Visit: Digit London – 27/02/08

On 27th February 2007, I visited the offices of Digit London, a design and interaction company based in East London.

Whilst there, I had the chance to try out one of the interactive installations created by Digit for a Motorola product launch which consisted of a virtual spray painting interface. Using a spray can with sensors and switches built in, it is possible to spray in different colours on to a screen which provides feedback in the form of a graphical spray paint effect and a continuous sound which varies according to where you spray on the surface. The spray can control device used to ‘spray’ the surface allowed for colour changing as well as stroke adjustment by altering the spray can’s angle and distance from the surface, resulting in a variety of results. The system also provided souvenir outputs by way of a wallpaper of the tag that you create, and a ring tone of your tag.

Whilst at Digit, I met a number of the designers who I spoke to about my research and experimental work. We also shared ideas about the research and development of the WiiMote touch interface, as this is something which they were also experimenting with.

The thing that really struck me about Digit is that they have some really interesting working practices which I think encourage a more exciting and open-minded approach to interaction design. For example, there seemed to be an emphasis on research and development, both during and in between projects, which allowed them time to both try out new ideas and develop new skills. I was also interested in finding out about how, as a company, they approach a new brief. Shawn Bonkowski, Interaction Designer, explained that most of the web based projects, dependent on the requirements, would take anywhere between 2 and 6 months to develop. Within the initial planning stages of each project, the whole office would participate in brainstorming, allowing anyone, from any role, to contribute ideas to what they might develop.

We also discussed the role of sound within interaction and addressed to some of the issues that should be considered during the design phase. Shawn pointed out that one of the main roles of sound within any interaction is that it is a form of feedback – it informs a person that they have affected a system in some way. Within screen-based interaction, for example, sound represents one way for the computer to make up for the lack of tactile response that a physical interface would provide.In discussing the process of implementing sound within interaction design, we agreed that sound cannot be implemented for the sake of it; it needs to be thoroughly considered and selected because it appropriate to the project. Sound should also provide audio associations with the visual things going on within the interactive experience.

One of the issues that I have also become interested in is in looking at the ways in which interactive design can be made more intuitive for the user. One of the main issues raised by Shawn was that, for interaction design to be intuitive and playful, you still need to offer some form of prompt for the user, in effect, a first step in the journey of navigating and experiencing whatever it is that the user is engaging with. I think this is also relevant to my interest in experimenting with alternative controls; whilst it seems like a interesting idea to explore the alternatives to traditional control interfaces, it is also important to remember that they have been implemented for a reason; that reason being that traditional controls make use of prior knowledge as a reference point for the user to be able to guess what they might do.

One way in which we can attempt to develop more user friendly interactive controls is by looking at peoples everyday physical interactions in order to recognise patterns of use and behaviours which can be adopted in interaction design. One of the good suggestions that I think I’ll implement within research for my project is that of recording people using the interfaces that I develop at the interim show in order to try to get an idea of how different people get on with the systems that I devise. Through these observations, I’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Digit – I think that their innovative approach to interaction design and their flexibility in terms of output have allowed them to develop a really broad and exciting portfolio of work. Talking to designers at digit about the research and development work that they do really inspired me to continue trying out new things.

Some useful links that Digit gave me:

Processing

Kinetica Museum

Digital Experience

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