Signal - a user experience prototype for vizualising notifications as light signals

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Signal is a proof of concept prototype for a design that filters and visualises notifications on interior surfaces as projected light signals. It helps avoid distractions caused by traditional mobile notifications interrupting the flow of natural activity by improving the signal-to-noise ratio of a notification stream and making it available in an architectural setting without requiring interaction with a smartphone or other computing device. The shared visibility, privacy and communication aspects of light signal notifications are explored in the research section, and design validation is sought after using software architecture sketches and physical prototyping with real electronic components in the design section. A key concept in the design philosophy of Signal is the invisible user interface, where the device itself is made invisible and accessed indirectly via software and gestures. The use of Signal is intimately tied to a physical location, and accessible by an individual or multiple users in a shared context. Prototyping reveals that silent and smooth Signal motion is possible using smart memory alloy actuators. A minimum beam angle imposes a physical restriction on the projection distance and optics using an LED light source because of overlap between individual signal channels and the design requirement for minimal visual footprint. The fringe effects and diffraction caused by the shifting lens focus creates a flexible and beautiful visual impression adaptable for various interiors. For accurate long distance projection, lasers with diffraction gratings could be used. A Signal device with 3 or more channels would be fairly expensive as a consumer level product because of the SMA components and high-powered LED units, while reliability, total power consumption and operating costs are reasonable. The software user experience for the Signal mobile application is modeled but not yet tested. While the service value proposition is entirely subjective, initial research done on the psychology of notification checking and related developments in interactive architecture, combined with the sum total of the author's experiences, suggest the proposed design has valuable use cases. The latest physical prototype with an accompanying software demo also validates Signal as a functional design.
Reunanen, Markku
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Kaunisvaara, Johannes
digital service design, embedded systems, invisible user interface, notifications
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