I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.


Master’s Capstone Project
Spring/Summer 2009
School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Team: Michelle Li
Role: Everything
Process blog

To lose one’s marbles is an expression meaning to lose one’s mind or to forget. I play on this phrase for my concept direction. Baby Boomers are afraid of forgetting, whether through the natural aging process of inheriting Alzheimer’s Disease. Marbles harken back to childhood nostalgia; they can be used as playful, portable, tangible devices to store tidbits of memories for reflection, sharing and exploration.

Memorables is composed of a set of devices designed for recording, playing and transferring/sharing memories. Pictures, sounds, videos, and text can be transferred to marbles via the Recorder device. Memories can be transferred between people through the simple click of two marbles together. Memory players come in multiple forms that play on the various tactile qualities of marbles, whether it be swirling a handful in the Mixer bowl or stacking them in the Tumbler. The Reminder system is a portable way of carrying and displaying reminder events and lists.

Scope Definition
I chose to focus my research and design on aging baby boomers. I found this group especially interesting as the demographic shift is monumental and global and the aging population will be more healthy, affluent, educated, and active than ever. I believe it is important for design to be universal and transgenerational, however, there is little focus on designing for this new aging demographic. Therefore, it was interesting to research and to find new design opportunities that addresses the needs of this group, whether it be communication, lifestyle, health, hobbies/interests, psychological/sociological, etc.

User Research & Concept Direction
The wonderful thing about the aging Baby Boomers I interviewed, as opposed to the current elderly population, is that they enjoy staying active through hobbies, sports and enjoyable activities. Another thing is their engagement in play to stimulate their minds as well as maintain social connectedness. I researched existing tangible, playful forms, and brainstormed ideas for possible design opportunities.

Physical Prototpying
To implement a working model of my memory marbles as proof of concept, I looked into various possible technologies for the detection of marbles and transfer/reading of data. RFID and Bluetooth were the most common and appropriate technologies for an ideal implementation. Due to project time constraints, I decided to simulate a working interactive model using micro-controllers and sensors to communicate between the physical model and PC. Light sensors installed underneath the physical model are triggered when marbles are placed on top, effectively blocking light input, and signals are sent to the Processing program to output audio/visual displays.