Brainstorming and Screen Size

Task: Alarms

Solutions from Brainstorming

For this task, I sat down with a partner and we took turns saying ideas for how the alarm setting system might work and look. For this brainstorm, we focused on what kind of data needs to be entered.


Alarms can be set by location, so the device needs a way to add a location.

Ideas included:

  1. Street map
  2. Map of Galaxy
  3. Shortcut for current location
  4. Parsecs (whatever those are)
  5. Street address
  6. Star System
  7. XYZ coordinates
  8. Planet Latitude/Longitude
  9. Point in orbit
  10. Vague, fuzzy description
  11. Altitude
  12. Presets for commonly visited places

On evaluation, it seemed that some universal way of defining a location would be needed, but having local options would be potentially useful to quickly set a location based on current context. For example, Earth-based street addresses might be useless on the Doctor’s home planet – I’m not sure if his planet even has streets – they are certainly useful when he’s on Earth. Saved locations would be especially useful if they’ll be used more than once.


Since the Doctor travels through time, the settings for alarm times will need to be more detailed.

Ideas for time inputs:

  1. Phase of moon
  2. Galactic epoch
  3. Astronomical time
  4. Orbit timing
  5. Year, month, day, etc
  6. Number of seconds since Big Bang
  7. Number of seconds from now
  8. Time until some event
  9. Harmonic convergence
  10. Time of a planet location
  11. When two or more planetary bodies converge
  12. During retrograde events
  13. Moon is in the 7th house
  14. Half-life of some radioisotope like carbon-14
  15. Speed of light
  16. Time light takes to reach home planet from star
  17. Home planet time (days, years, etc)
  18. Stardate

On evaluation, it seems like beings as advanced as the Doctor would have their own universal time units. The decaying radioisotope approach seems especially reasonable and accurate. Once again, when traveling, some way of entering a locally used time would be useful to avoid having to mentally convert between universal time and local time.

How Does the Alarm ‘Go Off’?

Finally, an advanced alarm like this one seems to need more features than a simple beep. Sometimes, any sort of sound at all might be dangerous. Here are the ideas we generated:

  1. Attach note to alarm
  2. Verbal message
  3. Keep quiet when in danger
  4. Snooze
  5. Send straight to brain
  6. Visual alarm
  7. Scrolling message
  8. Can be dismissed
  9. Password to dismiss
  10. Alarm that won’t go away until a condition is met
  11. Notifies somebody else if you don’t respond
  12. Starts pulling you toward something
  13. Engage homing device
  14. Put in a Panera order when you’re 10 minutes away
  15. Starts kettle of tea
  16. Activates another device
  17. Monitor heart rate to decide whether or not the Doctor is in danger

In discussion following this part of the brainstorming, we decided that the most important thing is that the alarm not put the Doctor in danger. The watch should intelligently handle this by itself, because it’s too easy to forget to put the watch in silent mode. (See pretty much every social situation in the early 21st century.) Next in importance, given all the different times and places for alarms, is the ability to tell the Doctor what they’re for. Some sort of short note explaining the alarm’s purpose would be useful. The alarm should be snoozable in case it can’t be dealt with at the time.

Task: Homing

Solutions from Trigger-Based Brainstorming

A partner and I sat down and used the Trigger method. We each wrote down ideas for how the watch could indicate the direction of the TARDIS. Then, we swapped papers and expanded on each others’ best ideas.

Here are the ideas that seemed best:

  1. Project on the ground
    1. Route to follow
    2. Arrow pointing at TARDIS
    3. “pond rings” radiating from TARDIS
  2. 3D enhanced reality
    1. Show route emanating from user
    2. Show turns off in the distance
    3. Show a TARDIS icon on the horizon
  3. 3D flyover map
    1. Holographic Google Earth except the whole galaxy
    2. Like a planetarium
    3. Route and location of TARDIS in holograph

Human Interface Ideas

Given the complexity of data inputs and outputs, the display may need to be fairly complex. Entering data and displaying data will need to be carefully designed.

Display and interface ideas we found:

  1. Manipulate watch bezel to change settings
  2. Miniature planetarium display
  3. Project on wall
  4. Project directly onto retina
  5. Send sound directly to inner ear (inaudible to others)
  6. Project on ground, especially for homing
  7. Just the watch face
  8. Any nearby piece of glass like a car windshield
  9. Magnetism (gently pulls user in a direction)
  10. Hot and cold
  11. Compass
  12. Voice directions
  13. Brainwave interface
  14. 3D holograph
  15. Watch hands move to point out directions

On evaluation, small features like watch faces won’t really be large enough for complex displays. Since the Doctor is a social creature, having the ability to share the display seems to rule out direct to eye/ear/brain methods, especially when dealing with less advanced species. Projected or 3D displays seemed to us to be the most shareable.


For the alarms interface, the idea of a 3D spherical display projected above the watch seemed to make sense, especially in light of needing to set a location for an alarm in a 3D universe. Mapping a single sphere in two dimensions is a whole science unto itself. Finding a spherical planet among many using a two-dimensional representation seems like it would be very difficult. Planets would potentially be on top of each other. Also, with a display in thin air over the watch, I find myself gesturing at it with my right hand as if spinning a globe. Zooming could be either a spreading/pinching gesture, or a scooping/pushing/pulling gesture.

Going with the 3D approach, I tried to imagine how setting time and alarm notes would be done, since those are solved problems in 2D rectangular displays. Since the display is spherical, I’m imagining a ring-based interface wherein sets of related options, such as terrestrial year occupy one ring. The circular shape would fill up the sphere in two dimensions nicely. To move between option sets, the ring sets’ circle could be ‘flipped’ to show a new screen.

Brainstorming and Screen Size

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