In a multinational collaborative study, researchers have designed a novel mobile app that can help novice designers in converting existing artifacts or mechanical objects into abstract representations. Prof. Amaresh Chakrabarti from the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and his team, consisting of researchers from Taiwan, have used Augmented Reality to build this tool that can aid design innovation.
Augmented Reality (AR) is live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. "Augmented reality is used to show how 3D (virtual) objects would work together to generate some movement. Generally augment reality is used through Google glass like devices, where one could see the actual object and its decomposition. In this system, augmented reality is used on the photo to demonstrate how this artifact would move", explains Prof. Chakrabarti.
The app-based tool is aimed at supporting novice designers in archiving existing artifacts, where it has a large store of known artifacts. It can convert various artifacts into abstract representations by taking a picture of an artifact and then creating abstract sketches of the same. It also has the ability to observe the kinematic movements of three-dimensional mechanical objects through augmented reality and record the same. “Kinematics is the branch of mechanics concerned with the motion of objects without reference to the forces which cause the motion”, adds Prof. Chakrabarti.
So how does a user use this novel tool? "There is a help manual that shows how a physical mechanism is related to its abstract configuration. This is achieved by first showing a series of abstract elements and their physical configurations, and then showing how a new mechanism can be described using these elements. Going through these examples, the user of the app becomes clear as to how physical elements relate to abstract elements, and physical mechanisms relate to their abstract configurations that are combinations of these abstract elements", describes Prof. Chakrabarti, on the functioning of the application. At the moment, it is available as a stand-alone Android based application.
During the course of the study, 13 students were given the application to measure if this helped them come up with better concepts or ideas. The students were asked to come up with unique problems they face in their everyday life and create designs to solve those problems. They found that the students came up with 88 ideas and could create up to 22 different concepts with augmented reality. Each participant successfully proposed a concept that adapted the selected mechanism in response to a given problem in a given environment. The results indicate that 11 of 13 participants improved their knowledge of kinematic mechanisms with the app-based tool.
This study investigates how novice designers can be helped with improving their domain knowledge and relevant design experience. For a “smartphone generation”, this tool helps in fostering innovation the fun way and improving knowledge. More such tools in every area can make learning a less tedious and more rewarding experience.
About the authors:
Amaresh Chakrabarti is a Professor at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He can be reached at email@example.com
Ying-Chieh Liu and Chin-Yu Kao are researchers at the Chang Gung University, Taiwan
Chien-Hung Chen is a researcher at the Institute for Information Industry, Taiwan
About the research:
This article is based on a research paper titled " Innovation-supporting tools for novice designers: Converting existing artifacts and transforming new concepts" published in the journal "Advances in Mechanical Engineering" Vol. 8(6) 1-14