innovative prototyping

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Edwin H. Land

Innovation is rarely the result of a thunderbolt of inspiration. It builds on the work of other creative thinkers and benefits from incremental prototyping and testing. The projects shown here represent a range of approaches to prototyping, each innovative in its own way.

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Informal User Testing

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Connecticut Science Center
Invention Dimension

When developing components that involve complex interaction, we often build prototypes early in the design process to set up in-house and test with users in our target age range. In this example, we were trying to develop a Rube Goldberg-esque device that was open-ended enough to be fun, but capable of being hardened in a robust final version. In two stages of prototyping, we discovered which movements most intrigued kids, and incorporated these in the final design. We also confirmed that this component provided an excellent platform for group problem-solving and resulted in a sense of accomplishment among users.

Boston Children’s Museum
Making America’s Music: Rhythm, Roots & Rhyme
Traveling Exhibition

For a group drumming activity developed for an exhibition in which children are active music makers, we wanted to explore the social interactions the component would elicit. Using prototypes we produced and set up in-house, we were able to see how children in our target age range interacted with the technology and with one another. One key finding was that the three sets of electronic drum pads needed sufficient spatial separation to feel like they each “belonged” to a single user. This was implemented in the final design.

Miami Science Museum
Heart Smart

When a project calls for developing a group of components that combine data-collecting sensors with interactive software and a shared database, we take prototypes as far as possible in order to insure that all components function as designed, individually and as a group. For components such as this one, which calculates the user’s BMI, height and weight, sensors were integrated with software so that the component could be user-tested in our studio (left) prior to final design and installation (right).

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Expedition Health

This component, which enables users to see their pupils change in response to light levels, was added to Expedition Health after we had installed and evaluated a large collection of components on the DMNS exhibit floor. So we did the next best thing, developing a prototype that could be tested in our studio with target age range users to determine the best camera position and user controls for young visitors. The final component incorporated a design very close to that of the prototype.