User Testing

For my user tests, I surveyed 7 individuals with somewhat consistent questions which evolved slightly as I received more feedback and my idea began to transform. Here is the functional diagram which I presented to my users as a visual while explaining my concepts:


After presenting and explaining the concepts, I asked the following questions:

Which of these concepts appeals to you the most?
Can you see yourself using any of these items in your everyday life?
Please expand upon the item you think appeals the most to you. Why does this appeal to you? What uses do you think you could find for this prototype outside of the intended uses presented?
Which direction would you rather the concept be pushed in: Purely decorative or more functional?

I then had about a 5-10 minute expanded conversation about the concepts with each individual, noting their ideas/advice/reactions and asking follow up questions to expand upon their comments.

This is an overall summary of the reactions that I received:

Prototype 1 (Clock):

Most users thought that this concept was interesting in a decorative manner, but did not seem very enthused or excited about it. There was an overall feeling that in order for this concept to work, the lights had to have a  much more organic/soft/slow feel, or it would soon become distracting and annoying. While this item does technically have a function (counting to 30), most users couldn't think of any situation in which they'd use this. I think that this functionality could be incorporated as an alternate mode, however I'm not too excited about it and I think that I will probably leave it out of the final prototype. I think that a more organic and random pattern would be more interesting if I'm going to include a passive decorative display.

Prototype 2 (Braille):

This concept showed the strongest amount of interest from users, however I quickly realized that the way I had currently imagined it being implemented was not realizing the full potential and possibilities of the device. After taking several combined comments into consideration, I realized that I could show passage of time as a representation of the rhythm of communication. A seemingly random pattern of dots, changing with the PWM glow of the outer ring, could actually be conveying a message to those able to read the braille language. This message would eventually be programmable via USB/serial interface and a GUI application, allowing the user to use the device as a light-based communication protocol.

Prototype 3 (NightLight):

User response to this concept was generally favorable and interested. Users did not seem to react to this as being enough of a concept on its own, however they reacted very favorably to this functionality as a secondary/extra mode of the device. I think that I will incorporate this mode if I have space for it as far as PWM pins go, but if it hinders my ability to create a really solid version of prototype 2 I will leave it out.

User Scenarios

Here are some use scenarios for my Visual Braille Communication Device

User 1-Geraldo

Geraldo is a 10 year old boy who is interested in secret messages, encrption, and communication. He loves to learn new ways to encode and transmit messages, imagining himself as a war-time spy passing sensitive information to other spies behind enemy lines. Geraldo is interested in the VBCD because it allows him to learn a language that is easily decrypted by someone who is trained and completely meaningless to the vast majority of individuals who are not. He sees value in the fact that the vast majority of individuals who can read Braille can not interpret the device, making the device an extremely interesting and secure way for him to transmit his messages. Geraldo recruits his friend across the street, Bill, who is also interested in secret messages, and together they spend the summer perfecting their ability to read and decode each others messages, spending late nights talking to each other while their parents are fast asleep.

User 2-Montell

Montell is a 25 year old IT professional who lives in Manhattan. He has recently moved into a new apartment and needs something decorative for his walls. He is very much into technology and appreciates all things digital, and wants something that will look decorative but also allow him to modify it programmatically. The VBCD appeals to him as a wall mounted device because of its simple/elegant look (this version is made of wood), its high-tech functionality, and its night-light functionality which allows him to avoid bumping his legs on his furniture when he wakes up late at night to get a drink or go to the bathroom. He also finds the soothing nightlight patterns gently put him to sleep and help clear his mind from his day's work.

User 3-Ricky

Ricky is a 40 year old middle school teacher who is looking for a creative way to teach her class about alternate forms of language and disabilities. As a classroom exercise, she uses the VBCD with her students to explain to them how the Braille language works, and then she breaks them into groups and has them create their own Braille messages on devices. The students then stand across the classroom and take turns trying to read each other's messages, and doing so gain the experience of understanding the overall way in which blind people communicate.