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Share your context

July 8th, 2010

Hugo Christiaans, one of my students, has done an excellent project, namely Share Your Context, about contextual information exchange.

[PDF, 2M] Share your context

Summary of the report:

Share your context

Non face‐to‐face communication of social and emotional experiences between people happens nowadays through phone or other media like email, IM (Instant Message), webcam and other virtual communities such as Second Life. Share experiences, express creativity and maintain easily contacts have made these virtual worlds very popular for millions of Internet users. To support the communication in these worlds emoticons are often used. This form of context is a combination of different states (physical, information, social and emotional), which help the receivers too understand the received information right.

To explore new opportunities, using context as well virtual worlds, the project was divided in three iterations of 3, 5 and 8 weeks. During these iterations different possibilities were explored and different prototypes were build. Although that after the first two iterations the target group was changed into grandchildren and grandparents, the information gathered during these iterations was still useful for the development of the final product.

The first iteration, done in three weeks, was about exploring the project theme and get more familiar with the idea of contextual information exchange and how others perceive this context. The idea of helping the students of the TU/e in their development as a designer was chosen. To make this possible, a tangible object (An abstract 3D representation of the main TU/e building) was designed. The object provides information about the activities in the different spaces of the ID environment and which space is interesting for the student’s development. Connected to the digital learning environment of ID‐compass, where the students can upload their personal development plan (PDP), the device is able to show the students which space is interesting for their development. To inform the student where to be, the device uses pulsating colours. The different colours represent the different spaces. After evaluating requirements were set for the second iteration.

For the second iteration, the design case of the client was used, which is based on the relationship between elderly and their adult children (Elderly – 65+, Adult 30 – 50). It’s obvious that ageing brings physical and cognitive problems, which makes elderly a vulnerable target group. There are different types of elderly. Some are very active and have a busy social life while others are lonely. Also there are elderly who are very interested in the development of technology while others are more conservative. But in all cases the contact is very important and especially with the family. To get more insight in the relation between the target groups, interviews were held. The information, gathered from these interviews, showed that both parties mention that they have a positive relationship and regular contact with each other. The common ground for this contact is the exchange of information about their activities and their wellbeing. An interesting outcome was that most elderly would not want to be more involved in the life of their children due to privacy while the children would have a safer feeling if they were more involved in their parents life, because the vulnerability of their parents.

Requirements, like, the product should work intuitive, the product has to be functional, the product has to fit in the environment of the user and the product should respect the privacy of the users, were generated from the iteration and interviews and taken into the development of the product. Eventually a “morphing clock” was designed. Why a clock? A clock is original designed to indicate time, so people know in which hour of the day they live. Link the morphing shapes to the time and the users of the clock can easily interpret the context given by the clock. The concept contains two clocks that are placed by the elder and adult and informs each other about critical events. With respect to the privacy there is chosen to show only critical events. To measure these certain “critical events”, the clocks scan the environment for changes in the loudness of sounds. Although the clock constantly monitors the environment, it only sends information when a certain loudness border is exceeded. The different shapes, which are generated by the frequency, loudness and duration of the event, appear on the side of the clock. To create a playful interaction these shapes will appear at randomly places. To indicate when an event has taken place, LED’s light up at the specific time of the event. Twenty‐four hours after the last event, the shape of the clock will slowly transform again to its original round shape.

The clock is also linked to a virtual world and in this case to SecondLife (SL). The virtual clock is representations of original one are synchronize, so the two clocks have identically shapes when an event takes place. Users of SL. are able to check the morphing clock form every place in the world when they have access to a computer with an Internet connection. The clock in SL. is able to record the critical events. When people want to know more about a certain event they can choose to login in SL. and get more detailed information about the specific event. Eventually this product was evaluated. An important conclusion is that this product probably wont be used in combination with SL, which means that the client can’t use this product for his design case.

During the final iteration an alternative for SecondLife was found. Although the chosen alternative is also a social network, the environment is much more synoptic. There is chosen to use the Dutch ‘Hyves’ network. Hyves has ten million users with an average age of 27. Although the average is 27, research shows that these kind of social networks are most popular with children between the ages 17 – 24. Therefore there is chosen to set the design case into improving the relation between grandparent and grandchild.

Grandchildren see their grandparents average two times a month. This provides more opportunities in comparison with the target group elder ‐ adult. Although the relation between grandparent and grandchild differs from elder and adult, the reasons for contacting are the same. Only now the challenge was to find an opportunity that blurs the generation gap between grandchild and grandparent. A questionnaire showed that the amount of conversation items is low between them. This causes that grandchildren find having contact two times a month enough, while the grandparents want to see them as much as possible.

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