The Status of Our Thesis

For the past seven weeks, we have been writing ideas on sticky notes, talking game strategy, testing ideas, researching, and observing bikers on the streets of New York every day. Even though we’ve had the added workload of three other grad classes, we have managed to make headway in developing ideas around our four main concepts—wayfinding, tracking, discovery and motivation. Also, as our Thesis Proposal v.2 reflects, we know now that we are making a bike helmet. Below we’ve documented the highlights of the previous seven weeks.

Our helmet will have speakers, a sensor that senses if anyone is wearing it, a simple remote control to adjust volume and for simple navigation, and probably a mic for potential phone calls, voice recording and voice commands.

The core of our concept is in-ride voice directions on the format seen below. The blog post Low-fi prototyping, part II elaborates on this, and includes a test text-to-speech audio file with directions that we tested while riding to our favorite local restaurant, Rucola.

1. Head southeast on 5th Street toward 8th Ave.
Ride about 282 feet.
Then turn left onto 8th Ave,

2. Turn left onto 8th Ave.
Ride about 0.1 miles.
Then turn left onto 2nd Street.

3. Turn left onto 2nd Street
Ride about 0.4 miles.
Then turn right onto 5th Ave

We did an extensive post-it session to identify more potential features that could enhance our product. This Features blog post documents the sticky note fun. The session led to a longer list of features that we then narrowed down to a few key concepts we wanted to explore further:

  • Tracking of the bike ride
  • Discovery of new locations in the city
  • Motivation through social pressure

We had been in our own bubble for a while, and started to feel the need to get more people’s perspective on biking and our concepts. We decided to launch a bike challenge, King of Two Wheels, for our fellow studio mates (see Game Rules here). We made sure this challenge also would give us a lot of interesting interview material through introducing our contestants to a video confession booth. When the game was over, we created a video to document our amazing contestants’ journey through the one week long game:

The King of Two Wheels challenge allowed us to explore the motivational aspects of biking, both through the contest itself and by making the bikers efforts visible on the studio walls. We proposed opportunities for our contestants to share their bike love by getting other studio mates to bike. To get the whole SVA IxD community involved, bikers and non-bikers alike, we invited students to bet and cheer for the contestants. The blog post Behavior Change and Motivation elaborates on this aspect of the game.

The spool of yarn each contestant got at the start of the competition was used to map their ride on the physical map in our studio every morning. We believe tracking (as long as it’s done consistently) can be another motivational factor – especially when you see your data making a beautiful visual mark for all to see. In addition to the physical mapping, we also got our contestants to try to track their rides digitally with various apps so we could get insights into the joys and hassles of tracking with the tools that are out there.

There’s something special about riding a bike compared to taking the subway through a city. You discover new cafes, restaurants and parks all the time, but you might just as easily forget your discoveries as you continue on your journey through a chaotic city. We challenged our contestants to open their eyes to what’s around them to get insights into their strategies for remembering places. We also encouraged our contestants to “connect the dots” and actually visit a few places on their bikes throughout the weekend. Read more about this in the Hit the Hot Spots post.

2 thoughts on “The Status of Our Thesis

  1. Go Kristin & Carrie! Doing early-stage analog prototyping is really smart. I like how the game isn’t just a direct manifestation of your idea for creating a way-finding helmet, but more of a generalized exploration of what it means to bike, how people get motivated, etc. Can’t wait to see what you guys make next (hopefully it involves tacos again)!

  2. Thanks, Tina! Considering our recent minor pivot toward superpower mobilization on a larger scale than what the helmet possibly could allow for, I think the prototype makes even more sense now. Mmmmmm tacos…