Design, through experience and interaction

If tech­ni­cal draw­ings are still used by design­ers, some, like Anne Gué­nand, research sci­en­tist and lec­tur­er in Indus­tri­al Design (GM-IDI) at UTC would like to intro­duce exper­i­men­ta­tion and inter­ac­tion with ‘objects’ as ear­ly as pos­si­ble in the design process. Both a hand-on pres­ence and sen­so­r­i­al inter­ac­tion are inte­grat­ed to the devices she has imag­ined, with a view to improv­ing the “togeth­er­ness” of all involved. 

The ques­tion is whether the numer­ous tools used to enable and enhance ‘geolo­calised’ meet­ings — gain­ing in momen­tum as they are — should be devot­ed only to look­ing for a soul-mates or indulging in car­nal pleasures? 

As Anne Gué­nand — in charge of the spe­cial­ty User eXpe­ri­ence Design in the Sci­ences and Tech­nolo­gies Mas­ter’s degree at UTC and who teach­es in the Indus­tri­al Design spe­cial­ty of the Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing elec­tive major (GM-IDI) — sees it, these tools could also serve to improve the “being togeth­er” in a wide vari­ety of man­ners. For this pur­pose, she has spent sev­er­al years devel­op­ing inno­va­tions for spe­cif­ic situations. 

B‑Pop, connected senior citizens

Her first inno­va­tion, bap­tized B‑Pop, was devolved from the obser­va­tion that as senior cit­i­zens grad­u­al­ly lose their sens­es, they find them­selves sig­nif­i­cant­ly cut off from the world. B‑Pop is a tool designed to com­pen­sate for sense loss via a con­nect­ed inter­face that some­what restores means to act to the user. 

“Per­cep­tion is the key­stone to all actions and action itself enhances per­cep­tion”, explains Anne Gué­nand, under­scor­ing that the pos­i­tive feed­back of per­cep­tive expe­ri­ence. B‑Pop allows the per­son to sense the pres­ence of near­by peo­ple and ser­vices thanks to a Smart­phone “App” and the Inter­net. The user is geolo­calised and all the ser­vices not­ed by the “app” are noti­fied to the user as well as the list of rel­e­vant con­tacts in the plat­form base. 

A device co-developed with the end-users

“We real­ized, work­ing for some 3 years with the senior cit­i­zen Soiron Club, that the users did not in fact wish to ben­e­fit from an addi­tion­al tech­ni­cal aid, but rather an aid to repo­si­tion them­selves as sub­jects who had regained a degree of auton­o­my”, notes Anne Gué­nand. B‑Pop was co-devel­oped with the club mem­bers — i.e., it is a bot­tom-up devel­op­ment, inspired by the real needs expressed by the users. 

Today, fur­ther devel­op­ment of the device is in the hands of a start-up com­pa­ny, part of the local ecosys­tem for inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty in Com­pieg­ne, with the objec­tive to pro­vide this ser­vice free of charge to the local seniors. “My role con­sist­ed of ini­ti­at­ing the project and assur­ing the fol­low-through to see that it real­ly came up to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries’ expec­ta­tions”, details our research sci­en­tist. The project — with finan­cial sup­port from the Picardie region­al author­i­ties — is man­aged by a steer­ing com­mit­tee that groups togeth­er the Picardie Region, the Depart­ment Oise, Greater Com­pieg­ne, the CCAS, UTC, the Insti­tute Godin and the Club Soiron. 

Fragility and “universal design”

Today this device is being exper­i­ment­ed with var­i­ous groups of senior cit­i­zens liv­ing in and around Com­pieg­ne. This phase should then lead on to the Oise Depart­ment, the spread to the Region, to France and there­after be launched inter­na­tion­al­ly. Indeed, it requires only a min­i­mum amount of adap­ta­tion to be use­able in oth­er coun­tries and it remains iden­ti­cal I terms of resources, what­ev­er the num­ber of per­sons con­nect­ed to the platform.B‑Pop began in 2013 as the win­ner of a call for a show of inter­est for the social and sol­i­dar­i­ty eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy of the Picardie Region. 

“I have always been inter­est­ed in “frag­ile” sit­u­a­tions and my research in design work was focused on “uni­ver­sal” design” con­cepts”, under­lines Anne Gué­nand. The idea was to design equip­ment that would prove use­ful and/or acces­si­ble to every­one, and not leave any­one out. As she sees things, “a good design is one that is uni­ver­sal in its appli­ca­tions; it must com­ply with the needs expressed by some, offer ser­vices to many oth­ers and be use­ful to all”. 

An exam­ple of such a uni­ver­sal design as an access ramp: absolute­ly vital for hand­i­capped per­sons with reduced mobil­i­ty, prac­ti­cal for a great many oth­ers and used by all. Accord­ing to our design spe­cial­ist “France was lag­ging behind the North­ern Euro­pean coun­tries in this area but is now becom­ing increas­ing aware of the issues and ongo­ing changes”. 

Innovation through experience

The con­cept of uni­ver­sal design is gain­ing ground and the objects cre­at­ed are rather orig­i­nal, and pleas­ant. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, a design­er will start work on a draw­ing before mak­ing the first object mock-ups, where­as uni­ver­sal design pro­pos­es vert rapid exper­i­men­ta­tion of the object and its uses(s). “The inter­ac­tions you have with the object quick­ly under­score the phys­i­cal and oper­a­tional lim­its and open the paths to new expe­ri­ences”, says Anne Gué­nand for whom design work is decid­ed­ly user-expe­ri­ence-dri­ven. The Mas­ter User Expe­ri­ence Design sec­tion that she heads, based on this prin­ci­ple, helps stu­dents learn how to design by experience. 

The so-called “Quick and Dirty mock-ups” are rapid­ly put togeth­er to explore the inter­ac­tions via sce­nario play scenes. By ‘stag­ing’ the inven­tions, you facil­i­tate emer­gence of the final shape. This approach is based on the the­o­ry of per­cep­tion that con­sid­ers the object not as some­thing inert on a shelf but as an object with which users interact. 

“The method is cre­ative inas­much as prac­tice opens up new pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of expe­ri­ences to come and design of new sociotech­ni­cal sys­tems”, notes the research work­er Guénand. 

LinkMe up, a ‘hands-on presence’ value

Inter­ac­tion lies at the heart of Anne Gué­nand’s research activ­i­ties, wit­ness her LinkMe Project. “At con­fer­ence venues, this device fol­lows the par­tic­i­pants and notes their inter­ac­tions, going as far as sug­gest­ing new con­tacts to meet”, she explains. LinkMe is a net­work­ing sys­tem with 150 badges, 7 sen­sor-equipped tables, a giant screen and an inter­ac­tive table which brings all the data togeth­er simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and in real-time. 

It was ini­tial­ly devel­oped in 2013, and test­ed suc­cess­ful­ly at the 4th Trem­plin (UTC alum­ni asso­ci­a­tion) god­fa­ther­ing event at UTC. The event brought togeth­er some 120 per­sons, half of whom were UTC alum­ni god­fa­ther­ing the oth­er half, viz., the stu­dents. “The device served as a social inter­play boost­er on the prin­ci­ple that ‘the friends of my friends are also my friends too’ ”, adds Anne Gué­nand. At an inter­na­tion­al UTC meet­ing, the objec­tive would con­sist of inte­grat­ing the ‘hands-on pres­ence’ in the core activ­i­ties of the con­fer­ence for the pur­pose of using the data col­lect­ed to set up the evening gala din­ner seat-plac­ing arrangements. 

Juke Box, when gesture marries music

“This new trend to pos­sess con­nect­ed objects reflects a desire to tool up the ‘togeth­er­ness’ feel­ing,” says Anne Gué­nand, for whom ‘togeth­er­ness’ also means ‘shar­ing’, for exam­ple one’s pre­ferred music at an evening event. How do you com­pose a play-list from music stored on peo­ples’ smart­phones? Juke Box is a sta­tion that can con­nect simul­ta­ne­ous­ly up to 6 oth­er devices and to play their music contents. 

The equip­ment has a very 1950s look about it, com­pris­ing a lumi­nous tube with a translu­cid ring round it that enables the ‘disk jock­ey to choose pieces by sim­ply mov­ing the smart­phone in the vicin­i­ty. “Here we present a device that makes shar­ing music a con­vivial activ­i­ty, with the device react­ing also to the way the ring is moved to choose the music”, adds Anne Gué­nand. A brisk move brings in a hot dance theme while a slow move sets up a lan­guorous, cheek-to-cheek, dance sequence. 

Today, the device is in its pro­to­type stage, with the aim to para­me­ter an opti­mal size and an accept­able price tag. It is ele­gant and unex­pect­ed design, and its oper­a­tion is sim­ple and very intu­itive. And just like the LinkMe device above, the Juke Box has the pos­si­bil­i­ty of invok­ing aug­ment­ed social rela­tion­ship real­i­ty, help­ing to share the choic­es that make the ambi­ence of a musi­cal evening After 15 years at the UTC-Rober­val Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Anne Gué­nand moved over to the Costech Lab to join the Cog­ni­tion Research and Enac­tion Design team. 

And today, even if the tech­ni­cal dimen­sions in inno­v­a­tive work are unavoid­able, Anne still feels that cre­ativ­i­ty depends above all oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions on the expe­ri­ence a per­son has, and his or her active per­cep­tion of the envi­ron­ment and pos­si­ble cours­es of action open and that remain to be invented. 

“Unabat­ed ratio­nal­iza­tion has forced indus­tri­al­ists to design objects that are part­ly iden­ti­cal to oth­ers, since they com­ply with a strict­ly tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion, but do not take into account suf­fi­cient­ly the users’ real expe­ri­ence”, con­cludes Anne Gué­nand who sees here an end to a stan­dard­iza­tion trend. Con­sumers are get­ting sick and tired of see­ing uni­form prod­ucts and indus­tri­al­ists real­ly need to rethink their prod­ucts and there­by, hope­ful­ly, regain a degree of creativity. 

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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