Project 2 - The wAll

In this future we will move from hanging displays on the wall to the walls being the display. This project will look towards that future and how to design an interface for such a device.

My expectation here is not that you will produce something that looks as good as a professional graphic designer, but that you will apply the basic rules of visual design to design an effective interface to communicate with the user.

This project has two phases:
  1. the sketch phase
  2. the implementation phase

You will be working in groups. Due to the class size, the group size will be 3 people. The goal is to have at most 12 groups. You will need to choose your team, choose a name for your team, and email me the team name and the member names by 2/14. I will randomly assign the remaining students to teams. The requirements remain the same no matter how many people are in the group.

Here is a link with some good hints on sucessfully working in groups. You might also find some good ideas in Chapter 3 of the Schneiderman textbook.

This project has two major due dates: one for the sketches, one for the implementation. Both are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

Sketch phase

In this phase you are going to think about the user interface to a large wall-sized display in the home, and by large I mean that the entire wall is the display surface. These days we could get a similar effect from tiling low resolution projectors or high resolution flat panel displays but here you can imagine something like LCD wallpaper connected to some future computer out of site in a closet somewhere. We will also assume that you can touch the display and do manipulation with your finger.

In your house or apartment you would very likely have one of these per room - so one in the living room, one in the eating area, one in the kitchen, and maybe one in each bedroom. For this project we will be thinking about the system in the living room, but its important to think about how content might move from display to display within the house, or from one of these displays at home to one in another home, or from a display at home to work.

This large display surface will take over the functions of a home media center, so it can tune in broadcasts (perhaps more than one at once), play music from mp3 files or the radio, and play downloaded videos, or videos stored locally. It also functions as your online messenger system for multiway text, audio, or video chatting. It acts as your phone. It is a place to get weather notifications, current news, traffic status, the current time, and a calendar. It also acts like a bulletin board: a place to put family photos, and a place to leave notes for where people are going to be when they are out of the house, taking over the role of the front door of the refrigerator. It can also act as room lighting, or wallpaper. There are very likely some other good ideas that you can come up with for how to use such a display.

This system can hook into similar systems in other people's homes (share a birthday with the grandparents) or at work (watch over the kids) or even in hotel rooms when people are on the road.

We are obviously assuming these are very low power displays that generate very little heat so they can be left running for long periods.

That's a lot of capabilities, and the wAll should be usable by regular people, so creating the interface is going to be very important - especially so it looks like a coherant thing and not several different applications running on a desktop computer. Designing and creating that interface is your task. While the display technology is novel, your interface must be built on current technology, so no magical 100% accurate voice recognition systems, or telepathic interfaces please.

Here are some questions to get you started.

How do I create an interface that I can use up close (touching the wall) and also be useful sitting back on the couch? Are there multiple modes of interaction here? Are there auxiliary devices here (eg a tablet, a cell-phone) (hint - a gazillion button remote control is probably not a good idea)

Is typing a necessary input mode for this display and if so how do I do that?

How do I move information from one room to another? e.g. what if I'm with a bunch of friends in the family room and I get a call - how do I aswer it privately? Is there information that moves with me from room to room?

How do I make sure that information is presented in a useful place? i.e. we do not want the Tornado warning appearing down at the floorboards

Is all this information always on the screen or are there ways to minimize/maximize certain things when needed?

How much resolution is actually useful when I am say 10 feet (3 meters) away from the wall?

How much space does my finger take up when I touch the display?

As you know there are a bunch of pieces of this is place already with media PCs, and TiVo and widgets, but they still rely on some pretty computer-like interfaces, have very different looking interfaces, and have scary remote controls. You can get some good ideas from these existing applications, and you can also get some bad ideas from them. Don't let those applications limit your ideas. Your designs should look like all of the pieces were developed by the same team and were designed to work together.

There will be several different ways to accomplish this, so one major feature of the sketch phase is to create and evaluate multiple designs. I think the easiest way to do this is to have each of the three members of the group design a version of the interface on their own independently and then bring these three designs together in a meeting and create your final proposed (4th) design. All three original designs should be significantly different from each other. If each design is done by a different person then that will probably happen naturally. Each design should be composed of sketches showing how a user would accomplish a certain task with text explaining what this screen shows. Think aout the situations that a user would be confronted with: initial set up of the system, watching a football game (or multiple games simultaneously), checking the weather, answering the phone, and put yourself in the user's place - what do you do? what do you see? You may want to use some real wall space and tape pieces of paper onto the wall as applications and interface elements to see how they would work. You should be drawing lots of quick sketches at first to get your ideas out, then a period of refinement. In the end I would expect there to be at least 20 pages per design. I would prefer that the designs that you turn in are done on a computer, but if you draw _neatly_ with a ruler and print very cleanly then that is also acceptable. Anything that looks like it was hastily drawn and ripped out of a spiral notebook 5 minutes before class will not be accepted.

Your sketches should also take into account the constraints you need to work under. You have a wall-sized screen. For the purposes of this class we will assume this wall is the same physical size as the projection screen in the classroom. The real futuristic display will probably have better resolution, but for for the purpose of the project you can assume a wall that is 1280x1024 pixels covering an area of 10' wide by 8' tall (which is about 10 dpi). The display will be full colour, and you can assume that the room also has a surround sound system for audio, and one or more cameras.

Your interface should also support for multiple languages. It should allow the user to choose from at least 10 languages, but you only need to implement English and one other language. That second language could be a real language (see what languages your group members can write) but swedish chef or klingon are acceptable as the second language if your team does not have a member that is fluent in another language, and there are automatic translators for those available on line.

In the sketch phase your group should create a well organized web page that contains the following:
Important note: I will not be commenting on your sketches. I am not going to tell you what is good or bad about your design - that is where the value of having many voices on a team comes into play. Your grade will be based on the completeness of your information and the quality and variety of your designs.

This project has two critique phases. An important part of user interface design is getting feedback. Part of this feedback comes in the design phase where the members of your group critique each others design and then come up with a 4th design to implement. Part comes from presenting your 4th design to the other groups. Each project team will give a short 10 minute presentation on their 4th design, and the reasons why it looks the way it does, to the rest of the class, and then answer questions from the class for another 15 minutes. Each person in the group must speak for part of that time. Groups will be graded on the quality of the presentation, so I highly recommend practicing the presentation several times. Really. Practice it. Several times. Really. And you should focus your talk only on the 4th and final group design.

Members of the audience get points for asking good questions or making good comments about the interface presented. Each group can ask at most one question or comment per presentation for credit. When asking a question or making a comment the group member should identify their group by name - this is like in a press conference when the reporter says what paper he/she works for.

Three groups will present each day for four days. The goal here, again, is to see different possible design alternatives and to get new ideas to improve your own design and implementation. As such the goal of the question and answer session is not to pick on people and rip their design apart, but rather to give constructive criticism on how to improve the design before people start implementation. The goal is for everyone to come up with a really good interface for the given problem.

by April 3rd I would like each group to add a final (5th) design to their web page. This is the design that you plan to implement - including revisions based on the comments from the class.

Implementation phase

In this phase you will implement your interface. You should make use of the techniques discussed in class as well as the feedback from the sketch phase to come up with a good solution. In terms of implementation this means that you do not need to write a messenger client or a multimedia display program, but that you should be able to bring up placeholders for that kind of data and show how the user will manipulate the information.

Your sketches from the first phase should allow you to divide up the work in the implementation phase, but I highly advise that the entire group hold regular meetings to look at the current state of the entire integrated interface. Trying to put components together at the last minute is a really bad idea. It would also be a good idea to test your intermediate versions out on your friends, parents, or other novice computer users to see if it actually 'works.' Having first time users talk aloud about what they are thinking when confronted with your interface and a given task can be extreemly helpful in giving your assumptions a reality check.

In this phase you should add to your web page:

Any code, images, or other elements borrowed from others must be cited clearly in the interface itself and in the documentation.

As with the sketch phase, this phase will also have a public critique of your completed project with the same rules as the sketch phase.

You should also take advantage of sites such as to make sure that your interface will work for colour blind people.

The Teams:
Team 1
Matt Ritter, Dariusz Gorczowski, Joe Contreras

sketch 2

Pedro Valencia, Geoffrey Brown, Swati Tata, Konrad Ogar

sketch 2

Pawel Bak, Damian Balawender, Pawel Mroczka, Filip Ziec

sketch 2

Nipun Gupta, Brian Mykietka, Chintan Patel, Veeraiah Nuvvula

sketch 2

Dennis Chau, Donna Tom, George Shakhnazaryan, Jason Demeter


sketch 2

Palak Jain, Shriram Iyer, Sarang Kapadia, Manoj Miryala

sketch 2

Adam Hillyer, Senad Basic, Dennis Cheung, Yasser Mostafa

sketch 2

Anoop Bhat, Tudor Sidea, Antonela Mihali, Chris Urso

sketch 2

Ramon Franco,  Roberto Serrano

sketch 2


last updated 4/22/08