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Reflected Spaces

Introduction

As part of my work for my Master's degree (in "Interface and Interaction Design" under Jos van Leeuwen), I worked in a team of four to design an exploratory HCI installation. My team went beyond the scope of the class by constructing the exhibit and running it in a public space for over a week.

Definition

The project prompt read as follows:

"Students will design an information service that connects to the physical world of its users. The context, audience, users, objectives, and workflow are to be determined by the students. In this project, the students will emphasize the detail of the interface design as well as the usage aspects of the service in its chosen context in a video sketch."

Design

The prompt was open to interpretation by design. Although we had no client to please, my team nonetheless needed to reach an internal consensus regarding how we would approach the problem. We used brainstorming and sketching as a way to develop shared ideas. This led us to the concept of Reflected Spaces.

We described a public display that would act as a mirror--immediately projecting a reflection of the surrounding area. The system would simultaneously overlay a previously-recorded video feed of the same area. In this way, viewers could interact with "ghosts" (previously-recorded individuals) when viewing the installation.

Our goal was to make people more aware of their daily routines and encourage them to break those routines--especially as they related to so-called "familiar strangers".

Implementation

Although not required by our course, wmy team was interested in developing this design into a working prototype. Over the course of a week, we outfitted an unused space the the University of Madeira with two projectors, a screen, an iMac, and a digital video camera. The camera was situated atop the screen and connected directly to the first projector. This setup simulated a mirror on the projection surface. The second projector was directed at the same screen, but used the computer as a video source. The computer played back previous recordings, providing the "ghost" images.

Reaction

We ran the installation for just over a week and thanks to a great location in the university's main foyer, a great number of students were exposed to our project. We received highly positive feedback from the student body. Although many were content to simply stand and watch, we witnessed a good deal of participation and experimentation in the audience. As I learned from Golan Levin, it can be difficult to measure the "success" of any speculative piece, but I feel the discussion which the installation inspired was reward enough.

@ a Glance...

  • Duration: 1 month
  • Team mates: 3 (2 undergraduate-level CS majors, 1 graduate-level HCI major)
  • Responsibilities: wireframing, construction