Enhanced Multi-Sensory Maps Case Study
“Our first responsibility is to the needs of the people we represent. We aim to serve the broadest range of human diversity. We don’t see problems, we see opportunities to innovate. We believe that before we design anything, the voices and needs of the underserved and marginalized must be central to our design ethos.
Our objective is that we are proud of every project that we undertake, and every project would be exemplary in our portfolios.”
People have more navigation tools at their fingertips than ever before. Traveling from point A to point B can be a difficult process—especially for people with accessibility needs. Public spaces such as nature trails, parks and beaches use permanent 2D map directories that are inaccessible.
Traditional 2D maps can be incomprehensible to people with permanent or temporary impairments, including learning impairments, vision impairments and language barriers.
Checkpoint developed through iterative research, design and user testing, as well as collaboration with peers and wayfinding experts.
The 7 Universal Design Principles are foundational to the project, but focuses on “Flexibility in Use” to serve the broadest range of human diversity, regardless of age or ability. Checkpoint preserving the dignity of people with accessibility needs by offering users choice in methods of use.
Checkpoint is a multi-sensory map kiosk enhancement and checkpoint navigation app. It assists how people, especially visually impaired people. The solution helps visually impaired people by enhancing map directories and wayfinding signs with sound, haptic feedback, textured surfaces, and tactile pavement.
The accompanying Checkpoint app guides new users through a series of wayfinding checkpoints.
Government of Ontario
Public spaces run by the Government of Ontario.
Presentation & proposal suited to competition.
Myles Bartlett & Bad Access
Remain within the parameters of course material and boundaries.
Our design process began with defining and clarifying our project's definition. For this project, we had special parameters with three different clients.
The aim of project will enhance or modify visual monolithic map/way-finding for tactile, auditory, and/or other sensory interactions. The objective is to make an accommodation for the greatest number of mismatched interactions as possible. One of the main points is to address the lack of accommodation for those who are visually impaired as they are unable to use maps and way-finding that are visual-based.
The structures simply aren't accessible to people with visual impairments. How are they supposed to navigate and use these maps?
Key Decision 🗝
There's lots of challenges with wayfinding, but from the onset I proposed these map kiosk-things. I don't even know how to use them half of the time, so I can't imagine how someone can use it if they are visually impaired.
Tritanopia Example: Blue Blindness
Visualization & Prototyping
The designers were asked to research as much as possible about public wayfinding, in addition to mobility and visual impairments that may impact wayfinding for a user. This information was then used to create basic personas for the next stage of creation.
We really struggled to connect with our designers here. It was like playing a mental game with ourselves - having to give up control of our project.
Having the capability of directing users with existing technology was crucial to the brainstorming process.
The ability to use an augmented interface to personalize the user experience was important to the designers.
The directors emphasized the ability to show a basic map as a minimum viable concept for the proposal.
Showing a more detailed description of directions while also keeping in mind accessibility was brought up as well.
During the beginning of our creative process we began to conceptualize the direction we want to go in. Within the boundaries and parameters of the Design Exchange, we came up with several concepts which included way-finding, accessibility and minimal user engagement.
In order to gather a wider range of concepts, we asked our design team to create eight crazy ideas each. With a total of 32 individual ideas, we could begin converging and start the first iteration.
Key Decision 🗝
At this point in the process we had to sit down with our designers and ask them to iterate on what they had submitted to us. We ended up requesting that they combine the above ideas to create a 'super submission' that included all four elements.
We drew inspiration from an art piece by artist Paolo Puddu called “Follow the Shape.” The art piece incorporates braille text on a hand railing at a popular sight seeing location, enhancing the experience of "sight-seeing" for people with visual impairments.
Puddu decided not to reveal what the braille text reads as blind people cannot see the view before them, sighted people cannot decipher the meaning of those graphemes.
A Breakthrough 💥
During this phase we realized we couldn't reinvent the wheel. There's a reason that people wayfind the same way, so instead of changing it why not enhance it? Real breakthrough moment, especially when we learned about Puddu's "Follow the Shape."
An augmented interface would be utilized in combination with a web app that would allpw users to use the interface even after moving away from the kiosk.
Colour Coded Areas
A colour coded system would carry through from kiosks to app interface, creating continuity of design elements.
Adjustable height settings would be implemented in order to allow for a variety of users and glare settings in case of outdoor use.
The use of geolocation tags with augmented reality would be applied into the web app to serve as wayfinding interactions.
Key Decision 🗝
Our designer group came up with a lot of great crazy 8 sketches and we decided to move forward with a combination of a select few sketches that we liked.
Looking back I don't even know how we go to AR and AI? Very cool Star Trek-like features, but we got stuck here. The project was turning into speculative sci-fi and we didn't know how to pivot.
The first iteration used a few components of previous brainstorm and crazy 8 solutions. The main highlights which we focused on were the touch compatibility for those the accessibility needs. We conceptualized ideas around how to make navigation as fluid as possible, working ways around user engagement and encouraging seamless interactions for both able and non-able participants.
As a result, our prototype demonstrated a key understanding of our strongest considerations but we still felt something as missing. An understanding of our vision. To find this, we looked to visualization and prototyping.
Throughout our iterative refinements, the overall vision of our product became more blurred as new variables came into place. I think the greatest obstacle was adapting and applying to new information to our project. It wasn't until out project testing that we had a refined vision for the project's outcome.
Project Testing & Refinement
The proposed concept is a prototype of an interactive kiosk with a corresponding web app using AR and AI for way finding and navigation in spaces like malls, campuses, and airports. This solution seeks to cover a wide range of people with different accessibility needs including mobility impairments, visual impairments, and auditory impairments.
The proposed concept has several key misalignments with the key objectives outlined by the director group that pose a very high risk of invalidating the viability of the concept.
The concept was designed for use in non public spaces (malls, school campuses, airports etc.) instead of public spaces (beaches, trails, parks etc.). Monolithic structures in public spaces contain more constraints compared to non-public spaces as they are often exposed to outdoor environments and not digitized.
The previously proposed design had three core issues that were identified by designers in the testing phase. Based off of their critical findings, the group redesigned the user journey, personas, and key aspects of the project.
Indoor Augmented Reality
Even when applied to indoor spaces, the concept still finds itself misaligned by developing values to the wrong targeted users.
AR is not adopted as a standardized feature in smartphones, so using it requires more set up, making it naturally more appealing to tech enthusiasts instead of the general public.
For people with accessibility needs that have mobility, visual and/or auditory impairments, their smartphone usage capacity is likely to be limited already
Using a way-finding A.R web app that requires connection to the internet, a healthy batter, a setup process, and a sync with the kiosk data may create even more obstacles for the user without assisting with way-finding.
For an AI driven kiosk, it’s ineffective when not streamlining skippable steps for people with accessibility needs manually instead of detecting accessibility needs of the user.
For Example: wheelchairs, casts, walking canes or service dogs.