Nature's spalette

Fostering curiosity in children about resources available in natural environments, through colours. This project was done as a part of the Interaction Design module at IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay, India
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INTRODUCTION

Can we foster curiosity in children about our natural environment?

During the Interaction Design module at IDC School of Design, we (our group had 4 participants) were assigned a project - nudge children to explore their natural environment more, with one constraint - through the use of Colours.

But, how do we

  • Ensure that children become familiar with unfamiliar environment?
  • Nudge children to use the platform?
  • Encourage collaborative learning?

RESEARCH

We started our research on twe areas. A few questions we wanted to understand through our research were:

Current practices:

  • What are the current processes followed by educators in India?
  • How effective are these processes?
  • Have they experimented with their ways of teaching? How effective were these processes? What did they do differently?
  • What were the factors that influenced and enhanced learning?

Children and new situations:

  • How to introduce new topics to children?
  • While performing activities, does dividing children into groups/teams with a team leader, help with collaboration?
  • Do we have programs/subjects that help children learn about their surroundings and environment?
  • How can we make children comfortable in the new and unfamiliar environment?

Interviews with experts

We conducted a series of interviews with experts to get a fair sense of the subject. We decided to speak to people broadly in the area of psychology, education and people who have worked on areas related to both children and jungle. We interacted with 2 psychologists and 2 educators. Important insights we gathered from our interviews are as follows:

  • Current education system in India focuses on theory-based learning more than activity-based learning.
  • The educators believe that activity-based classes might help a child to learn better than the current theory-based class.
  • If we were to introduce children to their natural environment, we should be mindful of their comfort level at the start. Dr. Dutta(one of the educators) mentions that during one of the forest-exploration sessions he was involved, he experienced a similar scenario. The participants were scared and reluctant on their first day. The instructors of the forest exploration session would then initiate nature-based activities such as “find leaves with red spots”. “activities such as these would allow a child to explore and take away the fear of unknown” adds Dr. Dutta
  • Both according to Dr. Dutta and Rashmi Gupta(Psychologist), children collaborate better if they are divided into smaller groups - a maximum of 3 people.

Secondary Research

After our user interviews, we wanted to look into the existing resources. We came across various products and services which reintroduce us to nature, enhance creativity amongst children, color detectors and sensors. Based on our findings, we created a comprehensive table that shows the objectives of these products/services, and the strategies they have employed to do so:

Insights:

The data from the above research, showed us several points that were common between the interviews and existing products/services:

  • both, focus on developing relationship between the learner and their environment - by performing activities in the natural environment
  • both, acknowledge the possibility of discomfort experienced by participants in new environment. They have designed activities to over come such discomfort
  • both, encourage learner led activities and provides opportunities for exploration
  • Products such as Nix and Adobe CC can enhance learners’ experience by identifying colors of elements found in nature

DESIGN PROCESS:

Brainstorming and early concepts

With the insights in hand, we started iterating to come up with multiple concepts. We discussed and generated about five major concepts with several smaller ones.

With the constraint “Colors” assigned to us, we narrowed concepts to facilitate the use of this constraint.

this concept was further ideated and detailed out.

Product overview

Nature’s Palette is an activity-based application which nudges children to find colours and textures from their natural environment and create artwork with the found colours and textures.

The activity happens in 2 stages:

STAGE 1: Exploration
Hardware requirements: Three camera phone with Wifi or bluetooth connectivity

The objective of this stage is to collect as many colours and textures as possible. Kids are encouraged to go out in groups of 3 with their phones(1 phone for each) and collect pictures from their natural environment.

STAGE 2a: Creating artwork with colors and textures from photographs
Hardware requirements: A1 size touch screen display device Software requirements: Nature’s palette application - installed on the device

Kids come together and upload all the photographs to Nature's palette. Once uploaded, the photogragh Nature's palette extracts all the colors and textures.

STAGE 2b: Creating Color Palette of Colors and Textures from environment
Software requirements: Nature’s palette application - installed on the device

Nature's Palette takes photographs as input and creates a list of all the colours and textues from these photos. It them calculates the number of pixels with the same HSV values and sorts them in descending order. A list of top 5 colors and textures
(this quantity is customizable)
is generated and chosen as the final color palette

Product objectives

With Nature’s Palette we targetted to achieve four objectives -

USABILITY TESTING

Usability Evaluation was imperative in our process given the nature of our display and its use. Some of the questions we wished to know through the evaluation were:

  • Whether the prism (earlier form of the camera) was an appropriate shape for providing interactions for the tabletop
  • The position of main menu(color palettes, navigation and share/save options) for multiple users
  • What size of the screen would be most befitting for Nature palette
  • How intuitive was the flow of nature palette itself, whether participants would require any assistance

Method

We used low fidelity paper prototyping and think aloud method on four male participants of 17 years of age in a classroom setting

Findings

Some findings gathered through observation and analysis are as follows:

  • The earlier concept included colours, textures and both as the different palette sections. We discovered that participants were only interested in using colors and textures, as mixing them would anyway provide them with both.
  • Having the fixed section of the palette to lay on the device would take up space which otherwise could be used to paint, was also not found to be a good practise.
  • It would be difficult to draw from all 4 four sides as the orientation for at least one of the users wrt artwork would be completely inverted. This could cause discomfort.
  • Placing the main menu(color palettes, navigation and share/save options) on only one side could induce errors and was also not liked by the participants.

Refinements made

  • The palette would have only color and texture modes
  • The shape of the camera was changed from earlier decided prism to use of mobile device.
  • We decided to narrow down to three users per screen so the orientation for each participant remains same. Our pressing objective of having multiple participants was to ensue collaborative learning, we believed reducing the number from 4 to 3 participants did not interfere with the same. This also helped solved the question of where to place the main menu. The main menu could be placed on the top side where there are no participants
  • During the evaluation process we came up with the idea of the disc being the frame of reference for individual options.
  • A1 size display proved to provide more space and ease to create artworks over A2 size display.

FINAL DEMO

We created a working minimum viable prototype of Nature’s palette. The prototype was developed with Unity and can be deployed on Android devices.

We created a video of the final workflow -

Please feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions and feedback. We would love to hear from you!












FIN.

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