A contact point between two realities
This project is part of the MOBEVI project by Region Västerbotten, in north of Sweden, and Inuse ÅF Consultancy.
How might we make rural areas visible in the other environments?
What is Härsele?
Härsele is a portal, a meeting point of two very different and yet very close realities.
It is a tool aimed to generate curiosity and foster interest in those rural areas around the cities that are often forgotten.
With Härsele, people populating those areas are finally able to manifest their presence in the city, and in this way, they can attract visitors by showing what the place has to offer.
About the project
• Ethnographic research ;
• Fast digital and physical prototyping in order to test different concepts with users ;
•Digital and physical interface prototyping .
My project team :
Joan Pablo Farré - IxD (UID)
Nancy Tsai - Art Center, Pasadina, California
I worked in particular on the development and prototyping of the user experience.
I did this both from a digital and physical point of view exploring virtual reality and physical interfaces.
The outcome was a fully interactive prototype.
The main task was to design a new sustainable and feasible mobility solution for people and food in the Vindeln River Valley, in region Västerbotten, Sweden. The solution should also provoke a behavioural change towards a convivial society.
How we tackled it:
From our research we realised that is only generating interest in the rural area that new mobility solutions will be possible and affordable.
This is why we shifted our focus from creating a mobility solution to create a demand for it.
A small step in the right direction!
This is Härsele!
In the rural areas:
People living or visiting the Vindeln Valley can record and share their story on the Härsele platform. This is the rural side of the portal!
In the cities:
Tourists and people living in the city can listen to those stories and get a sneak peek of what happen on the other side of the portal.
It only uses sounds and simple interactions to foster the curiosity and the imagination of people.
Härsele brings the rural areas’ presence into the cities, opening a window on an unexplored world.
It also provides a tangible representation of the experience and in this way it promotes real life interactions between people.
What I like to do is finding the right way to apply my skills in programming to deliver the best prototypes to test with the users.
The final prototype was able to reproduce sounds and print receipt using Arduino, providing high fidelity interactions.
Prototype of the VR experience in an initial version of Härsele
Made with Processing for Android
What was very important for us was understanding the area and empathising with the people living in it.
We spent 4 days living in different locations along the Vindeln river, experiencing the place as tourists but a with a designer's eye.
What we got from this first encounter can be summarise in few fundamental strength points:
Let it surprise you
We found so many aspects of this area that we were not expecting, wonderful encounters in nature and activities that left us breathless.
See the Invisible
Many of the local's daily routines were completely new and fascinating to us. What for them was invisible, for us was absolutely stunning.
Hospitality and connections
Locals have a strong desire of connecting both the small communities and the visitors. They like to do so through phone calls or meetings in person.
From the analysis of the outcome we narrowed down three possible directions for the project.
Explore the possibility of improving mobility using unexpected encounters along the Valley. The experience is in the journey.
2. Micro experiences
Transform the local's routines into unique experiences that attract and engage new visitors.
3. Invert the flow
Invert the stream of people moving from rural areas to cities combining the willingness of the locals to connect and new job opportunities in the digital era.
The participatory workshop helped us to further explore the direction that the team, after internal discussion and feedback from the stakeholders,
decided to pursue.
The aim of this experience was to understand the needs that people with different jobs have in order to accomplish their activities.
Outcome and re-briefing
The workshop gave us great insight on the people jobs and needs but also a check on the big complexity of the problem.
It was at this point that we decided to shift the focus towards the first step of inverting the flow: make the rural area visible.
Prototyping and testing
The ideation process started with fast cardboard mockups, testing with the potential users and people from the area, in order to iterate the process.
During the test we found out that the visuals were too disruptive adding confusion and complexity to the experience.