You Are Here
A new way of navigating
Why is it that, to navigate and be safe in nature, there are so many devices you must carry? And what about that steep learning curve to quickly translate what you can see in the mountains, trees and lakes to a location that is understandable... it is a rocky path!
Masters Thesis Project, Lund University LTH
Exhibited in A-Huset, LTH in June 2019
This isn't working.
My frustrations began mounting in the fall and winter of 2018. As an avid climber and hiker, much of my time is spent roaming nature. Maps and planning are essential and helpful, but I have come to find a disconnect between what we see and what information we are given to locate.
Is it just me? Orrrr...
Unfortunately, it seems the problems go beyond the navigation system.
Swedish mountaineer based out of Chamonix, France.
“If someone is digging a hole there, how can I know? How can a GPS know if someone has been there the night before?”
Multi-week, off-trail hiker with 10 years of experience. Climber and trail rider.
“I don’t go hiking because I want to look at a screen…. It’s the opposite. Part of why I go outdoors is to escape technology."
14 year orienteer, 7 year climber and hobbyist hiker.
"I don't know what's going on inside my phone. I didn't know how good the phone compass was so I double checked with my other compass.”
What do we already know from research and the market?
If there are frustrations, there must be products creating an ecosystem, intentionally or not, for this market group. I looked into research about wayfinding*, what users typically use, the evolution of wearable technology and the products that have resulted.
*Alfred Binet's 1894 three states of finding orientation
I am here.
Where am I?
Here I am.
To extend our ability to wayfind and to combat the insecurities and risks that come when our inherent abilities fail, the market has produced three assistive devices.
Together, these devices provide safety when...
… you cannot see the landmarks, or there are none distinct enough to identify on a map.
… you are incapacitated and cannot continue.
"I hear experienced mountaineers say, 'The goal is not to get there, but to make it back.'"
Alpine Sport Influencer
Redundancy means safety... but also cost.
These tools reduce the risk in alpine adventuring when combined together. Ideally, wilderness adventurers would have access to all three types of these devices in their kits, but the upfront investment becomes prohibitively expensive.
We need a device that fulfills the basic needs of redundancy for safety, but also exists at an accessible, entry-to-market price.
And you may exclaim in protest
"But Dylan, that's completely ridiculous! Do you not have any idea how the market works?"
I took a peak into the market, selecting for devices with the same rudimentary function. Despite very similar ways of delivering the service for this rudimentary function, a trend became very apparent.
Extra features = Higher price
The cost for most "low-end" devices which perform the essential functions is relatively low. However, when extra features are added, like a GPS that is also a camera or a music player, the products became exponentially more expensive.
Unfortunately, there was also a correlation with the user experience. Finding a product that didn't have the extras, but that also offered reviews for a superb interaction experience was rare.
Summing up the research.
“The best would be to have a device with a big button to do everything… If you want to exit, press the button. If you want to go forward, press the button. One big, good button.”
A good summary by Jesper
The ideal solution would be:
Analyzing the journey.
To break down the essentials of wayfinding during a journey I illustrated a storyboard of each step. This allowed me to analyze the process in a detailed mindset.
What did I realize from this exercise in reflection?
Simply reading out GPS coordinates and locating on a map with tick marks is not ideal. The visual grid of the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) system, used when orienting a compass, makes it much easier to pinpoint location without a long straight-edge.
The next step was to figure out how to utilize the benefits of receiving a quick string of numbers for location and using the visual UTM grid for pinpointing on a map.
A multilayerd approach - rethinking traditional wayfinding in a digital age and combining navigation with rescue.
The general concept combines all the bare essentials of redundant systems into one device. Doing so discourages complex "digital" interactions and focuses on enhanced traditional patterns of wayfinding.
If all else fails, the device is still useful as a compass.
“A map is reliable because it is mechanical and a battery can fail.”
What it does
Triangulates your position on a map using UTM coordinates, obtained from GPS
Calls for help when you are in need
Provides you directions in relation to magnetic north
A stacked assembly including a traditional compass augmented with a transparent display merges analog compass and digital GPS functionality. Stacking affords a new opportunity for users to interact with a map, locating based on UTM grid lines.
Exploring the parameters to work within.
Returning to Jesper's comment about one big, oversized button, the outlying question was, "how big?" Being an alpine compass, it would likely need to be used with gloves.
Questions to answer:
- Can you see enough of the map grid through the ring?
- Is the diameter easy to turn with gloves?
- Which wall thickness feels durable?
- What are the other ways the device can be held?
- Where could additional buttons be placed?
- How can accidental activation be prevented?
Working with the form.
More coming soon...
In the sprint to completion my UI process notes are jumbled in a very designerly stack of scribbles - naturally distinguishable only to me and, perhaps, to those standing on their heads. These can be made available on request if feeling acrobatic. In the meantime, enjoy this more refined presentation loop of the UI in scenarios.
Bringing it all together
When mistakenly wandering off map, You Are Here can easily track back to a previous location based on time interval GPS tracking.
When conditions prevent visibility, You Are Here utilizes the map grid and GPS coordinates to triangulate location on a physical map.
You Are Here includes a personal locator beacon (PLB) to call for rescue in case of emergency or inability to continue.
This thesis was 18 weeks of solo work from day 1 of research to defense. The biggest challenge was avoiding scope creep. Developing a physical product AND attempting a full research phase with UX development proved to be overly ambitious. If repeated, this would have been to collaborate with a partner focused on the physical product. The biggest slip in time was an additional two weeks lost to developing physical form based on examiner feedback. This pushed the UI development time from 4 weeks to 2 weeks. The large scope resulted in a service-creation strategy, which I felt left the deliverables less refined than desired.
- Rapid co-creation user research sessions are great.
- Keep a tighter scope when working alone.
- Move on to keep deadlines and revisit at the end if there is time.
- Adjust timelines to have a larger buffer for user validation.