L3- Group 17

Joseph, Jacob, XinYang, and Evan

Short description:

We built a fan-propelled boat that is powered by batteries. The motor turns a pinwheel, which blows wind in one direction and moves the boat in the opposite direction in water. We initially tried to use the motor to make a robot that moved on land, but the torque from the given motors are too weak to power any wheels. Since the given motors were powerful enough to power a fan, we designed our robot to be propelled by a fan. Placing the fan on a boat minimizes friction and allows the robot to move even though the force is weak. We liked how our robot was able to move itself in the general intended direction, but it spun a lot in water since the fan imparted a lot of angular momentum to the boat, and it wasn’t good at resisting strong winds, so we consider our design a minor success. In hindsight, it would have been better if we used the motor to turn paddles in the water instead, which would increase the speed of the boat and also reduce the amount of spinning.


Robot ideas:

– A DC motor fan that pushes the robot across a low-friction surface or water

– Two DC motor propellers that push the robot forward

– A DC motor propeller that allows the robot to make vertical takeoffs (like a helicopter)

– A boat-like robot with a DC motor attached to a servo

– A car robot that uses DC motors to spin the wheels and a servo to steer the front axis

– A ‘wheel robot’ with a freely rotating exterior and a weighted inside, with two servo-operated arms that push on the ground to move it.

– Giant spider robot with eight, articulated appendages that use servos.

– Rope-climbing robot

– Skydiving or basejumping robot that uses servos to jump off cliffs

– A self-catapulting robot that uses a DC motor to wind up a rubberband or spring and then launch itself

– A glider with servo-operated flexible wings

– A fruit-like robot that can be eaten and transported by migrating birds or small forest creatures

– A robot that is really cute and will encourage people to pick it up and bring it with them

– Wall-scaling robot with suction cups or adhesive arms for climbing

Design Sketches:

Links to our design sketches can be found below:









List of parts: 

Arduino UNO

1 x DC motor

330 ohm resistor

1 x diode

1 x P22 transistor

4 AA batteries + Arduino battery pack

Paper and sticky tape

Styrofoam Bowl

Cardboard strips



Our circuit is very simple – all the circuit does is to run the motor at full speed whenever the power comes on. To build it, connect the circuit exactly as shown in the diagram here: http://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-arduino-lesson-13-dc-motors/breadboard-layout. Upload the code (given in the next section) to the Arduino, make sure that the motor spins at full speed, then unplug the USB wire from the Arduino. Then make a paper pinwheel using paper and tape, and stick the pinwheel to the motor shaft. Put the batteries into the battery pack, and place it into the styrofoam along with the Arduino, the breadboard and motor, and use the cardboard strips to secure the motor in a way that keeps the pinwheel from hitting the water surface or the boat itself when it starts spinning. Some additional paper covering can also be placed above the styrofoam box to provide some minor protection to the electrical components from the rain. Then plug the battery pack to the Arduino and place the boat in the water to watch it move!


const int motorPin = 3; 
void setup() {
void loop() {
 analogWrite(motorPin, 255); 

EyeWrist P2

Group 17-EyeWrist

Evan Strasnick, Joseph Bolling, Jacob Simon, and Xin Yang Yak

Evan organized and conducted the interviews for the assignment, brainstormed ideas, and wrote the descriptions of our three tasks.

Joseph helped conduct interviews, researched bluetooth and RFID as tech possibilities, and worked on the task analysis questions

Xin Yang took detailed notes during interviews, brainstormed ideas, wrote the summaries of the interviews, and helped write the task analysis questions.

Jacob brainstormed ideas, helped take notes during interviews, wrote the description of the idea, and drew the storyboards and diagrams.

Problem and solution overview
The blind and visually disabled face unique challenges when navigating. Without visual information, simply staying oriented to the environment enough to walk in a straight line can be challenging. Many blind people choose to use a cane when walking to avoid obstacles and follow straight features such as walls or sidewalk edges, but this limits their ability to use both hands for other tasks, such as carrying bags and interacting with the environment. When navigating in an unknown environment, the visually impaired are even further limited by the need to hold an audible gps system with their second hand. Our device will integrate gps interface and cane into a single item, freeing an extra hand when navigating. When not actively navigating by gps, the compass in our device will be used to help the user maintain their orientation and sense of direction. All of this will be achieved using an intuitive touch/haptic interface that will allow the blind to navigate discretely and effectively.

We began our project hoping to improve the quality of life of the visually impaired, and thus our primary user group is the blind. This group provides great opportunities for our design purposes for a number of reasons: first, as discussed in class, “standard” technologies tend to interface by and large in a visual way, and therefore working with the blind encourages exploration of new modalities of interaction. In addition, the blind endure a series of problems of which the majority of the sighted population (ourselves included) are not even aware. This motivated us to attempt to identify and hopefully solve these problems to noticeably improve the lives of the visually impaired.
Despite the difficulty of encountering blind users around the Princeton area, we wanted to make sure that we did not compromise the quality of our contextual inquiry by observing users who were not actually familiar with the difficulties of visual impairment, and thus we contacted the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, utilizing their listserv to get in contact with various users. As we waited for IRB approval to actually interview these users, we gathered background information by watching YouTube videos of blind people and the strategies that they have adopted in order to navigate the world safely and autonomously. We taught ourselves about the various pros and cons of the traditional cane, and practiced the actual techniques that the blind themselves learn to navigate. This alone provided dozens of insights without which we could not have hoped to understand the tasks we are addressing. (one such video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV9XFzKo1aE)
Finally, after approval was given, we arranged interviews with three very promising users. All were themselves blind – two born without vision and one who lost vision later in life – and each not only faced the challenges of navigation in their own lives, but also had some interest or occupation in assisting other blind people with their autonomy. Their familiarity with technology varied from slight to expert. Because of the difficulties the users faced in traveling and their distances from campus, we were limited to phone interviews.
Our first user, blind since birth, teaches other visually impaired people how to use assistive technologies and basic microsoft applications. He had a remarkable knowledge of existing technologies in the area of navigation, and was able to point us in many directions. His familiarity with other users’ ability and desire to adopt new technologies was invaluable in guiding our designs
Our second user, whose decline in vision began in childhood was the head of a foundation which advocates for the rights of the blind and helps the visually impaired learn to become more autonomous. While her technological knowledge was limited, she was able to teach us a great deal about the various ins and outs of cane travel, and which problems remained to be solved. She was a musician prior to losing her sight, and knew a great deal about dealing with loss of certain capabilities through inventive solutions and positive attitude.
Finally, our third user was directly involved with the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and worked in developing and adapting technologies for blind users. He already had a wealth of ideas regarding areas of need in blind technologies, and with his numerous connections to users with visual impairment, understood which features would be most needed in solving various tasks. In addition to his day job, he takes part in triathlons, refusing to believe that there is any opportunity in life which the blind were unable to enjoy.

The CI Interview

All of our CI interviews took place over the phone as none of our interviewees lived near campus or could travel easily. Prior to our interview, we watched an instructional video on cane travel to better understand the difficulties associated with cane travel, and identified that navigation and tasks requiring the use of both hands were tasks that we can potentially improve. Based on what we learned, we asked our users about general difficulties for the visually impaired, problems associated with cane travel and navigation, and how they would like to interact with their devices.

Our interviewees all indicated that indoor navigation is more difficult than outdoor navigation, as the GPS and iPhone have solved most of their outdoor navigation problems. Being blind also means having one less hand free, since one hand would almost always be holding the cane. Our interviewees also emphasized the importance of being able to hear ambient sound. The fact that all our interviewees are involved with teaching other blind users (through technology or otherwise) may have contributed to these similarities in their responses – one of our interviewees mentioned that people over the age of 50 tend to have more difficulty coping with going blind because of their reluctance to use new technologies.

There were also some differences between what the issues the interviewees brought up. Our first user was particularly interested in an iPhone-App-based solution for indoor navigation. He brought up how the smartphone had drastically lowered the cost of assistive technologies for blind people. Our second interviewer brought up that many problems associated with navigation can be overcome with better cane travel and more confidence. She, for example, mentioned that reading sheet music is a problem. Our third user suggested a device to help blind swimmers swim straight. These differences could be due to the difference in the interviewees backgrounds – for example, the second interviewee has a music background, while the third interviewee takes part in triathlons.

Task Analysis
1. Who is going to use system?
We are designing our product with the blind and visually impaired as our primary user group. The vast majority of computing interfaces today operate primarily in the visual data stream, making them effectively useless to the blind and visually impaired. We are hoping to improve the quality of life of those who have difficulties navigating their physical environment by developing a simple, unobtrusive, but effective touch-based navigation interface. These users will likely already have skills in navigating using haptic exploration (i.e. working with a cane), but they may not have much experience with the types of technology that we will be presenting to them. They can be of any age or education, and have any level of comfort with technology, but they share in common the fact that they wish to reduce the stress, inconvenience, and stigma involved with navigating their day-to-day space and thereby increase autonomy.

2. What tasks do they now perform?
The blind and visually impaired face numerous difficulties in performing tasks that seeing individuals might find trivial.  These include:
-Maintaining a sense of direction while walking
-Navigating through unfamiliar environments
-Walking while carrying bags or other items

Notably, it is impossible for seeing individuals like us to understand the wide range of tasks that we take for granted. Typically these tasks are solved using:
-A cane, with which the user may or may not already have an established “relationship”
-Audio-based dedicated GPS devices
-Navigation applications for smartphones, developed for use by the blind or used along with some form of access software, such as a screen reader
-Seeing-eye aides (e.g. dogs)
The current solutions used in completing the tasks all require the use of more resources, in terms of auditory attention, hands, and help from others, than we believe are necessary.

3. What tasks are desired?
We wish to introduce a more intuitive, less obtrusive system that will allow the blind to navigate quickly and confidently.  Namely, users should be able to
-Traverse an area more safely and more quickly than before
-Maintain a sense of direction at all times while walking
-Navigate unfamiliar territory using only one hand to interact with navigation aides
-Navigate unfamiliar territory while maintaining auditory focus on the environment, and not a gps device
-Feel more confident in their ability to get around, allowing them a greater freedom to travel about their world

4. How are the tasks learned?
The blind and visually impaired spend years learning and practicing means of navigating and handling daily tasks without vision. These skills can be developed from birth for the congenitally blind, or can be taught by experts who specialize in providing services and teaching for the visually impaired. In the case of phone applications and handheld gps devices, a friend or family member may help the user learn to interact with the technology. For this reason, it will be especially important that the users themselves guide the design of our system.

5. Where are the tasks performed?
The tasks are performed quite literally everywhere. There is a distinction between navigating familiar environments, where the user has been before, and navigating new spaces.The latter task, which may be performed in busy streets, in stores, schools, or when traveling, involves a much greater degree of uncertainty, stress, and potential danger. It should also be noted that there is a distinction between indoor and outdoor navigation. Outside, GPS technology can be used to help the blind locate themselves and navigate. Indoor navigation becomes a much more difficult task. In both environments, the blind frequently are forced to request help from sighted bystanders, which can be embarrassing or inconvenient.

6. What’s the relationship between user & data?
Our current designs do not involve the storage and handling of user data per se, but as we proceed through the various phases of user testing, we believe that the visually impaired have a particular right to privacy due to the potential stresses and embarrassment of their results. For this reason, we hope to learn from specialists the proper way to interact with and record data from testing with our users.

7. What other tools does the user have?
The primary tool which serves to make navigation possible is the cane. This is an important and familiar tool to the user, and has the natural advantages of intuitive use and immediate haptic response. However, users must dedicate a hand to its use and transportation. Another tool that they frequently use is the GPS functionality of the smartphone – given the current location and destination, the user can receive turn-by-turn auditory directions. This has the advantage of allowing the user to navigate to a destination that is unfamiliar without asking for direction. The disadvantage is that the GPS is not always reliable, and does not provide directions indoors. The user also needs to use a hand to hold the smartphone. Users might also employ the use of aides, whether human or animal, although this further decreases the user’s autonomy.

8. How do users communicate with each other?

Barring any other deficits in hearing, the blind are able to communicate in person through normal speech; however, they are unable to detect the various visual cues and nuances that accompany normal speech. The blind have a number of special accessibility modifications to technology (text-to-speech, etc.) that increasing allow the use of the same communications devices (smartphones, computers) that seeing individuals employ.

9. How often are the tasks performed?
Blind people navigate every day. In day-to-day scenarios, the cane allows the users to navigate safely and confidently in familiar surroundings. However, while blind people don’t navigate to unfamiliar places as often, there is more uncertainty involved and is more intimidating, so this is a problem worth solving.

10. What are the time constraints on the tasks?
Navigation takes much longer without the use of vision. The specific time constraints on the task vary with where and why someone is travelling, but are often based on the times associated with events or meetings that the navigator wishes to attend. We hope to make the process of communicating with a navigation system much more efficient, in terms of time and mental energy required. Ideally, we believe our system can allow a blind user to navigate as quickly as a sighted person equipped with a standard gps system, by eliminating the delay associated with conveying information solely through the audio channel.

11. What happens when things go wrong?
The hazards of wrongly or unsafely navigating space are not merely inconvenient; they are potentially life-threatening. Safety is the number one consideration that limits the ability of the user to be confident in their navigational skills. Outside of the safety concerns associated with being unable to navigate smoothly and efficiently, visually impaired people who become lost or disoriented often have to rely on the kindness of strangers to point them to their correct destination. This can be embarrassing and stressful, as the user loses his or her autonomy to a complete stranger. Not only this, but even when things “go right,” and users manage to get from point A to point B, they psychological stress of staying found and oriented without visual information makes travel unpleasant.

Specific Tasks:
1) Walking home from a shopping trip: This task is moderately difficult with existing means, but will likely be much easier and safer with our proposed technology. We describe a scenario in which the user begins at a mall or grocery store and walks a potentially unfamiliar path which involves staying on sidewalks, crossing a few streets, and avoiding obstacles such as other pedestrians while staying on route to their destination by identifying particular landmarks. This must be accomplished all while carrying the purchased items and possibly manipulating a GPS device.
Currently, such a task involves utilizing a cane or similar tool to identify obstacles and landmarks. While basic cane travel is an art that has been developed over generations and has many invaluable merits, it also carries several drawbacks. Firstly, the cane must be carried around constantly and kept track of throughout the day, limiting the hands that the user has to carry other items (or interact with objects or people). If the user is utilizing a GPS device to guide them to their destination (as most blind people have now become accustomed to doing with their smartphones), they must use their other hand to manipulate the device. Thus, unless the user is setting something down or fumbling to carry everything, they will have to stop and set down things simply to operate their GPS. On the other hand, because the cane can only help guide the user relative to their mentally tracked position, if the user has no GPS device and loses track of their cardinal orientation, they have few means by which to reorient themselves without asking for help.
With our proposed system, the user will no longer need to worry about tracking their cardinal orientation, because the system can immediately point them in the right direction through intuitive haptic feedback. Because the cane itself will integrate with GPS technology via bluetooth, the user will not have to manipulate their phone in order to query directions or be guided along their route. This frees up a hand for the user to carry their items as needed.

2) Following a route in a noisy area: This is another fairly difficult task which will become significantly easier using our system. An example of this task is getting from one place to another in city region such as Manhattan. Because the user must receive their navigation directions via audible commands, the user has trouble navigating if they cannot hear their commands. Currently, aside from straining to hear, the main option for a blind person to still manage is by using headphones. However, most blind users prefer not to use headphones, as doing so diminishes their ability to hear environmental cues, on which they heavily rely to navigate.
Our system solves this problem by relaying directional commands in a tactile manner, allowing the person to clearly receive guidance even in the noisiest of environments. Similarly, the need for headphones is eliminated, allowing a person to never disrupt their perception of environmental cues by the occurrence of a GPS message. Guidance is continuous and silent, allowing the user to constantly know where they headed and how to get there.

3) Navigating an unfamiliar indoor space. Despite the preconceptions we might have about the outdoors being hazardous, this task is actually the most difficult of all. Currently, because most GPS technologies do not function well indoors, unfamiliar indoor spaces are generally agreed to be the most intimidating and difficult to navigate.
With current means, blind people typically must ask for help in locating features of an indoor space (the door leading somewhere, the water fountain, etc.), and build a mental map of where everything is relative to themselves and the entrance of the building. The cane can be used to tap alongside walls (“shorelining”) or to identify basic object features (i.e. locate the doorknob). Unfortunately, if the person loses their orientation even momentarily, their previous sense of location is entirely lost, and help must again be sought. For this reason, any indoor space from a bathroom to a ballroom poses the threat of getting “lost.”
Our system uses a built-in compass to constantly keep the user cardinally oriented, or oriented in the direction of a destination if they so choose. As a result, a user can build their mental schema relative to absolute directions and never worry about losing sight of, e.g., where North is located. The user need not draw attention to himself through audible means or carry a separate device for indoors such as a compass (or manipulate their smartphone with their only free hand). Most importantly, the user’s autonomy is not limited because the directional functionality integrated into their cane gives them the ability to navigate these otherwise intimidating spaces on their own.

Interface Design

Description: It was apparent from our interviews that our device should not impede users’ ability to receive tactile and auditory feedback from their environment. By augmenting the cane with haptic feedback and directional intelligence, we hope to create a dramatically improved interface for navigation while preserving those aspects that have become customary for the blind. Specifically, the “Bluecane” will be able to intelligently identify cardinal directions and orient the user through vibration feedback. Bluetooth connectivity will enable the cane to communicate with the user’s existing Android or iOS device and receive information about the user’s destination.  A series of multipurpose braille-like ridges could communicate any contextually-relevant information, including simple navigational directions and other path-finding help. The greatest advantage of an improved cane is that it wouldn’t disrupt or distract the user, unlike an audible navigation system, and it gives the user a free hand while walking.

Storyboard for Task 1

Storyboard for Task 2

Storyboard for Task 3

Design sketch

Design sketch


A2-Joseph Bolling

I. Observation-I conducted my observations on three separate occasions before three different classes that I arrived early to.

A. Before HCI Lecture on Thursday 2/21, I observed two students speaking with each other as they unpacked their book bags and prepared for lecture. Their discussion focused on which classes they were both taking, since one had recently decided between two classes that he had been shopping. After they finished setting out their items for lecture (one had taken his computer out of his backpack, while the other had removed a pencil and paper), they sat down and continued discussing the weekend’s activities. Many people seem to use the time between classes socially like this pair. It’s possible that some method for facilitating communication would be helpful.

B. There’s a girl in my African Dance class who arrives at least 10 minutes early to every class and spends the time reading her organic chemistry textbook. I don’t actually know exactly when she arrives, but she is always sitting outside the room on a bench reading when I arrive at class. I observed her on Wednesday, 2/20, and saw that she was working on a problem from one of the chapters in her textbook. Since she is always studying the same subject, I would guess that her class schedule for orgo syncs up with our dance class such that she always has the same amount of time before her next orgo class when I see her. It’s not uncommon for students to spend their spare time between classes studying. There are, however, few assignments that lend themselves to the sort of burst studying-10minutes of work, 50 minutes of other activities-that the current class model encourages.

C. When I arrived in my COS 226 precept on Thursday, 2/21, the guy sitting in front of me had his laptop out and was clicking through emails, deleting and replying as necessary. Given the volume of email that arrives at the average Princeton.edu address each day, I would expect that checking email would be a major activity for the 10 minutes between classes. All of the subjects I observed had found useful things to do with the time between classes. This indicates to me that one way to improve the time might be to make more of it available to them, by shortening the time they spend traveling between classes.

II. Ideas:

  1. A phone application that tracks your fastest routes between classes
  2. A bike-sharing program tailored to high traffic times and areas
  3. An earpiece that lets you page through emails as you walk
  4. Recordings of textbooks that you could study as you walk
  5. Quiz questions that could be answered from the lecture hall or en route to class
  6. Concurrent lectures given in the same space using headphones for students
  7. An app that tracks your friends’ daily walking routes and plans intersections into your route
  8. An app that lets you know which of your friends are  in which dining/lecture halls
  9. A music player that selects a song based on the walking speed necessary for you to be on time
  10. A personal rapid transit network of autonomous golf carts
  11. A program that automatically downloads your lecture slides from blackboard
  12. A motorized system for carrying bikers and skateboarders to elevated parts of campus
  13. An app that tracks your sleep and recommends caffeine before classes as necessary
  14. An app that alerts you to leave based on average times to reach your classes
  15. A device that lets you review your notes as you walk

III. I chose to prototype my earpiece that pages through emails (#3), not because I felt it was my best idea, but because i had questions about the physicality of the device and how it would affect its usefulness.  I chose to prototype my app for tracking friends’ walking routes (#7), because  it seemed like the interface design would be important to the success of the app.

IV. Prototypes:

My prototype for idea 3 involved a broken coat hanger I had lying around and some paper buttons.  I tried to keep the interface as simple as possible, with only four buttons (aside from an assumed power switch).  I wanted to test whether a simple, intuitive, physical interface could still be valuable in an application that could be implemented as a phone app.

Paper cutout for prototype of idea 3.

Paper cutout for prototype of idea 3.

My creative materials source

My creative materials source

Completed prototype of idea 3

Completed prototype of idea 3

Fits like a glove.

Fits like a glove.

For Idea number 7, I prototyped by drawing up a very basic phone interface.  I went for a simple app that was designed to be used for 10 minutes at a time.

Splash screen, when user first opens app

Splash screen, when user first opens app

Friends page, which allows the user to pick a friend who is currently using the app and find them

Friends page, which allows the user to pick a friend who is currently using the app and find them

Map page.  The map displays the selected friend's location, as well as their predicted route based on their travel history at the current time of day.

Map page. The map displays the selected friend’s location, as well as their predicted route based on their travel history at the current time of day.

V. Testing

I tested my prototype for idea #3 on several students at different times:

A. Student 1 said she thought the earpiece would be useful, and complained about how much time she spent checking email each day.  She reported checking email quickly in between classes, as well as on her laptop in extended sessions.  She complained that the prototype fit loosely on her ear.  She felt that having a physical device was useful in that it would allow her to check her email intuitively on the move.

B. Student 2 said he didn’t see the point of the physical device, and felt he would prefer that the same functionality be implemented on his cellphone with a pair of headphones.  He agreed that having emails read to him via text to speech synthesis would be useful in checking email between classes, but didn’t see the use of a dedicated physical device. Student 2 said he felt “overwhelmed” by the daily volume of email he received, and did say that he would appreciate creative solutions to help him stay on top.

C. Student 3 said she thought the buttons were nice, but would probably not spend too much money to have a separate physical device when she could get the same functionality out of her phone.  When asked if she would consider using the device to write emails (via speech to text synthesis), she said that she probably would not because she would feel as if her privacy were not being protected if she had to speak her emails aloud in public.

D. Student 4 also felt overwhelmed by the amount of email she received each day. She reported checking email on her laptop between classes, in addition to spending roughly an hour each night checking her email at home. Student 4 was unique among the users tested in that she alone did not own a smart phone, and only used her laptop to check her email.  Tellingly, even she felt that the device would probably not be worth its cost when she could check her email on her laptop in class.

Student 4 examines the physicality of the prototype

Student 4 examines the physicality of the prototype

VI. Insights Gained from Testing

From my testing, I concluded that the physical headset is probably not worth the production cost in my model.  most users would prefer to use their phone and a pair of headphones.

The idea of synthesizing text to speech for email checking is sound, and could be valuable to users who like to check their email in short bursts.  Many users praised the simplicity of the interface, and said they would benefit from an application that would make it easier to check email while in transit. Thus, while the functionality of the tested design is sound, testing indicates it would be better implemented as a software application for a mobile phone.