Thought Drop

Thought Drop is an in-car communication service concept that enables people to drop off and pick up location based messages and reminders. Subscribers can partake in the “magic” of location-based personalized messages coupled with the simplicity of a context-specific interactive experience.

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Using in-car GPS services or a mobile phone application, drivers can leave, send and pickup location-based thoughts and reminders for themselves and their friends. The system can also be expanded to avail location-based offers from local businesses and to leave feedback for local governments about road conditions.

How does it work?
When in the car, users have the choice of leaving a location based thought/reminder for themselves that can be retrieved later at the same place. These “thought drops” can be (1) sent to their home, (2) left at the current location or (3) kept in the car. Thoughts can also be dropped for a pre-specified set of friends at their homes or on location with minimal effort. The service also has options where by which commercial establishments can leave special discount coupons for Thought Drop users if they wish to receive them. Furthermore, the possibility of leaving drops for municipal authorities for when, say, road work is needed or if there is an accident could also be possible.

Context-Specific interactions
Designed to be used on the go, we crafted an interface experience that was sensitive to its context, ie. being on the road. This meant that interface elements had to be glanceable and interactions had to be kept to the bare minimum and not take up too much of the driver’s attention. Audio based messages were chosen as they are easy to “drop” and retrieve without taking one’s eyes off the road.

Our Design Process
In designing Thought Drop, we were encouraged by our amazing faculty (Chris Downs, Rory Hamilton, Alix Gillet-Kirt and John Lynch) to prototype quickly, test repeatedly with users (both in and out of context), and constantly improvise and iterate based on our learnings along the way. We were constantly pushed to “be the service.” In total we had about 12 iterations that utilized different design methods to move our process forward over the four weeks.

We started off with several location-based interventions to gain insights on how thoughts are triggered and it got us thinking about accessing people’s flow of thoughts on their daily routes.

One particularly fun experiment was on Norrebro bridge, which led us to think deeper about synchronous and asynchronous messaging and the im/permanence of thoughts. The chalk provided a temporary, fun and public way for people to share thoughts without having to get off their daily route.

Along the way, we also used the technique of “physical brainstorming” and video prototyping to simulate the generative possibilities of leaving and picking up location based messages from a vehicle. (See below)

Below is an early video prototype . We were speculating what the experience would be if the windshield was equipped with AR technology. After making this video, we decided audio would be a better option for cars!

Throughout the process, we also conducted several little experiments in our school building and the neighboring area to test out the efficacy of personalized location-based messages. (See below)

But mostly, we focused on the in-car user experience, as that was the most important part of our service. We did several rounds of in-car tests with different drivers, most of whom were using the service for the first time. (See below)

Below is the first experience prototype test with Ian. He was driving to his wife’s workplace (along with his child) to pick her up. After observing the way Ian used the prototype, we decided to add the feature of being able to drop thoughts to family and friends as well.

After each test we used what we learned to tweak the interface and experience. We continued to test the service right until the last day before we presented to Volvo and the rest of CIID!

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