Below you can see a movie I made of the final interaction prototype of my Vending Machine concept. The final concept is focused on interaction with the customer on a more ‘human’ level. The user can interact with the machine without using any buttons, or browsing menus.
The experience prototype building is well under way. All of the parts have been designed and created, so now comes the time for assembly. The prototype will be finished within 2 weeks or so. The first interaction movies are expected after that time, as well as a description of the final concept. For the moment this picture will have to do:
The obvious next step after the ‘Curious Coffee’ experiment was to upscale it, and see what the combined effect would be. This movie shows what happens when 6 soda cans acquire the ability to perceive.
In this movie you can already see different behaviors emerge from the sensor-actuator systems. People do not perceive the installation as a computer, but attribute more animate characteristics to the different cans.
The goal of a vending machine is to sell its products, but what if the products sell themselves? This prototype explores the possibility of bringing the product itself to life, by giving it the ability to look around. By looking around it shows awareness of what’s happening, giving the idea of intelligence.
Friendliness or Politeness is a human trait. A simple machine will not be viewed as friendly, it will simply be seen as ‘easy to use’. For example: A user presses play on his DVD player. Since the dvd-tray does not contain a DVD to play, it opens. When this happens the user might think ‘that’s a neat feature, the designers really thought about this‘. The device is not viewed as friendly, the reasoning for this is external. However when the device malfunctions, something happens in the users’ brain. When anger arises, everything is attributed to the machine.
In my project I want the machine to be able to elicit an emotional response instead of a rational one. To be able to do this it needs to show what I call ‘signs of life’. Below you can read how I define the 4 main principles.
1. Reciprocal perception The first and most important sign of life is that of reciprocal perception. When a user is close to the device, the device must react to the user. In this reaction it should show the user it is aware of him, and is ready for him to interact. In human to human this translates from greeting a person, to simply changing body posture. 2. Pre-interaction The device must be able to respond to ‘human’ input. Instead of waiting for the user to push a button it can react to voice or pointing, showing that it understands what the user means. Because this interaction takes place before the actual intention to interact, it shows a cognition from the device about the users state. 3. Non-linear motions Machines for the most part move uniformly, in nature however nothing does the same. The reasons for this are mainly in physics: mass takes time to accelerate, and heavy accelerations are stressful on the structure of the moving body. To create a more natural motion in a product, these factors have to be taken into account, to create a more fluent motion.
4. Randomness For people it is near impossible to do something twice in exactly the same way, so why should a device do that? By adding some randomness to the machines actions, it will seem more lifelike.
This list is probably not yet complete or fully correct, feel free to comment.
An important part of politeness is the acknowledgement of someone’s presence. When a guest enters a good restaurant, a waiter will immediately be present to greet the guest, and walk him to his table. My wood and cardboard experiments have shown me that to create a polite or friendly experience, I will need to make them alive, make them respond to the user. I took the flower cube from the cardboard experiments and fitted it with a proximity sensor, to make it see an approaching person. In the video below you can see how it reacts to someone who wants to grab the cube inside.
You can see that even this simple set-up show emerging behavior. To the human eye the little cube starts to adopt almost human traits, it does not simply open and close according to distance but it looks like it can bite back any second. My next experiments will be about bringing more models to life, check back soon!
As a first exploration of interaction I created wooden interaction sketches. The cubes used in the sketches represent the product being sold, without giving any cues on what they will be in the final concept.
When interacting with any machine, it is important to think about interaction zones and their mappings. I made a quick analysis of a basic candy vending machine that shows how ‘off’ the current design actually is.
All of the interaction components are spread all over the machine with mechanical efficiency in mind, but since we are in the age of micro-electronics we can reshape them however we desire.