – the door (see Don’s Website or the creator’s podcast). Don used doors as practical explanation for usability and why it is important to apply human-centered design in his book “The design of everyday things” 25 years ago (revision in 2013). Still some door designs confuses users (not to say cause much frustration) while applying a good design could be so easy. See the funny video:


Driving Style of Autonomous Vehicles

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Jaguar Land Rover investigates how a natural driving styles (meaning driving styles from everyday drivers on the roads) could be adapted into an autonomous vehicle. Basis for the data comes from instrumented vehicles which collect data to understand the everyday driving style and then to apply that into an autonomous vehicle. The research strategy contributes to find a way to make highly automated or autonomous cars more trustworthy. Trust is a challenge for new technology, bound strongly to acceptance of new technology. Certainly, as humans, we tend to trust things more if their behaviour is similar to our own (see also my previous blog on automation and trust). However, the driving style varies dependent on the driver’s personality, experience, driving environment, and purpose of the travel. Occasionally a usually calm driver changes his / her driving style if the purpose of travel is urgent, e.g., a family member is sick and awaits the visit. On another occasion one might just want to enjoy the beautiful landscape without any other specific purpose of travel. That again influences the driving style. Of how much the driving style changes is a question to be answered.

The vehicle could ask for the purpose of travel and try to associate a driving style to that. Asking a user helps in general to understand the intentions of the task that the user wants to do and so to provide better service. However, it involves a trade-off of receiving the knowledge to deliver a better service and asking too much, making the user impatient.

To implement human like behaviour into autonomous cars occurs as trend. I found a report from last year that Google is doing research in that area as well. The report reveals another important reason to adopt human like behaviour in a car. Whereas autonomous cars are great in following rules such a behaviour can result literally in a roadblock in the unexpected environment of everyday travel. A rule is, for example, to never go over double yellow lines marking the edge of the road. Now, if a car parks in a way that another car cannot pass on the street without going over the yellow line a natural driver behaviour would be to just go over the double yellow lines. An autonomous wouldn’t do that. For no understandable reason, for the driver, it would recalculate the route. Another issue is the faster reaction time of autonomous vehicles, letting autonomous vehicles come to an abrupt stop when they sense a pedestrian. It results in a challenge for human drivers behind who are not so fast to react. Implementing adaptive human like strategies in autonomous cars helps them to deal with an environment where not everything is working along the rules, but also makes their behaviour more understanding for a human and brings their skills to level where they can interact safely with human traffic participants surrounding them.

See here for details directly at the Jaguar Land Rover website.

3D Printed Maps in Braille

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Another nice idea to take advantage of 3D printers – maps in Braille. For blind people it can be challenging to find their way in a new environment and existing maps that are installed in the buildings tend to have only limited Braille labels (if any at all). A 3D printed map specifically designed for the needs of visually impaired or blind people of, e.g.  a university building, could enable them to find their way more confident. The maps are portable, in size of a tablet. The maps are developed in the Rutgers University School of Engineering.

See here for more details.

Paper prototyping – 2D and 3D

February 21, 2016 Leave a comment

What is it

Paper prototyping is a classic method for usability testing, specifically in the early stages of the product development process. Jakob Nielsen described the method in his blog as one of the fastest and cheapest rapid prototyping methods in the design process. All it needs is an idea for the conceptual interface design, paper, scissors, and glue. The conceptual design of an interface is sketched on paper. The paper sketches are shown to a user who is then asked to fulfil a task on the interface. The user then e.g., presses a button and in consequence the designer (playing the “computer) changes the picture in front of the user. Users can interact with the paper interface as they would do with a real product. It is an easy method to compare different conceptual designs without worrying about the implementation. Paper prototypes should be simple and should not include a finalised colour concept or high quality graphics as that is not what a paper prototype helps to evaluate. At best it is simply a sketch. The following characteristics of an interface can be evaluated with a paper prototype:

  • General Concept
  • Understandability
  • Navigation
  • Information Architecture
  • Functional Requirements (test if complete to fulfil the task)

How does it work in general

The video shows how a paper prototype and interaction with it look like. Different menus, tool tips and pop-ups, all that can be designed. Remember to think about which tasks you want to evaluate and how they can be achieved in the interface. What interactions does the user need to make? For each interaction an according change in the paper needs to be prepared. Users might take different interactions then expected. So prepare paper prototype “reactions” for unexpected interactions as well. That could be a site with “lorem ipsum” or just a blank page with “under construction”. Those preparations help to let the user explore the interface and helps you to see where users have difficulties in getting along with the interface. Are the actions might want to take to fulfil the task clearly presented in the interface? Does the user get apropriate feedback for each interaction he/she does on the interface?

The advantage of a paper prototype is that it can be easy redesigned. In the next iteration you could, e.g., try a different concept or rename a menu and see if that supports the user to better fulfil the task. You do not need many users for a usability test. According to Jakob Nielsen about 85% of usability faults can be found with about 5 users (“Why you need to test with 5 users”).

If you want to read more about paper prototyping, Carolyn Snyder wrote a book about it.

Paper prototypes in 3D

I recently came over an article were paper prototyping is applied to a 3D design. The article from Säde et al. (1998) is quite old, but because of the 3D paper prototype I thought of it worth explaining herein. They used a paper prototype to test a design for a drink can refund machine. The prototype was build out of foamcore cardboard, glued together with a glue pistol. The interface was represented by coloured print-outs. Lights in the interface were represented as coloured paper attached to the panel. To design 3D paper prototypes it is way to look at industrial designers. Here is another example for a 3D paper prototype of a toaster (yes, a toaster):

Last but not least you find some tools for paper prototypes on the bottom of this website. More information of how to to design 3D paper prototypes with cardboard can be found on this website.

Other Sources:

Säde, S., Nieminen, M., and Riihiaho, S. (1998). “Testing usability with 3D paper prototypes – Case Halton System”

Jakob Nielsen (2003). “Paper Prototyping: Getting User Data Before You Code”. (online) https://www.nngroup.com/articles/paper-prototyping/