an explorative experience to create chance encounters
As our mobility solutions evolved, our travel experiences became more isolated within the bubble of our vehicles. We go from one point to another with no other intention but to get to our destination. As we do, we miss opportunities for new connections and engagement along the way. The project challenge is to find a sustainable and feasible mobility solution for visitors and residents in a sparsely populated Biosphere Reserve, along Road 363 and the Vindeln River Valley to create a fair and balanced rural development. The solutions aim to solve not just the mobility challenge but provoke a behavioural change towards a convivial society.
We explored diverse ways of establishing a connection between the visitors and the residents. This helped us understand the lack of awareness of the presence of what is surrounding you while moving from one place to another. Aura is an explorative experience that facilitates engagement opportunities for visitors and residents by raising awareness of the presence of people, local businesses and nature along the way.
Lea Bachmann, Nancy Valerdi, Connie Jehu, Manu Revi
On-field research, Co-creation, Ideation, Experience prototyping, Documentation.
"Communities were socially well connected earlier when the transportation was through the river. I think this concept could really rebuild the lost connection between the communities along the road." - Local Resident
Concept. An Invitation.
Our final design resulted in Aura - a service that comes as an invitation from the community to explore Road 363. It is an eco-system that consists of two components, the aura device which is placed in the car, and the aura application that works as a manager.
Aura device is a physical interface that sparks curiosity in the user through ambiguous sounds and visuals of what is around them.
The local community can upload messages related to anything of interest for people living or moving along the road, through the application. These are then placed ‘along the road’ at different speed ranges, based on their content.
Features. Chance Encounters.
Everything takes place along the road. The core of aura revolves around encouraging chance encounters between residents and people moving along the road.
Resident community feeds the platform with the information they wish to share, which is then sorted and placed by location. Aura device will then notify the user when he gets into that range. Finally, if the user chooses to actively engage, the aura will facilitate the engagement.
Interaction.Ambiguity. Change of speed.
Our experience and connection to space around us are affected by the speed at which we travel through it. Aura provokes the users to lower their speed through visuals and sounds that are ambiguous in order to spark the curiosity of what is around them.
When the user is in the range, a playful sound is triggered, hinting the user of what surrounds him. This aims to make the user more aware of the surroundings and help him feel more connected to the environment he is travelling through.
Diversity of needs.
People moving along the route has different needs, agendas and motives. When one chooses to explore the places they travel, regular commuters running errands or going to work often try to reach the destinations without wanting to explore the routes.
Aura embraces this diversity of people moving at a different pace without forcing a major behavioural change. For people who want to explore, it helps them to have a chance encounter with nature and people whom they would otherwise have never met. Check out Oscar and Wilma's experience while using Aura to find out different experiences along the road.
For those who are regular commuters, Aura is a tool to facilitate collaboration and reinforce their connections with people who live in the area they drive along multiple times a week. Watch how Aura inspire Herin to discover and make new connections while helping out Lovisa on the road.
Scaling up. Empathy.
On a bigger picture, aura supports a balanced and fair, sustainable development of rural areas by embracing already existing resources and thus creates empathy at scale.
Research. 1 road. 5 villages. 80+ people
Together with our classmates we went on a 5-day field trip, lived with locals, experienced their life and overall talked to 83 people along the way.
We experienced and explored the different kinds of mobility and modes of transport along route 363. We also talked to local communities, businesses and other visitors so as to understand their perspectives and experiences better. Moreover we explored the convivial side and enjoyed the slow pace of life in Vindeln River valley.
Insights. Analysing findings
We found out that many people that move along Route 363 have an A to B travel mentality — which means people travel through the communities without stopping or engaging with local businesses and people living there.
We also learned that there is an increasing lack of connection between the communities along the road 363. And while travelling ourselves we found that we were missing information about all the opportunities along the road for us to engage and discover.
With all our research insights and discovered problems, we came up with a co-creation workshop to dig deeper into the values of the region and find out how everyone involved would imagine their “ideal holiday in 10 years” would look like.
Design Brief. 4W.1H.
With more deeper insights into the needs and aspirations of the community, we started formulating our design brief to have a common direction to work upon.
In order to understand how people will react to changes in an already established service, we started ideating and building provocative prototypes to provoke and engage people to imagine possible futures.
The provotypes were around themes that became really interesting to us - the slow-paced lifestyle, learning more about the opportunities along the road, playing with different driving modes of slow vs. fast and sending messages or sounds with opportunities.
Based on the ideation and some initial ‘provotyping’ we set ourselves a challenge. How can we use existing mobility to enhance encounters by building on the values of the region to strengthen the community?
Values of the region.
Ideation. More prototypes
With that question, we went into another round of prototyping to prepare materials for user testing. The goal was to create an explorative tool that drives users to connect with the environment that they are moving through in different and new ways.
We brought our prototypes to the people we met through our field trip and asked them to run user tests with us driving along Route 363.
We tested the levels of the ambiguity of information that can spark curiosity, the kind of interactions they naturally go for, what kind of scenarios they use the service for and how it is integrated into their daily commuting.
Defining. Interactions. Ambiguity.
With these inputs, we defined the interactions that let users get enough information they need to make connections. We also made sure that the interactions let the fellow passengers and kids be also part of the process.
Once the interactions with the Aura device were defined, we created several mood boards to decide the form factor. The metaphor chosen was 'a window to the outside world', which resulted in the final wood frame with a halo light effect.
Various patterns were tested in acrylic to make sure that the lighting was enough to attract the user's attention.
Telling. The Story.
For the final video, It was important to convey a clear message. This led us to prepare two different storylines to illustrate different contexts in which Aura could be experienced.
A script was written to complement the audio messages and interactions, while we also created a storyboard to plan the shooting instances.
Sharing. The Story.
It was important to share the story and get feedback from the actual residents in the region. We invited them for the final presentation, along with members of the Region Vasterbotten and the Swedish Transport Agency.
The project was also presented at the Microsoft Design Expo 2019 in Redmond, Seattle under the theme 'scaling up empathy'. This gave us a deeper understanding of user perspective into interactions with Aura.