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This project presented multiple challenges from assuaging valid concerns brought up by the engineers to designing a study for a product that doesn't exist.


Mechanical engineers wanted to know which form factor to pursue for a novel product. I was presented with 12 low fidelity prototypes each with varying form factors, materials and actuators. Piggybacking on this study were quantitative researchers measuring participant responses with the device. This project presented multiple challenges from assuaging valid concerns brought up by the engineers to designing a study that would elicit user emotions for a product that doesn't yet exist. This was also our team's first time working cross-functionally with ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Projects).


Challenges: Prior to designing the study, I worked with the engineers to narrow down which prototypes to test. I did this through secondary research and asking questions to determine study goals. I also encouraged the engineers to do their own heuristic evaluations narrowing the prototypes to 6 (3 different actuators on 2 different form factors).

Working with the PM and lead engineers I also discussed the methodologies and scope of the study. Stakeholders had many concerns about how to approach the study citing participant bias if they were to see the low fidelity prototypes, and participants wouldn't understand the context and value proposition given that this was a novel product. Through open dialogue and contructive conflict the team was able to settle on a 3-phase study approach.


Study: The study was divided into three phases allowing participants to start thinking about their communication styles. Phase 1 required participants to complete homework over the course of 3 days involving a photo collage, fill in the blanks and listing emojis they use frequently.

Phase 2 participants reflected on their homework and discussed their communications styles. Interviews were held in person, remotely, individually and in pairs. Each interview lasted 60 minutes. 

Phase 3 involved a lab study where participants experienced the prototypes. The lab study was done in person and divided into two parts. The first part required participants to experience each device. After experiencing each one, the participant used an Emotional Valence Scale to reflect how the product was making them feel. Participants also used a subjective scale to indicate the intensity of the actuators. Lastly, participants were asked what associations came to mind when experiencing the prototype and to rank their preferred choice. To account for any confounding variables, prototypes were counterbalanced. 


Recruiting: Due to the confidentiality of the prototypes, the team is required to use internal participants only. To prevent the Silicon Valley bias, participants were chosen based on non-technical backgrounds. 




Making sense of it all: With the information collected through homework, interviews, and ​in-lab testing, data was synthesized and analyzed in multiple ways.

First homework and interviews were analyzed using thematic coding to understand beliefs and behaviors. Data from the in-lab study was analyzed with frequency tables for each individual prototype and then between the prototypes. Based these findings, the data was further cross-analyzed with that collected by the mechanical engineers.

The findings indicated that while subjectively participants had a positive association to a specific sensation prior to experiencing it, they did not have the same positive response when experiencing that sensation in a lab environment.


Actionable Advice: Research suggested to discontinue pursuing one of the designs because both qualitative and in-lab data showed unfavorable responses from participants. While the second haptic was not a top choice for participants it did elicit the positive associations before and during the in-lab testing.

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