Category Archives: Product Design

UNSA – Jon Spooner’s next steps to Space

SXSW 2012

Timescapes workshop at NID

In parallel to the physical apps workshop, I had the pleasure to carry out a week-long workshop with a small group of incredibly talented students from NID. The workshop was organised around the theme “timescapes”. We spent 3 days discussing the subject as well as playing around with electronics, and 3 other days prototyping specific concepts.

The initial discussions led us to 5 different subjects namely:
boredom: uninteresting, redundant time vs moments of busyness that make us consider each second as invaluable
objects/physicality of time: mark of time on things – ranging from a cup of tea that gets cold after a couple of hours, up to buildings that physically change when left alone
natural time: aspects related to time in nature – its cyclical manifestations and different scales
waiting: idle time that involves the expectation of something that is about to happen as well as the frustration of not having it quickly or the comfort of not having to do anything
life time: related to different generations, memories and how the perception of time varies in different phases of life

After choosing a subject, participants sketched several ideas for objects that would make people reflect on this specific theme. Ideas were continuously expanded and filtered down until the fourth day, when one specific idea was chosen and the prototyping phase began. Images of the process can be found here. The final projects were:

Parallax by Dinesh Kumar, Neha Motghare and Sneha Ashok evolved from discussions about the conflict between boredom and busyness. The project challenges viewers to stand in a very specific position in order to read time accurately. The length and width of the clock hands are equal, but are oriented in such a way that the perceived length of each hand varies according to differnt view points.

Time window by Varun Prabhakar approached the physicality subject described above in an interesting way. The project attempts to incorporate a clock into the formal aspects of a window. The idea is to provide a new way of presenting time, in which hours are presented on the horizontal axis of the window and minutes on its vertical axis. This arrangement generates new a graphic composition at every minute.

The Crazy clock project by Virang Akhiyania aims to discuss the contrast between natural time (slow and cyclical) and constructed time (which leads to ever faster lifestyles). “The clock rotates crazily until someone passes by or stands in front of it. It then takes time to show the time: only when someone stands in front of it for a while is that its hands slow to the the accurate time.”

Sandesh by Sudhir Mor and Sivakumar T aims to solve a problem characteristic of rural areas in India. In these areas municipal water supply is irregular and untimely. People have thus to continuously wait for water to come in their pipes. After some tinkering, Sudhir and Sivakumar decided to hack a pressure gauge and connect it to a buzzer, which in this case is triggered by the movement of the gauge hand.

Knight-Mozilla Ideas Jam – comes to Dundee 27th May

Knight-Mozilla  Ideas Jam
University of Dundee
Friday 27th May, 2011 – 09.30 – 18-00
Hosted by Product Design Dundee with Hack/Hackers Edinburgh
Meet DJCAD, Perth Road, Dundee, DD1 4HT

Book now –

Qualify directly for a yearlong paid fellowship at the Guardian, the BBC and other major news outlets by entering your idea during the jam…..


Mozilla and the Knight-foundation are coming to town for the day. It’s big.

Are you a designer or an artist or a technologist and a creative and want to change the world of news and journalism? Then read on…..

Product Design at the University of Dundee, Mozilla and Hack/Hackers Edinburgh are hosting a one-day workshop to generate ideas about the future of news and journalism for the Knight-Mozilla challenge. Why – because they want to make the web a better place…. and they’re looking for the smartest people on the planet to put into paid fellowships with the world’s leading news organisations – the BBC, The Guardian, The Boston Globe and other major news players. Can art and design change the way the world looks at news – we think you can?

Good at ideas but don’t know about journalism? Don’t worry – we’re kicking off with experts in news, journalism and technology, who will give you everything you need to know to be a journo for a day.

Mozilla are shouting the Pizza and Beers – Product will shout the Irn Bru (we’ll let them know what it is when they get here) – you’re shouting the best ideas you’ve ever had for changing news….

The day will end with an upload of ideas to enter the challenge – make sure your name is on a load of them….

The Challenges

#1 How can we use open video to tell stories on the web in news ways?
#2 How can we reinvent online news discussions?
#3 How can we tap the HTML5 web platform for news?

Day plan

09.30 Coffee / Irn Bru

10.00 Kick off

10.30 Digital-Journo for the day Paul Egglestone and Michael MacLeod joining us from the Guardian for the day.

11.30 Flip Out

  • Go out in teams and make 30 second shorts of the challenges – could be real, could be fictional, could be an animation – just make films that make you think about the challenges. Bring Flips/iPhones/Androids/Whatever-to-make-a-film…

12.30 Pizza and view Flip Outs

  • Project Flip Outs on walls / show on your laptops / phones / or TVs…

14.00 Idea Gen

  • Make hundreds of ideas on the challenges

16.30 Drinks – review – upload

  • Upload your #MoJo challenges for a chance to qualify for that dream internship

18.00 end… or go to the pub – your call?

And finally… the fantastic people at Mozilla are providing the beer and the pizzas!

Get in touch

  • or @ileddigital. Booking will be available in the coming days.

Plastic Fantasia Opening Night

RFID Reader for the Oxfam Curiosity Shop

Over the last 6 weeks a team of us from ToTEm have been rapidly producing a set of three RFID readers for the Oxfam Curiosity Shop, a popup shop in Selfridges in London that opens today. This Oxfam shop is entirely stocked with celebrity donations and vintage items, and 35 of the items are tagged with RFID tags. Upon scanning the RFID tag with our Reader, a video tale pops up on screens in the shop, told by the person who donated the item.

This system was trialled prototypically at a previous Totem/Oxfam event with excellent results, so for this outing we took the existing hardware, streamlined and repackaged it and scaled up the software to deal with several readers and many more videos. Some pictures of the resulting reader device are here on my Flickr stream.

detail of the illuminated part of the reader

How it Works
The basic principal is that an RFID sensor detects the unique ID number of an RFID tag, which is sent via bluetooth (radio) to the video software running on a computer behind the scenes. Meanwhile a PIC (programmable integrated circuit) chip detects that the sensor has been activated and triggers the clear acrylic part of the reader to glow brightly as feedback for the user. The software (running in Quartz) receives the ID number and finds the video associated with it, sending it to the monitor for playback.

How we Worked
The project has been a real team effort with lecturer Pete Thomas and myself (Roy Shearer) working on the physical design and production, technician Willie Henderson machining the housings, research assistant Mike Shorter programming the interface behaviour, IMD technician Ali Napier and head of product design Jon Rogers working on the software and Angelina Karpovich producing the video content. In order to deal with the tight timescale and the fact that we all have various other responsibilities, we pioneered an entirely text email based Gantt chart system. This basically consisted of an ever-evolving to do list assigned to dates and people! I actually think this worked surprisingly well, as it was immediate and easy to refer to across all our phones and computers, regardless of software. I won’t pretend that things weren’t missed, but I still think these were fewer than if we had used a more involved organisational tool. Lo-fi methods win for nimbleness yet again, I’d say.

The readers are now in use by the staff in the Oxfam Curiosity Shop, not to mention Annie Lennox, so do go and have a go – you have until the 14th April. Stay tuned for some video hopefully and a bit of coverage from today’s opening.

Annie Lennox and the reader

Plastic Fantasia exhibited in Naples’ Museum of Plastic

Plastic Fantasia sign

Last night was the sneak preview of Plastic Fantasia for the Italian press and art & design society in Napoli. Anna Clara Rendahl, Patrick Stevenson-Keating, Mike Shorter and Elio Caccavale (all from the Product Design course at the University of Dundee) have been working on the project comissioned by PLART, museum of plastics in Napoli since October, recently being joined by Mike Vanis (from Digital Interaction Design) in the last few weeks.

Plastic fantasia is a world of sinister delight, mysteries and curiosities. In the domestic environment, traditionally products live a contented life. However, in Plastic Fantasia, everything is not quite as it seems. In this world, the products have a life of their own, detached from normality. They are menacing and murderous. They scuttle and scurry, each product becoming a part of a larger horrifying story.

Plastic fantasia is a freak show where plastic design classics have been transformed into animated monsters, merging the ideas of a House of Horros and the classic Disney film “Fantasia” where inanimate objects come to life.

This project forms the focal point of the latest exhibition in the PLART museum, and is surrounded by other pieces from numerous Italian designers. Plastic Fantasia has been wonderfully received by the press, making it onto National TV and newspapers, and also by those people lucky enough to see the exhibition before its opening to the general public on Friday 1st April.

It has been a fantastic experience for the young designers to present this project to such a large audience, and to represent the University of Dundee as they will soon be graduating this June. We are now looking forward to enjoying the last few days in Napoli and everything it has to offer before the preview, and then heading back to Scotland on Sunday.

Plastic Fantasia

Plastic Fantasia

Plastic Fantasia

Digital Products For Communities

NCR Student Competition – Win!

Product Level 3 student, Callum Brown, wins the NCR student competition with his project “Travel Phone”.

“Travel Phone is a mobile phone rental service that encourages safe and convenient travel through the up-keep of communication and safety abroad.

At a kiosk at their destination, the customer can pay and collect a phone containing their pre-saved preferences, to use throughout their visit in that country, and return it via post at the end of their journey.

The phone incorporates basic communication features, a GPS map and tourist information, and comes as standard with a USB cable for charging on-the-go. Accessory upgrades are offered to cater for individual travel needs.

It allows the customer travel comfortably knowing that they can easily contact emergency services, their national embassy, or find a place to eat and stay, without worrying about caring for a valuable phone.

Roles are reversed – the phone looks after the user, and through simple design, it prevents them standing out in a busy, intimidating environment.

Payment schemes: deposit; up-front fee etc.; are handled by the network service provider. Self-service kiosks incorporating touch-screen, chip & pin and phone dispenser, is made by NCR. Since NCR are looking at directing their design straight at the user, it may too be viable for them to manufacture the phone.

Travel Phone is a service that, through offering safety and convenience to customers, will bring business and revenue to NCR and mobile phone service providers, and most importantly – it will nurture brand loyalty to both.”