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Faking the Future

Basheer Tome

UX designers try and offload all their problems to the hardware controller. The industrial designers want a perfect black obelisk and leave the controls to the UX.

Worked on Google Cardboard as a way to rapidly show off the potential for VR. After the success of this, they moved on to making Daydream to solve the key problem of needing to hold cardboard in place. Wanted to make a comfortable to wear device, not that giant black boxes of their competitors. Daydream also comes with a simple controller.

Common mistake when prototyping hardware is to start from scratch with breadboards, etc. Often you can actually get 75% of the way to your goal with some cheap existing device.

Split up prototyping into two parts:

  • form prototyping
    • while working in 3D modelling and then 3D printing prototypes is fast and fun, the experience from virtual to physical often doesn’t translate well
    • start analogue and always stay in 3D
    • Sculpey for modelling device form
    • kitbashing - tearing apart other hardware and smashing the pieces into prototypes
      • tear down and organize everything
      • combine with Sculpey to make a device form
      • then observe how people pick it up, hold it and use it
    • you don’t need to 3D print everything - cardboard and foam core and cheap, accessible and fast
    • take notes physically on your prototypes
    • order a sample kit of snap domes and tape them on to button prototypes to add an actual click feel
      • helps people react more accurately to the device and provide more accurate feedback
    • add pinewood derby sticky weights to add heft
  • interaction prototyping
    • don’t underestimate the power of an old phone
      • they are full of connectivity and sensors that are more than sufficient for figuring things out
    • used vinyl overlays on a phone running an app to simulate the button interactions

Very late in the game they eventually hooked an Arduino to the controller prototype to feel it working. Then a custom board and then very near the end they combine everything into a form complete prototype.

“Keep your unknowns to a minimum”

For rapidly prototyping fine details, it can be worth getting parts machined (plastic or aluminum). This enables you to test out things that are sensitive to touch - ie. can your finger feel a detail on a button to help identify the button. Sometimes only a few millimetres can make all the difference.