The Doctor uses watches of various shapes and sizes to complete various tasks in his adventures through time and space. For these tasks, I’m assuming a fob or pocket watch form factor, though the designs don’t preclude a wrist watch. The tasks are usually done in the field where he’s away from his lab. I’ve been developing screens for two of his tasks. The first task is to direct him to his TARDIS, or other prearranged targets, such as his companion, or U.N.I.T. headquarters or field offices. The second task is to set time-based and/or location-based alarms that alert him when the specified conditions are met.
The design of the homing interface gives both a simple compass-like direction finding, or, when he has a quieter moment for more detail, 2D and 3D maps depicting the location of his targets. The 2D/3D maps can be interacted with by using the free hand to gesture either movement or zooming in and out.
The alarm settings need to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple time systems, and change seamlessly across them. If the doctor is familiar with the time system of the place he’s currently in, such as Earth’s, he can set that time system to set an alarm. If he’s not familiar with the time system, he can use the Time Lords’ Galactic time system. Of course, other time systems can be used. Locations can be anywhere in the universe the Doctor can gain access to, which means that he needs the ability to find any location across millions of light years. Location choosing is once again based on a 3D representation of the universe. Hand gestures allow him to skim the various galactic systems, and zoom all the way down to street level for specific locations.
Changes Between Versions
The biggest problem I found when testing out the first version in class was that I had neglected to provide a coherent way to navigate between screens. The second prototype version attempted to fix this problem.
I had initially attempted to make circular interfaces for everything, which poses some problems for the more text-based interfaces. For the time setting interface in the alarm task, I had concentric rings of time units. Rings have a highlighted area in the upper half of the circle along the Y-axis. Settings could be changed by sliding the rings until the desired number is under the marker. One problem with this is that most of the area of the screen is wasted in unused numbers. I also found it difficult to place the navigation. The center seemed like a good idea, but became cramped very quickly as options were added. For version two, I made it a rectangular display. Suddenly, the navigation has its own place on the screen, and the settings can be made larger and easier to work with. For the alarm message screen, I found it difficult to get something as rectangle-oriented as text to fit into a circular screen and include navigation. Changing to a rectangular interface makes this much easier and cleaner to design. Lastly, even though the 3D map interfaces seem to naturally work with a spherical interface, a cubic interface gives the navigation a sensible place to live on the display.
I still have some problems to work out. For location setting in the alarms, I’m thinking it’s still very difficult to pick out which galaxy you’re looking for, what part of the galaxy the solar system is in, and where exactly any one point on the planet is simply by twiddling the display. Some sort of textual guides in-map will be needed, and there definitely needs to be some sort of search mechanism. For the homing display, I was asked if it really needs both 2D and 3D displays. One of these might go away, or be made into one seamless interface.
Alarm V1 and V2
Homing V1 and V2
Using Paper for Prototyping
Since the interface for a watch with 3D projection capabilities for a time-traveling alien could get very unusual-looking, I appreciated the ability to create far-fetched ideas without a huge time investment. Before I get to using something like Blender to create a 3D representation of something, I’d like to be very sure that I’m on the right track.
I hadn’t previously experimented with Post-It notes, and found them to be helpful in that they can have something drawn on them once, and reused in several places.
Mainly, I just appreciated the ease of working out ideas iteratively. If something needed to be changed, I’d just use the eraser if a small change was needed, or simply toss the sheet of paper and start over for larger changes.
One interesting thing that I noticed was that not only is it easier for people to criticize your paper prototype, it’s easier to take the criticism. When I’ve just scribbled something on paper, I’m not as attached to it, and may feel more open to other ideas. Even when moving up to PowerPoint prototypes, I’m more protective of my design, which, for half-baked ideas, is a problem.
I’m definitely seeing a use for this in the next few months at work. I’ve always leaned toward making drawings in something like Inkscape, but as was suggested in class, it’s harder to get constructive criticism for it. Either it’s passable, and don’t get useful criticism, or it’s way too early in the process, and the idea gets shut down completely.
After our testing and release cycle is done this month, the project at work needs a new message testing interface that hasn’t been designed yet. The task lead will probably want to start coding right away, because that’s how he thinks. Hopefully, we can sit down and scribble some ideas together and avoid some of the awkwardness that’s showed up in other parts of the project.