Here is our in class equation manipulator prototype. We wanted to see how a user would interact with the general idea of the system of making an equation tangible. We used the ideal gas law and manually swapped out letters of varying sizes to show the desired behavior; if you made a letter bigger, the non-fixed variables would change size to maintain the equality. We used pins to allow the user to fix a variable at its current value.
With a little explanation, other d.science students understood the concept and seemed to find it fun.
The sticky-note prototype revealed design challenges that we didn’t foresee:
- How do we convey that a variable can change, but only as an indirect result of the user manipulating other variables?
- Users tried to “push the system” and explored interesting combinations in an attempt to make it “break,” e.g. pin “too many” variables and then try and change others, or move the letters around.
- Users expect extreme flexibility from a physically-inspired system; everything needs to be able to move as in real life. Users thought they could algebraically rearrange the equation, even though we didn’t expect them to.