Kristina Rakestraw
Kristina Rakestraw
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Modus Cube | enhancing Productivity at Work

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Modus Cube | enhancing productivity at work

 

TIMELINE
Winter 2017
2 weeks

TYPE
MHCI+D prototype course at UW  

TEAM
Andrew Shiau
Brian Nguyen

FOCUS
Rapid Prototyping

MY CONTRIBUTION
Fabrication

 
 

The Problem

 

Open work environments are great for sharing ideas, but can be challenging when it comes to maintaining productivity. To address this issue, we set out to create a non-verbal communication tool for teams in order to address the cost of interruption and ensure collaboration happens effectively and efficiently.

 
 

Final Concept

 
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Modus Cube is a 2-1/2 inch frosted cube that changes color upon rotation to signal a status. It allows people to visually display their working status in an effort to increase focused work time and foster intentional collaboration. By explicitly declaring this information in a fun and non-invasive way, an individual’s availability is mediated through the cube thus leading to a better working environment. Rather than create a prototype that would attempt to replace or change the way communication occurs in collaborative workspaces, we felt that a prototype that augments the current interactions would be more valuable.

 
 
 
 
 
 

How it Works

 

Users can rotate the cube to let others know their current status. 

 
 
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Research

 

Our Approach

 

We conducted research that included topics such as mediating communication, supporting teamwork through robots, and current processes for displaying status in a work setting.

 
 

Mediating communication

We saw immense value in exploring ways of mediating communication, and were reminded that “mediating communication requires a social context” [1]. Rather than focus on the computational aspect of interfaces, we wanted to explore the “sociocultural” aspects of software. For example, the effects that software can play on current behavior, especially in areas where it could improve interaction between people. We looked into social computing which is the “study of user interfaces that mediate human communication” [1].

 

Supporting teamwork

Malte Jung is a Human-Robot interaction researcher who studies the profound impact robots have on building and fostering teamwork between people. We found this concept relevant and transferable to non-robot form factors. Malte found that “robots impact teamwork not only through the task-specific functions the have been developed to serve but also by changing the social dynamics of the team.” [2] His focus is around perceived conflict, which is essentially the moment before real conflict or frustration exhilarates. Malte found correlation between how a team manages conflict to how effective the team is in their work.  

 

Displaying a Status

Slack, a communication tool that is rapidly integrating into many offices and collaborative studios, added a new feature that integrates a person’s status as part of their display. This feature “offers five default statuses for situations like “in a meeting” or “out sick,” but of course you can also set a custom status with more personal detail.” [3] Using status allows clearer communication between team members, however we discovered that doing this online might add unwanted distractions. We became interested in finding a way to display status offline, in a physical form that could be displayed in a public space. The downsides to the added slack feature was that it require widespread buy-in. [4] When people don’t stick to the status options that everyone understands and chose to display “wacky emojis, it scrambles the meaning of status-update system.”[4] With over “four million daily users on Slack” wearing “their status on their sleeves,” it is easy to scan for social cues. There was mention of how “the statuses could be a useful signal when someone doesn’t want to be bothered,” such as a “focus mode.”[4]

 
 

Sources

[1] Ko, Andy. What interfaces mediate. User Interface Software and Technology. http://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/uist/mediation.html
[2] Jung, M. F., Martelaro, N., & Hinds, P. J. (2015). Using robots to moderate team conflict: the case of repairing violations. In Proceedings of HRI 2015 (pp. 229-236). ACM
[3] “Slack adds status messages, a feature it should have had on day one.” Engadget. https://www.engadget.com/2017/04/13/slack-adds-status-updates-away-messages/
[4] “The Dark Side of Slack’s New Emoji Statuses.” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/the-dark-side-of-slacks-new-emoji-statuses/523314/

 
 

Ideation

 

Brainstorming

 
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Braiding Design Exercise

 

Generating a comprehensive ideation suite involved individually brainstorming ideas that matched our idea of visualizing weather, both literally and figuratively – such as mood.

 
 

Narrowing and Refinement

 

From our ideation suite, six ideas were selected. In order to reduce to two concepts for our comparative analysis, user testing was conducted on the desirability of each concept. 

 
 

Comparative Analysis

 

After refining the concepts further, Weather Globe and Empathy Cube were assessed by four testers. In this stage, feasibility and viability were evaluated alongside desirability for a holistic critique of the concepts. We proceeded with Empathy Cube after user feedback illuminated it best achieved these three goals. 

 
 
  01 Empathy Cube  The initial concept was to visualize ones mood in a collaborative work space. After initial testing, it was clear that broadcasting one’s mood could be intrusive, so we pivoted to broadcasting one’s status in their work flow. 

01 Empathy Cube
The initial concept was to visualize ones mood in a collaborative work space. After initial testing, it was clear that broadcasting one’s mood could be intrusive, so we pivoted to broadcasting one’s status in their work flow. 

 
  02 Weather Globe  Rather than using a phone application or voice interface (active input), one could simply look at the snow globe in order to know what the weather was outside.

02 Weather Globe
Rather than using a phone application or voice interface (active input), one could simply look at the snow globe in order to know what the weather was outside.

 
 
 

Fabrication

 

TOOLS USED
Rhino 3D
Laser Cutter
Soldering Tools
Arduino

 
 
 
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Results

 
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Reflection

 

What we learned

 

We learned that we can accomplish a lot in two short weeks when we are all passionate about a single idea. There is a steep challenge in turning any idea into a physical artifact, but having a supportive and passionate team makes this challenge worthwhile. In assessing what parts were needed to bring Modus Cube to life, we realized that we would be taking a risk in trying out parts that were very dissimilar to hardware that we had not used before. This was especially true with the GY521 MPU6050 unit, as we encountered many obstacles in trying to get it to work.