Exploring Electronic Storyboards as Interdisciplinary Design Tools for Pervasive Computing

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Virginia Tech

Pervasive computing proposes a new paradigm for human-computer interaction. By embedding computation, sensing, and networking into our daily environments, new computing systems can be developed that become helpful, supportive, and invisible elements of our lives. This tight proximity between the human and computational worlds poses challenges for the design of these systems - what disciplines should be involved in their design and what tools and processes should they follow? We address these issues by advocating for interdisciplinary design of pervasive computing systems. Based upon our experiences teaching courses in interactive architecture, product design, physical computing and through surveys of existing literature, we examine the challenges faced by interdisciplinary teams when developing pervasive computing systems. We find that teams lack accessible prototyping tools to express their design ideas across domains. To address this issue we propose a new software-based design tool called electronic storyboards.

We implement electronic storyboards by developing a domain-specific modeling language in the Eclipse Graphical Editor Framework. The key insight of electronic storyboards is to balance the tension between the ambiguity in drawn storyboards and the requirements of implementing computing systems. We implement a set of user-applied tags, perform layout analysis on the storyboard, and utilize natural language processing to extract behavioral information from the storyboard in the form of a timed automaton. This behavioral information is then transformed into design artifacts such as state charts, textual descriptions, and source code.

To evaluate the potential impact of electronic storyboards on interdisciplinary design teams we develop of user study based around ``boundary objects''. These objects are frequently used within computer-supported collaborative work to examine how objects mediate interactions between individuals. Teams of computing and non-computing participants were asked to storyboard pervasive computing systems and their storyboards were evaluated using a prototype electronic storyboarding tool. The study examines how teams use traditional storyboarding, tagging, tool queries, and generated artifacts to express design ideas and iterate upon their designs. From this study we develop new recommendations for future tools in architecture and fashion design based upon electronic storyboarding principles.

Overall, this study contributes to the expanding knowledge base of pervasive computing design tools. As an emerging discipline, standardized tools and platforms have yet to be developed. Electronic storyboards offer a solution to describe pervasive computing systems across application domains and in a manner accessible to multiple disciplines.

Interdisciplinary Design, Pervasive Computing, Electronic Storyboards