Feedback on the students’ Mobile Telematic projects, provided by Tega Brain (professor at NYU Integrated Digital media), Sam Lavigne (Professor at UT Austin Art & Design), and Golan Levin. Where possible, Sam and Tega attempted to use the telematic apps together.
“SCRUB LOVE” is a virtual scrubbing experience for two people to connect non-verbally, based on a Korean bath house tradition.
(Tega and Sam) We love the idea of “scrubbing together”. The hand drawn graphics are original and wonderful and the experience is satisfyingly strange. One suggestion would be to make it more clear as to who is who – that is, am I the person on the left or the right? Or neither? Users could be distinguished through different colored gloves for example. I think this would also become more compelling with a clearer shared goal – e.g. is the goal to fill the bowl of noodles and keep it on the screen?
(Golan) This is amazing, intimate, poetic, sweet, and a little gross. You did a good job. The premise of making soup from someone else’s dead skin is wonderfully appalling and I’m pleased (?) to learn that this a thing. The noodles are beautifully animated and go well (after many iterations, I’m sure) with your heartwarming hand-drawn animations.
“TRON RACER” is a networked driving game in which players can leave trails as obstacles. Opponents lose “lives” when they collide with those obstacles.
(Tega and Sam) Use of the accelerometer and the simple, retro graphics work well. It took me a while to figure out the interaction so it might be worth giving some more instructions via a help screen. Sam ran into some technical issues on an iPhone XS – he wasn’t able to leave a path and had some problems with the phone attempting to select the screen. While we do think this project is fun and worth pursuing, we’re not convinced that it meets the criteria for the assignment. Is this really a novel way to communicate? As a game, it would be interesting to program some sort of trade off when drawing the lines, to force the players to be more strategic. Eg. is there some sort limit to how much a player can draw – or do they lose energy or does the game speed up?
(Golan) Fine game design work, very sharp design. You went through a lot of iterations to get here, and it shows. The system is well-tuned and solves a lot of tough problems in ways that aren’t noticeable. My only real feedback is that the project has a slightly generic feeling; I feel like I’ve seen this project before, even though I haven’t quite. Some of the details (like “Ouch!”) are doing a lot of charming work, and in general I wish there was more quirky/particular stuff like this. What if the “Ouch!” was the foreground — indeed, the focus — and not just some background sugar?
“PIXEL DRAW” is a collaborative pixel art environment, in which two users are each assigned a complementary role (placing black pixels or white pixels), and then make low-resolution drawings together.
(Tega and Sam) We enjoyed the simplicity of the concept and the low res graphics are a nice constraint. We felt like you could do more with prompts – they seemed somewhat random and their difficulty level was inconsistent. Perhaps the users should write the prompts themselves? In addition we had some technical difficulties with the other user’s drawing not loading properly and there were also a few UX issues on the iphone XE with overlapping menu text. We’d encourage you to keep working on this project – it’s a really good start and the concept has lots of potential.
(Golan) Ace project, from concept to execution. Everything is really well-considered; I’m especially glad to see even small details like the typeface given due consideration. I’m personally still not sure about the gray background, but I respect that you tried the alternatives. Well done. You need quotation marks around the drawing prompts, for example: DRAW “REJECTION”.
“COLLABORATIVE KITCHEN” allows users to collectively cook and eat a stew with their friends.
(Tega and Sam) The graphics are fantastic and the idea of collaboratively cooking something is really strong. We weren’t able to try this on mobile and had to use a laptop, so there are still some bugs. The concept could be further developed to make the interaction more satisfying. This could be done by introducing a goal or competition or an unexpected result. Eg. could we be told what to cook and have to choose the correct ingredients, or is there a limit what we can choose? Or once we have added the food, does it “cook” it and we get a result? You could also have something that involved many more users to produce a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario where everyone is at odds with each other. Technical issues: 1) the site didn’t work properly on mobile, and even on desktop it needs to adjust properly to different screen sizes. 2) Drag and drop can sometime grab two or more items. Generally speaking, great job!
(Golan) Excellent. Your drawings always have tons of charm, and I fully endorse you using this skill. For humor’s sake, I wish there were other tabs with different items (e.g. spooky stuff like spiders and eyeballs for Halloween); I think the project would still fulfill the goal of “cooking together”. Also, have you tested this on a mobile phone? I’m concerned that the graphic items might be too small (i.e. covered completely by a finger). Fortunately you have tons of space available to scale things up if you want. Finally: we need that video, please; ideally, show both screen-capture as well as over-the-shoulder video.
“GNOME TELEMATICA” is a synchronous garden gnome hangout.
(Tega and Sam) This is a delightful result. The interaction worked well and the graphics are joyful, however the communication aspect of this app could be further developed through introducing some sort of additional action or letting some traces persist in the space. Could I leave a message for a future user or rearrange the world? This would make the experience more compelling.
(Golan) The video documentation on your blog post page is missing or not working; I’m not trying to bust your chops, but that’s unsatisfactory from the perspective of (for example) sharing your work with our external reviewers. Regarding the project itself: the visual design is a good start, but the interaction design leaves me wanting more. I truly respect the idea of “being together”, but it would really help to have something (anything!) to do, besides just changing one’s position around on the screen. For example, you could have your gnome tip their hat to acknowledge the other gnomes, or wave “hi”, or squat or bounce or something. It’s a small point, but I feel like the typography is also completely unconsidered; why did you choose (yes, choose) that font (instead of a pixel font, for example)? And why doesn’t the sentence “touch grass to enter” disappear once I’ve entered?! Lastly, I think you need to own (i.e. write about) your decision (yes, decision) to only have male gnomes.
“ART EXCHANGE” allows participants to create a picture together by requesting various drawing elements from each other.
(Tega and Sam) Great concept. It’s delightful to be able to send parts of drawings and particularly innovative to be able to accumulate them in an assembled way. The video documents the work well – however I’d love to be able to try it out! This could be further developed by the rules of the interaction. Can only one person make a request? Is it one directional – or are you supposed to go back and forth. Seems there is an opportunity to explore an exquisite corpse type project here too. Great job.
(Golan) This is a really strong concept and I truly respect your commitment and effort. The idea of drawing with someone else’s help like this — it’s so sound. Don’t beat yourself up about the project’s incomplete state. That said: the path you chose to implement it is perhaps more challenging than it needed to be; I’d like to understand better why you chose to strike out on your own with Firebase rather than with the templates I provided. Although there are always multiple ways to solve any problem (Firebase is legit, but Glitch already does what you want), it’s harder for me to help a student when they strike out on their own like this. Regarding the idea itself, it feels a little under-constrained, but it’s a worthy experiment nonetheless. It might be nice to have person B provide drawing “fragments” that person A can place (or even copy-paste multiple times) in different locations, rather than a single fixed location determined by person B.
“DOGGO SIMULATOR” is a digital pet co-parenting app, analogous to a shared, networked Tamagotchi.
(Tega and Sam) We love the concept of a collaborative virtual pet and the animations in this are fantastic. However we had some issues with functionality, and we were not sure if the app was working correctly? We think this concept has exciting potential to be something very addictive and satisfying but it needs to be developed much further. Consider scoring or tracking each carers interactions and progress in some way.
(Golan) The animations are flat-out lovely. It’s not 100% clear to me whether this app is like a networked Tamagotchi (in which two people share responsibilities for taking care of a virtual pet) or whether it is a networked, dog-specific task-minder app (in which two people compete to take care of a real dog, using a shared care-logging tool). The documentation video confuses the matter because you prominently show video of a real dog with the words “as if”. I don’t know whether this means it’s “as if” you had a real dog (assuming you don’t), or that the on-screen dog is a proxy for your real dog. I think both app concepts are good, but they’re very different, and your documentation would be better if it clarified which one it is. This is just my personal opinion, but I suspect your adoration for your particular pooch is making it difficult for you to be able to have sufficient critical distance from your documentation video.
“SWEETMAIL” is an asynchronous messaging platform similar to email but more intimate. It runs on voice commands, as there is something special about speaking the words “I Love You” or any other expression of affection in comparison to typing the words.
(Tega and Sam) The concept of deliberately designing an app for imperfect transmission is really great and is a smart way to celebrate the imperfect nature of speech to text – turn a bug into a feature. The grainy quality of the video gives a nostalgic feeling but the video documentation could be made a little clearer, as I wasn’t exactly clear on how it worked until I read the text.
(Golan) This is a charming concept and a delicious interface. I think your intuition about dictation is spot on. I’m proud of how you’ve integrated technologies you haven’t tried before, such as p5.speech and Hershey fonts. As an aside, the Hershey fonts allow for easy computational manipulation that could produce some fun and subtle visual effects.
“SHAKE2BREAK” is a quick, competitive, phone-shaking game for two players.
(Tega and Sam) This app is surprisingly hard and my arm now hurts a bit! This is a really creative interpretation and use of the accelerometer. The color and design is also well conceived. One further suggestion is to give a bit more feedback on who is in the lead, although it’s interesting how it’s basically impossible to track your progress or see how the other player is doing unless you’re willing to stop shaking and therefore risk losing. It’s also enjoyable because of how easily it could lead to destroying your phone!
(Golan) I love how well-scoped this project is. This is very economical work: with fairly minimal changes to the provided template, you created a totally new experience. And your game is not bad! I call that “Lazy like a fox” (which is praise, to be clear). The game itself reminded me of Rafael Rozendaal’s Finger Battle app. Your game’s display would be more legible if the level meters were designed as two parallel vertical columns (side by side) rather than stacked one on top of the other; this improvement would only take a couple of minutes to implement. The main problem with this project, however, are flaws in the documentation. Your work does not stop when you finish the code! You need to explain what the project is, in a simple, crisp sentence — you never do this. Additionally, because it takes 37 seconds before you start showing your project, you’ve already lost 99% of your audience; you need to convey what the project is and why it’s interesting within the first 5 seconds. You could replace the whole (cute, sure) animation with a single sentence that says something like “Having a disagreement? Settle the matter with this shaking competition”. But if you really want to have that animation, then at least match the colors of the characters with the colors on the screen.
“SNAIL MAIL” is an app that allows users to deliver text messages to a friend — one character at a time, once per hour.
(Tega and Sam) The video documentation is an effective communication of this project. The subversion of real time communication into something slow, where one has to wait is a tantalizing idea. Really great way to intentionally disrupt and sabotage your own ability to communicate, and to call into question/critique the way that communication tools are built for immediate and perpetual attention. Would introducing some variability in the wait intervals between letters be an interesting thing to consider? I would like to be able to try this for a few days with some friends.
(Golan) This is an excellent, truly rather unusually good project. Your documentation is almost great, but falls short in a couple crucial respects, and unfortunately fails to convey some key information about the project. Luckily, these problems are really easy to fix. Firstly, you need a caption that crisply explains what your project is. In a single sentence; put it at the beginning of the video. Secondly: it’s unclear whether you are sending or receiving the message. Show someone using the web interface to send the message; then show yourself receiving it. When you show yourself receiving it, make sure it’s not possible to mistake you for actively texting: for example, hold your phone with one hand, keep your thumb far away from the screen, show yourself holding the phone from over your shoulder while a new letter comes in. And in general: Try to get out of your own head — imagine seeing your video, divorced from your blog post, without knowing anything about your project. Share the video with a friend who hasn’t seen it and ask what they think is going on. Make these corrections and you’ve got a true winner Thumbpin!
“ROOM WITH A VIEW” is a tool with which people can share the camera views from their windows (or from any other places) with their friends and families in virtual apartment cells.
(Tega and Sam) I really like the idea of an ambient, relatively private always-on portal, especially for 2020. I almost think the project should be paired with a cheap physical device with camera (like a raspberry pi) that you could distribute to your friends, and would always be on… Consider drawing attention to the time differences for different users in a more abstract way, such as by the room fading dark during the night/evenings.
(Golan) Congratulations on making your own version of Zoom from scratch! There’s a lot to be learned by doing so. Conceptually, I’m not convinced that people will feel closer with each other by sharing the views outside their windows, and I’m not sure how your app enforces that they do so (other than hoping they agree to do that with their cameras). In other words, what keeps people from using the camera in other ways or locations? From a visual design standpoint, I think there’s a tension between the hand-drawn elements, and the geometric items (the GUI rectangles and the rectangular grid of the cameras’ pixels); I wonder if there could be a way to make the video transmission look hand-drawn. I also wish you weren’t covering up a third of the data you’re transmitting (with curtains, flowers, etc) — that’s a lot of obstacles just to support the notion of looking out the window (which I have some doubts about, as I explained). Also, why a grid of grids at all? Did you consider experimental ways of sharing their video feeds, such as by interleaving them into a seamless collage, etc.? In terms of your documentation, I really want to see some contextualization of the setup, using video: show me a person setting up the camera that points outside their window; show me what it looks like when a person uses or appreciates the resulting display. This stuff may be in your head, but it’s hard for me to imagine the social context in which this is used.