Having chosen Space as a topic which we'd like to work with, we began by researching a number of areas:
Our research trip to the Griffith Observatory was rewarding in understanding the process of stargazing, along with its community and technical aspects. All of the astronomers we spoke with were eager to share their unique experiences and views. Through these interviews, we concluded that exploration with others and community-building were fundamental aspects in observing the night sky.
Having examined a large number of astronomy references texts, we noted their media richness—they are filled with diagrams and photographs. It as also interesting to note how quickly information dated in these printed books.
We explored current research in the field of immersive and spatial interfaces. Oblong are currently developing a spatial OS based on the concepts generated for Minority Report and work from MIT.
Microsoft are also exploring interacting with objects in 3D space with their HoloDesk project:
Future eBook Design Research
We also investigated recent speculative research on the future development of the ebook, including:
- Post-Artifact Books and Publishing by Craig Mod
- IDEO's vision for the future of the book (see video)
We tested a number of current Astronomy tools and apps:
Stars 3D also seeks the attention of amateur astronomers and chasers of the night sky. As its name infers, you are able to view a three dimensional map of all the stars within 16 light years radius from the sun and then switch to Earth view to visualize how this 3D map projects into the night sky that we see from our planet. While this program offers a great level of flexibility to adjust to your preferences—showing/hiding constellation lines—it does not offer an in-depth view or links to the local or global stargazing community.
Celestia is real-time 3D space simulation program which lets you travel through our solar system and to over 100,000 stars in our galaxy. Offering a similar exponential zoom, Celestia is also a point-and-go-to interface, with a 3D feel and tracks real-time movement of celestial objects.
Star Walk enables you to point your iPhone at the sky and see what stars, constellations, and satellites you are looking at in real-time. While offering an event calendar, this Augmented Reality app, however, requires internet access, which may not be available in a stargazing area. In addition, the content is less interactive and intimate an experience as we would like it to be.
Google provides a simple interface, but offers little interaction, information or real-time data. It would be difficult to navigate the night sky at a star party with Google Sky.
This book uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to create an immersive reading experience that will allow the user to see their books with incredible virtually "real" 3D objects and animations that pop off the page. This book offers some of the 3D projection technology which Sky Guide has incorporated in its design, but without the need for small accessories, which are easily lost.
Hitlab created this illustration book where they design 2 devices, the book itself and the digital goggles, for audiences to explore the book in every angle. The illustration then comes to live in three-dimensional animation with audio story telling. The digital goggles, again, can be easily lost in the darkness of the night sky.
Flash to iOS Prototyping
With the help of Phil van Allen, we investigated using Flash-built iPad apps to prototype interface ideas. Once provisioning was set up, this was a quick, straightforward process allowing us to create rapid iterations of the interface for testing in a touch-enabled environment.
Based on our interviews, research and initial concepts, we decided to focus on the community aspect of exploring the night sky. Gazing through a telescope has traditionally been a more intimate activity, because the singular eyepiece allows only one individual at a time. However, the incorporation of three-dimensional projection technology would allow more participants to interact with the device, as well as engage with others. This device acts as a stepping stone for those new to astronomy and provides resources, education and connections to experts in the field.
The development of our interface arose from astronomers' complaints regarding overly-complex, ugly interfaces, as well as struggles to engage a younger generation. The affordances of touch-based interaction were emphasized in our app, enabling the user to customize their own journey into space.
The following images illustrate some of the initial ideas and directions we explored in the design.
After a number of iterations and changes, we settled on a more refined interface. There were numerous small details we had to account for, including larger hit areas for the touch interface and a clearer primary nav.