Abhinit Parelkar - UX/Interaction Designer
ABHINIT PARELKAR

Neuron (Capstone Project)

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Neuron Focus Support: Eliminating distraction through facilitated goal-oriented task management

Initially inspired by people with attention-deficit disorders, this project sought to assist people who often struggle to establish goals and accomplish tasks in a world that is continuously providing a distraction.

Duration: Summer '18 Quarter
 

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Neuron

Like a task manager. Unlike any task manager.


MOTIVATION

Solve the real user problem even if that means inventing something that does not exist yet. This is how we got the mouse, the touch screen, and email addresses. All of these things were trying to make technology more accessible to people.
— John Giannandrea, head of AI at Apple, engineer at General Magic

HOW IT WORKS

How it works poster.

PROJECT DEMO

A short video about Neuron Focus Support system. This is a Human-Computer Interaction Capstone Project at DePaul University.

THE NEED

In a world driven by always online technology, most people encounter challenges to stay focussed on a task. People whose work is mediated by technology can often face similar symptoms of inattention, fatigue, procrastination, and failure to complete tasks in those who deal with attention-deficit disorders.

This project sought to assist people who often struggle to establish goals and accomplish tasks in a world that is continuously providing a distraction. 

LIMITATION

We had seven weeks to accomplish our project objectives.


DESIGN SOLUTION

Our team commenced with user research (interviews, survey) and ended with a usability evaluation. Our usability tests uncovered insights, which led to the understanding of the users’ interaction with our app and the device prototypes.

USER RESEARCH

Diversity was imperative for us to incorporate an inclusive approach to a user-centered design (UCD) process. This product (Neuron) is designed to be used by a broad range of users who face similar symptoms of distraction, procrastination, boredom, and fatigue, which prevents them from achieving their daily tasks.

We recruited 5 participants (three remote, two in-person) for an interview which lasted on average 30 mins. Followed by an interview we conducted an online survey with 19 participants to conceive a solid understanding of the problem.

 Online survey form.

Online survey form.

Most people identified their phone as their primary distractor and did not want to use reminders or notifications on their phone during times of productivity.

Things that pop up on my phone distracts me the most.
— Participant

We wanted to go beyond a screen-based product. Something which would help users divert their attention from their smartphones to their task.


SYNTHESIS

We synthesized the research data to come up with common themes. We used the drawing board for affinity diagramming to synthesize the information, which we later ported it over Excel spreadsheet for in vivo coding.

 Affinity diagramming process on white board.

Affinity diagramming process on white board.

We came up with our own design principles for our solution in conjunction with the themes. For example,

Theme: Distraction
Design Principle: A successful product would help users inculcate focus improvement through daily use.


IDEATION - product sketches

We commenced our vision for the product through storyboarding and product sketching.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, we chose to utilize the technique which has been invented back in the ’80s. Therefore, we utilized the underlying principles of Pomodoro Technique — A time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.

Having envisioned a design solution, which would possess a tangible medium, we wanted to come close to the utilization of 5 senses of a human being in order to deliver a memorable and a meaningful experience. Therefore, we incorporated a communication technique in our device through multiple modalities (visual, audio, and touch/haptic).

IDEATION - STORYBOARDING



PROTOTYPING

Time to put our ideas into action.

We came up with a click-through wire-frame for the App using Adobe XD, followed by its code-based prototype using Angular framework hosted on Microsoft Azure server.

Code-based prototype link: http://hci594-neuron.azurewebsites.net/

Neuron App screen leaflet.

The device shell drafting for the device:


A physical prototype based on Arduino platform:


USABILITY EVALUATION

We conducted a remote usability test of our click-through wireframes with 15 participants for the Neuron App using Optimal Workshop’s Chalkmark — A first-click analysis tool. This led us to develop a code-based prototype.

Later, we conducted an in-person usability evaluation with only 3 (the time constraints allowed us to recruit only 3) participants to evaluate overall experience of Neuron (emphasis was given to the device).

This led us to uncover insights based on our observations. We aim to improve our device by incorporating further iterations.

A participant interacting with Neuron system.

A context of use demo.

TOOLS & TECHNOLOGIES

Adobe XD & Photoshop, 3D printer, Arduino, Arduino modules, Craft materials, Optimal Workshop, Google Docs & Hangouts, Angular JS, Microsoft Azure, Github, Sketchbook, Descript, White board.

Github repo. of Neuron App prototype: https://github.com/abhinitparelkar/hci594-capstone

Github repo. of Neuron device prototype (Arduino): https://github.com/abhinitparelkar/hci594-capstone-arduino-device

CONTRIBUTORS

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Team Neuron

Casey Townsend, Abhinit Parelkar, Gerard Panganiban

Apart from the whole user-centered design process, the following were the individual ownership by the team members:

  • Casey Townsend: Developed & Deployed Code-based app.

  • Gerard Panganiban: Designed & Developed App Screens & Code-based app UI.

  • Abhinit Parelkar: Designed & Developed device prototype (Arduino), Produced product sketches & vision.


PUBLICATION

Parelkar, A. (2018, September 03). Eliminating distraction through goal-oriented task management - a UX case study. Retrieved from https://uxdesign.cc/neuron-focus-support-eliminating-distraction-through-facilitated-goal-oriented-task-management-d41165c85e6


LESSONS LEARNED

It was a challenge for us to come up with a product which exists in both worlds (digital & tangible) within 7 weeks. Throughout the project we built a trust and thus shared a dream to implement our ideas in to action. This was a collaborative team effort (of course it’s not easy to find the like-minded individuals to work with).

We came to the conclusion that we had to go a long way in order to get it right (of course it was not perfect, it’s our version 1). Our usability evaluations ended up being more focused on determining whether users could understand the relationship between the app and device and use them in conjunction with one another. It is yet to be determined if Neuron indeed is successful in eliminating common distraction in a task-focus environment such as workplaces or school settings since the team has not tested our system in such environment.

For future work, we plan to involve few engineers to leverage the potential of our prototypes. Additionally, we propose that observing the users using our prototypes in the real environment would help us reveal the efficacy of our design solution.

 

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