MxM Week 5 – Paperclips and Pocket Monsters

This post has been backlogged from my MxM Internship Medium account. Check out the original posts here: https://medium.com/@jacktmitchell!

With all of our synthesising and insighting finished, we finally had defined challenges that we could begin to work on in future weeks. For me personally, it was almost as if we had too many challenges to work on and I began to feel a bit overwhelmed with so many seperate ideas, and the team had their own individual passions within the space that they were interested in tackling further. Thankfully we organised a meeting with Tim and Georgie, our sponsors, alongside Charlotte. It was important for us to bounce our ideas off of them and gauge what they were actually interested in pursuing because at the end of the day, they are our clients and their say is just as important as ours.

Having a client is something I’m not used to — the closest thing I’ve had to that in my experience so far would be with my lecturers, and even then that is nowhere similar to this experience. Sam fortunately showed us how to better prepare a presentation for the meeting, warning us that our sticky notes with scribbles and ideas on them may not be the best way to communicate our thoughts so far. We prepared beautiful sheets with quotes from our interviewees on them, living proof of the challenges that we had assembled which would clearly back up what we wanted to discuss.

The meeting was slightly nerve-wracking. I was worried that we’d walk into the office to be told that the challenges that we had set ourselves were pointless, that we should go back to the drawing board and start again. However, talking through the insights that we had discovered, it was refreshing to look at how far we’d come already and what we were looking at doing in the future. It was as decisive a moment as we have had in the internship so far, as we moved on from simply thinking about the problem space, to beginning to act on it. The feedback from the session was great, and figuring out the preferences of Tim and Georgie helped vastly. Georgie really took to the challenge of artificial intelligence planning out a day based on the routine of a user, and I recall Tim telling us to “crack the calendar”, a huge challenge to get wired into.

In the space of an hour, we had limited 4 challenges down to 1, and based on both the needs of the people we had interviewed and the client, we have started to look at how AI and Machine Learning can assist a user with organising their daily schedule. It’s funny how weeks of preparation can lead to having one sentence, one challenge just written out like that, but a lot of consideration has actually been put into it.

Initially thinking about how we can prototype a low-fidelity sketch experience for users, we threw loads of ideas around. One of the best was based on everybody’s favourite computational companion, the target of much scorn and hatred in the early millenium, Microsoft’s very own Clippy. We wondered how, as a design team, can we recreate him – but not dreadful? The main issue with Clippy was that the advice he provided the user was utterly useless, and was a novelty that very, very quickly wore off (how to make a design with continuous appeal was a challenge that we identified in our synthesis). It also turns out Clippy was sexist, proving that even the jolliest of characters can be hiding dark, sinister secrets.

Remember him?

We know better than anyone that Clippy should probably stay dead. Yet the use of a character to overlay the interaction between user and computer may be something worthwhile to explore in further development — a lot of people were unsure about the legitimacy of Artificial Intelligence, and a character such as Siri or Clippy emphasizes both the positives and negatives of this design technique, as people either trust their tech more, or dismiss it as rubbish.

Inspiration has come from more unlikely sources in the past week. As ideating started, inspiration and creativity conveniently seemed to escape my grasp. This is a problem I find I have as a designer — I am full of excellent new ideas on my stroll through the town or in the shower, but when I am meant to sit down and have ideas, I am as creative as a dry sponge. In the past week however, Nintendo released a little thing called Pokemon Go. However just incase you haven’t heard of it, Nintendo have essentially given everybody with access to a smartphone the ability to live their wildest, late-nineties fantasies by going out into the real world and catching some Pokemon. I remember days spent with my Dad, pestering him to take me to the park to catch Pokemon and having to be lightly told that Pokemon actually aren’t real to my shock. This is genuinely an 8 year old’s delusion come true.

Thomas becoming one with the Magikarp

The purpose of Go has really inspired me with my project. I really do find it fascinating that Niantic have used the power of the Pokemon franchise and the usability of the smartphone to capture what seems to be the entire planet’s imagination, and actually make them — would you believe it — go outside and exercise. There are even reports that Go is the premier online dating service as people are bumping into each other in infamous romantic hotspots such as “BMO Theinsville Shoot Water In The Air Thingy” and bonding over the conquest to catch some Pokemon.

You may be wondering why on earth this relates to what we’re doing, but a huge insight we have gained from people is that taking breaks is a vital aspect of the day, and at the moment, Pokemon is pretty much everyone’s way of doing that. They are most importantly doing that in a healthy, wonderful way. It’s made me as a designer think about the reasons and incentives that could possibly make people go outside, or even how we could make people more productive. I’m sure if we made something that guaranteed a free Mewtwo for every purchase, we’d smash App Store records.

The game however, is becoming a bit over the top. Even writing this blog post bows to the force of nature that has become Go. Whilst the game has shown that the evolution of video games can combat the great issue that is teens stuck inside with their games consoles, I’m unconvinced about Go’s long term longevity, and am curious to see if it can actually grow and develop from a niche simulator to a brilliant series of its own.

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