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

Posts tagged ‘thesis’


Masters Thesis Exhibited: Memorables

After 2 intense months, my Masters class finally presented and exhibited our thesis projects. It was wonderful to see everyone’s hard work come to fruition. I was delighted to receive such positive feedback from viewers and to watch them physically

interact and play with the real models I had created. More details of the project is available here.



Microsoft’s Tangible Vision

I found a video from Microsoft Research envisioning applications for touch interfaces. What I found really neat was the similarity of the bowl idea to my marble player, in which media storage devices are thrown in and images are projected onto the si

des (@1:30 in the video).


Keyboard Modification

I took apart a keyboard to figure out the combination of signals required for various different keystrokes. By connecting switches to trigger a certain combination, a keystroke can then be sent to the PC as input to be processed by the computer progr




Inspiration: Bubblegum Sequencer

Bubblegum Sequencer is another inspirational tangible device allowing one to create drumloops by physically organizing gumballs a grid of holes.

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Technical Explorations

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. I ventured out to the Hong Kong RFID Centre in Shatin to take a look at the various forms (tags and readers) and uses in real applications. It was quite interesting, but the smallest RFID tags were still too big to be used with marbles (1.75cm diameter). Additionally, since RFID tag and reader must be placed parallel of each other for proper data transfer, tags inside a mable may end up sitting perpendicular to a reader because of the rolling nature of marbles resulting in no tag detection.


Due to project time constraints, I have decided to simulate a working interactive model using micro-controllers and switches to communicate between the physical model and PC. Switches installed in the physical model will be triggered by marbles that are inputted, and signals will be sent to a keyboard interface to activate a particular keystroke. A program running on the PC will then receive the keystroke as input and output audio and visual displays.


General technical overview of the actual implementation versus the ideal implementation.



Interaction Model & Rapid Prototyping

I conducted further interviews focused on memory recording, organizing, and sharing. In one instance, my interviewee showed me all her memory devices – PDA, cellphone calendar, appointment book – but her problem was that she always forgot to consult

them to check for important dates/appointments. Thus, I realized that a reminder system is another important feature for these Baby Boomers.



An interaction model of the Memory Marbles system.


I did some rapid prototyping to communicate my interaction concept and to give a better idea of the forms and scale of the model/system. Marbles can be carried and transported around in a pouch. On the memory player, once the marbles are enclosed inside the dome, the information can be read from the marbles and transmitted from the dome.


Likewise, to record memories from the PC to marbles, placing a dome over top the marbles will activate a wireless communication between the computer and marbles.



Inspiration: Math Marbles

In researching various forms of play, uses and applications involving marbles, I came across a nifty marble calculator. Not only does it really add binary numbers, the playful visualization and s

ounds make it a wonderful little contraption. Brilliant!


Memories Scientifically Visualized

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Source: http://www.eurekalert.org

For the past few weeks I have been thinking about memory as my thesis project aims to design around memory recording, sharing, and recollection. Thus, it was quite interesting to read that scientists have just recently captured images of memories being formed at which point new proteins are created at brain synapses. This provides a step forward in helping to understand the mechanism of long-term memory as well as the memory-related diseases and impairments.


Toy Street

In search of marbles I had to forage the streets of Hong Kong. Mainstream toy stores nowadays like Toys ‘R Us only stock the new, high-tech, “in” toys, but when I ask if they have simple marbles their automatic answer is “no.” I eventually found out

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about Tai Yuen Street, aka Toy Street, in Wan Chai that brings me into a bustling world of local street markets filled with the sounds of everyone trying to sell their wares. Lined along the sidewalk behind the street stalls are the toy stores stocked with old-style and simple toys like Play-Doh, wind-up robots and… marbles! The marble designs were quite homogeneous and plain, as opposed to all the wide varieties available to me as a kid (I remember boulders, godfathers, and peawees!), but nonetheless they were marbles I could use in my prototyping.



Marble Interactions

Exploring marble games and contraptions and different forms for my Memory Marbles.

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Sketching out possible interactions with Memory Marbles.




Projects Relating to Tangibility & Memory

I found two really interesting projects relating to my design concept: one dealing with small, tangible components that interact with each other, and the other dealing with memory capture and recall.

Siftables a

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re tangible blocks containing digital information/media that can interact with each other wirelessly by way of gestural motions, physical contact and proximity detection.

reQall is a memory aid system/service allowing one to capture, recall, remind and share information using a wide variety of platforms (text message, instant messaging, email or voice) and applications. In instances when you cannot write something down or are on the road, you can simple call reQall to say the information and the system will be able to interpret the natural language and organize your information according to the context of the reminder.

Really cool stuff!


Concept Direction: Lost Marbles

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

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‘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.

Below is an slide excerpt of my interim concept presentation.





Brainstorming: Play

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 t

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heir minds as well as maintain social connectedness. I researched existing tangible, playful forms, and brainstormed ideas for possible design opportunities.




Interviews with Baby Boomers

Using questionnaires and conducting interviews with my selected user group, Baby Boomers, gave me some new perspectives on this demographic. I asked general questions to get an idea of their childhood background and experiences, their outlooks and pe

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rspectives on aging, and their aspirations or concerns for the future. Interviewees defined getting old as “normal”, a “natural process”, “maturing in life experience, financially, and in social interactions”, when the “freshness of body and mind are no longer there”, and not being able to do things as before.

I found an interesting divide between the older Boomers who grew up in the West and those who grew up in Asia, particularly in their childhood experiences. Westerners typically enjoyed an enjoyable, fun-filled childhood, while their Asian counterparts endured poverty, civil war, and cultural revolution. As a result, I found that the Asian Boomers feel they have more reason to enjoy life after retirement since they never had the opportunities when they were younger.

There was also a difference between the younger Boomers (aged 43-52) and the older generation (53-63). The younger generation is more active and and more likely to consume social/digital media, however they expressed more concerns about finances, and family responsibility (as a caretaker for both children and parents). Older generations tend to use technology less, yet still yearn to learn or keep up-to-date with new technologies in order to maintain connections with the outside world.

It was interesting in uncovering these differences within my target group, however, I would like to focus on the more general similarities I found throughout my user research. For example, many view retirement as a new phase in which they can live an active and mobile lifestyle of travelling, volunteering, spending time with family/friends, learning something new, playing sports, or pursuing their hobbies. A common concern is, not surprisingly, that of health. They would like a knowledge of options available to them and want to avoid being a burden on their children. A few are particularly afraid of inheriting genetic diseases from their parents such as Alzheimer’s.


Masters Thesis: Initial Direction

I am about to embark on my final design project, on which I have chosen to focus on aging baby boomers. I find this group especially interesting as the demographic shift is monumental and global and the aging population will be more healthy, affluent

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, 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 would be interesting to research and find new design opportunities that would address the needs of this group, whether it be communication, lifestyle, health, hobbies/interests, psychological/sociological, etc.

Below are slides from my kickoff presentation.


The Baby Boomer generation refers to those born between 1946 and 1964. They grew up during decades of radical social, technological and economic change and thus are generally characterized as being idealistic, ideological and innovative. In 2006 the first Baby Boomer turned 60 years old.