Supporting product development with a tangible platform for simulating user scenarios

Ryan Ruvald has completed his thesis on using scale models as prototyping design supports in product development.  Download it here: Link to record on the DiVA portal.

Abstract

Motivation:

Today’s sustainability challenges are increasingly being addressed by Product Service Systems to satisfy customers needs while lowering their overall environment impact. These systems are increasingly complex containing diverse artifacts and interactions. To provide a holistic solution centered on the human experience element, design of product-service systems are best driven by data gathered from design thinking methods.

Problem:

When considering innovation challenges, such as the deployment of autonomous electric machines on future construction sites, data driven design can suffer from a lack of available tangible user feedback upon which to make design decisions.

Approach:

In the case of this study, the development of a scaled down construction site structured around generally applicable operations was built as a prototype for involving various users in early phase development of a HMI for interacting with prototype machines built by Volvo CE called the HX01. Qualitative data acquisition methods were derived from Design Thinking approaches to needfinding including: a questionnaire, unstructured interviews and observations.

Results:

The prototype scale site became a 5 meter x 5 meter semi-portable site with 1:11 scale ratio machines including: excavators, wheeled loaders and autonomous haulers. The product tested with the site was an augmented reality interface to provide a communication platform between workers and the autonomous haulers designed at building trust to enable collaboration. Test users and observers provided feedback confirming the effectiveness of the scale site scenario to convey the necessary context of a realistic interaction experience. Beyond HMI testing, the site served as a tangible artifact to instigate conversations across domain boundaries.

Conclusions:

The tangible experiential scenario platform developed displayed the capability to go beyond one-way concept communication of concepts to customers, by including customers as integral participants in the testing of new products/services. For design teams, the site can facilitate deeper learnings and validation via a shared contextualization of user feedback. The further implications may also include: the ability to increase rationale at design decision gate’s assessment of risk in new products and enable the identification of emergent issues in complex future scenarios.

Keywords

Experiential Prototyping, Empathic Design, Data-Driven Design, Knowledge Sharing, Autonomy, Augmented Reality