The Answering Machine
The Answering Machine is an installation at the UW that will allow students and visitors to leave advice for future students to come.
We designed an advice phone that has a bank of questions and answers that are related to the design major. The advice phone is supposed to be located within a major’s building to make it spatially relevant.
1. Sensor based
2. Must include a physical component
3. Beneficial to the UW in some way
4. Built and working by the end of 10 weeks
We prepared two surveys and a number of interviews with students and alumni of the school to gauge how connected they felt with the UW and its community.
From our findings, students were generally ambivalent towards the school and its community. They did not feel like they left much of an impact nor cared about doing so. However, 70% of participants were of clubs and organizations which did benefit the UW community. It seemed contradictory.
Students did not feel as though their involvement with clubs and their department had much to do with the UW brand as a whole. They did however, feel strongly towards their departments and wished to give back to their individual communities through mentorship.
“How might we harness individual voices to have larger conversations to benefit majors?”
In designing for the UW community, we structured the campus body into a pyramid.
UW = the school as a whole and included faculty and administration.
Majors = departments and the faculty and students who were apart of it.
Students = the student body at whole including incoming freshman
This did not meant to represent a hierarchy of power, rather, we wanted to visualize the disconnect between Students and the UW based on our findings. The relationships Students had were felt most strongly through their Majors. Meanwhile, faculty and heads within Majors were the ones communicating with the UW for resources that would benefit their departments.
In noticing these relationships between these groups, we came up with three proposals.
A environment contextual kiosk that would let students record testimonials for technology and resources the their department needed.
A proximity based auditory experience which would connect students to other student who wanted mentorship or advice.
A departmental kiosk which would allow visitors to ask questions about the department. Questions would be answered by anyone from the department: students, professors, etc.
From our assessment of what was most feasible financially, operationally, legally, and technically, we went forward with the Advice Kiosk.
In shooting around ideas, we came up with using an old, corded phone as our recording device. Inspired by movies and shows where the protagonist is alerted to a ringing payphone, we thought it would be cool if that were the installation's attraction factor. Initially we wanted to use motion sensors to trigger this.
We were attached to the idea of a kiosk as our space for this experience. A semi-private, cozy space would allow for users to comfortably and clearly record their questions or advice. However, we were worried that on top of the technical challenges, we would not have the time to build an entire kiosk given our lack of experience. We opted for a table and a cozy chair as our intimate setting.
User asks question --> Installation gives answer
Installation asks question --> User answers question
User browses previous responses
User browses questions
We needed to figure out how to best prompt users to input their questions and for the installation to output advice for the users. We thought about pairing the phone with a small tablet as well using a traditional paper and pen, advice box. The installation would also need to store those recordings and allow for users to browse previous recordings.
LOW FIDELITY PROTOTYPE
We decided to build two cardboard prototypes for the Wizard of Oz testing.
CUI Prototype: Phone + Advice box
For the most part, all information would be exchanged through the phone. Users would write their questions to submit into an advice box which would be reviewed before being added to the installation.
GUI Prototype: Phone + Tablet
Users would navigate a screen with all questions and answers. The phone would simply be used to record and listen to responses.
Phone Dialogue Flowchart
Phone + Advice Box
Phone + Screen
Neither prototype was vastly preferred over the other; both had their share of issues. The CUI Only interface has the advantage of having one input mode at the cost of being a linear (lengthier) experience, whereas the GUI had the advantage of quicker navigation. While some testers expressed disdain for the automated phone system, they loved the idea of physical buttons for navigation. Many got the hang of our simple 4-button system very quickly. The analogue phone was a big selling point.
USER JOURNEY + FLOW STORYBOARDS
We redid the first pass of the screens and simplified them immensely. In restricting navigation to 1 dial + 2 buttons, we needed to be very frugal with the number of actions you could go to on a screen.