POLA

Pola is an interactive photo frame inspired by vintage polariod photos, the inaccessibility of modern online-photo storage and the slow design philosophy.

The frame displays a photograph from an online collection on its screen for a couple of days before fading the photo to black. When the owner notices the faded-out frame, they have to shake the frame to make a new photograph appear. By this interaction, a short moment of conscious interaction with the technology is created, before ultimately fading into the background again.

This project began as a group project at Chalmers University of Technology. I am currently continuing the project with the aim of creating a viable research product fit for a cultural probe-study.

Context: Chalmers University of Technology; Master Programme in Interaction Design & Technology; Course: Tangible Interaction; Group project with Daniel Duvanå, Julia Wallén and Yibin Huai.

My part: Concept, Research, Prototyping, Programming, Evaluation, Continued work

Challenge

The initial challenge for Pola was to design an artefact that would repeatedly break down and be in need of repair by its owner.

Our first ideation led us to consider the act of repairing as a contemplative action. We decided to work within the design space of slow technology in the home environment to further accommodate this.

Ideation and exploratory research

By conducting interviews and home-visits, we learned that people most often choose to repair things for two different reasons: Because the thing that broke is expensive, or because it has a nostalgic value. Nostalgic and sentimental objects are often things like notebooks, gifts or photographs.

During the home-visits, two participants described how they would often forget that they had pictures on their walls:

"We have probably stopped noticing the pictures. I usually just pick them up when they fall down. When people are visiting, they go straight for them. I actively look at the pictures when putting them back up."

The general concept for the artefact then became a photo-frame that would adapt similar cycles of being forgotten and remembered.

Further fine-tuning of the concept lead us to adapt the symbolic representation of old photographs in several aspects.

When being "forgotten", the photo frame will fade away to nothing. To be remembered, the photo requires a shaking action to fade back into view.

Prototyping

An initial technical test was conducted with an arduino, a led light and an IMU sensor, to explore the possibilities of the interaction.

The final prototype was constructed with a Raspberry Pi 4, a hyper pixel screen-hat and an IMU sensor. The entire prototype was built in Python.

Several simple foam core prototypes of the case were constructed. The cases were used to explore the different connotations created by different shapes.

Final first iteration

The first iteration resulted in a functional exhibition piece for the prototype.

You can read the project report in full here.

Continued work

For the next iteration of this prototype, my goal is to construct a viable research product that can be reproduced and later conduct a cultural probe-study.

Some things on my to-do-list are:

  • Do performance tests for long-term usage
  • Set up a data log system
  • Set up reliable internet access
  • Design and 3D-print sturdy casing

Check out this page again in a couple of weeks to see my progress!

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