Experience Prototyping

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Experience Prototyping facilitates early user experiences with a neoteric product to help generate information for a design idea or to identify basic usability issues.
The prototype introduced below is informed by higher-level abstraction* and behavioural blocks. It provides a speculative technological "structure of forms" that involved a bundling of generic components, functions and properties, some of which are to be found in existing mobile systems. The aim of the assignment [which also follows the "research-through-design" process model] is to combine a "proxy object" with two scenarios in order to simulate use of the future product, examine somatic, affective and cognitive aspects of the experience, enable some brainstorming and to inspire design solutions.

* The reference is to: Ward, S and Halstead, R: 1990, Computation Structures, The MIT Press.


1 Functional requirements

The investigated prototype is a special navigation assistant designed to help travellers find their way around in foreign surroundings. It incorporates the following components:

  • Geographic Information System
  • Wireless internet connectivity
  • AI-translator
  • Text messaging
  • Stylus, buttons, microphone
  • Digital camera
  • LCD screen
  • Earplug/loudspeaker, small-format printer


  • Speech, image, and character recognition; Output translations of foreign language data;
  • Route planning, visual- and voice-guided navigation;
  • Find accommodation, make a reservation, locate public transport;
  • Electronic funds transfer.

The Next-Generation Device incorporates a powerful simulation engine and advanced features: (1) A wireless LCD eyewear system (Augmented Reality) for superimposing the translation of text-based data back onto the original physical object; (2) Incoming verbal data is translated by the assistant [in near-real-time] and re-communicated through earplugs or a loudspeaker using speech synthesis; (3) Outgoing user speech data is translated and re-communicated through a loudspeaker; (4) 3-D spatial navigation and guidance: The assistant plans a route and superimposes "a transparent virtual corridor" onto the physical world; (This may require some anti-collision system); (5) The navigation assistant can project humanoid holograms of itself.

2 Low-fidelity prototypes

Experience-prototyping sessions allowed participants to perform* a number of activities, resulting in "communication and information rich situations" - that is to say, qualitative data for a subsequent analysis.


  • A piece of timber marked in pencil with a rectangular display and four buttons {Picture, Sound, Play, Stop};
  • A small attached frame to serve as a viewfinder;
  • Pen on a string;
  • Plain glasses and earplugs;
  • Signs printed in black on both white and blue cardboard;
  • Several blue cardboard arrows.

Note: Objects in blue represent superimposed virtual objects.

* The reference is to Informance techniques: Laurel, B [ed.]: 2003, Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, The MIT Press.

3 Interaction

Scenario 1: The first user has just arrived in a South-East Asian location. She has long wanted to visit some of the town's ancient temples. But first she needs to find a transport to get to her hotel. Unfortunately she is unable to read any of the signs around her or to ask for directions. She quickly takes a few pictures of the signs with her navigation assistant. The translated text, however, is irrelevant to her immediate concern. So she decides to approach one of the locals. She has already recorded an appropriate question and prints out a palm card for someone to read. The answer is recorded and her assistant can use this information to plan a route.

You are pretending to look for a taxi. Take a picture of the surrounding signs with your navigation-assistant prototype. Evaluate the translation. If unsatisfactory, use the microphone or pen to input your question for directions and print it. Approach someone and hand them the card. Record their answer. Follow the translated directions of your assistant.

Scenario 2: The second user arrives a few minutes later, also trying to find a taxi. He has a next-generation device which includes a pair of AR-Glasses. All the signs around him appear to be in his own language. He approaches one of the locals and asks how to find the nearest taxi stand. He can hear his question being repeated in the local language, like a faint echo. By the time he perceives the translated answer the assistant has begun to plot the safest route. Inside the taxi, he simply reads out the desired address.

You are pretending to look for a taxi. If you are unable to find a relevant sign {black text on a blue background} you should approach someone and ask for directions. This person will appear to speak your language fluently and kindly advise you on how to proceed. Follow the blue arrows until you reach your goal.

4 Outcome

Experience Prototyping is not to be confused with a feasibility study. By coupling a low-fidelity prototype with a user scenario, however, it became possible to explore the utility/usability of a product idea and to gather valuable qualitative data.


1) Participants regarded the first prototype as relatively conventional since most of its components had been encountered in existing electronic products. Multi-lingual communication, global positioning and navigation assistance made for a sound functional basis, while the idea of pointing your camera at a strange piece of text to have it translated at once was considered useful under the circumstances.

2) Most of the functionality simulated by the first iteration of the assistance system was easily transferred to the next-generation device. The main differences explored here encompassed the real-time augmentation of the physical world with digital information structures. This version of the product could be expected to outperform its predecessor, however, the technological benefits were still offset by concerns regarding possible collisions, spatial disorientation and info overload.
The key to an actual increase in human capabilities, rather than tradeoffs between separate worlds, may be a co-ordination of physical and virtual events that ensures the ability of the user to consistently distinguish between: (1) Solid objects in the physical world, (2) Virtual /holographic objects visible to the user and other people, and (3) Virtual objects only perceived by the user, e.g. navigation corridors, holographic characters and translated speech.

Author: Marcel Ritschel, Date: 11.11.2007 (revised: 2017)
Assignment for Client & User-Centred Design 89303; University of Technology, Sydney

5 Acknowledgements

Buchenau, M and Fulton Suri, J: 2000, Experience Prototyping, IDEO San Francisco.
Reeves, B: The Benefits of Interactive Online Characters, Stanford University.
Stereoscopic Projection. Retrieved November, 2004 from www.barco.com/projection_systems/downloads/Barco_stereoscopic_proj.pdf
Svanaes, D and Seland, G: 2004, Putting the Users Center Stage: Role Playing and Low-fi Prototyping Enable End Users to Design Mobile Systems, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Wearable Displays: Mobile Device Eyewear. Retrieved November 2007 from www.microvision.com