Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interview with graduating Multimedia 3D Designer who managed to do a visual prototype

Interview with graduating Multimedia 3D Designer from The Higher Professional Diploma Programme of Multimedia Design and Communication

Ilin Tatabitovski, 23 years old, from Skopje, Macedonia.

Ilin tells about:

  • The final project
  • the visual prototype and testings
  • studying in Denmark
  • group work and projects
  • relationship with the teatchers
  • his plans for the future

"I was working with a real life project - not just something abstract or something for an exam. I was using situations from the real world; companies from the real world, analysing the factors on a larger scale - not just this one-month project, but creating something that will last. And that requires good analysis, good preparation, and good design."

Ilin made his project in collaboration with Eureka Informatika, a Macedonian software company that develops integrated software solutions mainly for forwarding companies and hotel management. He had previous knowledge about the company, as he had worked for them as a part-time technician.

The visual prototype is essentially a 'working picture' of the finished project as it is envisaged at this stage of the process. It is normally built in sketch but could equally be built in printing. Many scientists use visual prototypes to varying degrees and in varying ways. Our employment of this technique is specific to a very specific end. The visual prototype must completely describe not only the look and feel, but also the actual functionality, of the finished product. Any user destined to use the finished system should be able to use and understand the finished system from this point. Clearly, because there is no application at this stage, there is some license in striving for this goal. Actions that will occur upon the submission of a choice, etc are simulated with processing part or simple triggers to illustrate the functionality. Experience shows that this works. The visual prototype is the place where all of the minds involved in this process can meet with an accountable and shared understanding of what is intended. The client is at this point intimately involved in the design process. Note that we show a loop on the diagram that cycles the phototyping and requirements processes. This machine cycle is repeated for as long as required to expose needs and intentions and illustrate them fully in the prototype. Changes and the testing of ideas in this step are comparatively cheap and actively encouraged. Every iteration here adds value to the outcome, reduces risks in the Production Cycle, and generally raises the guarantees on an optimal value outcome.

In pursuing this method, we must have a total buy in from our client. The temptation to 'just start constructing to speed the project up' must be resisted at all costs. At best this is a road to wasted effort, extended delivery times and higher costs. At worst, it leads to disaster.

"I wanted to analyse the factors that influence the decisions made in the conceptualising part for the extranet solutions. I started with a wide range of analysis - from company analysis to organisations analysis; to business, to strategy and market communication going to technology analysis and finally target group analysis. Based on those analyses and the requirements from the company, I created an initial concept of what the extranet should present or represent, and what main features should be included. From this concept I created a concept prototype that I used to test my concept ideas, and based on the feedback ideas that I received from the user testing, I changed it in order to serve better the users."

Visual prototype of a user interface
"I made a visual prototype that was basically an extranet presentation of a web page - just the visual interface, not the whole function or prototype. I thought that was the part where the users could contribute most with their feedback to the concept, because the visual interface is what they actually see and interact with. Of course, I made only one prototype and one testing, but since I'm planning to finish this product all the way, more testing will be done and more prototyping and developing."

Testing on a target group
"The primary target group was the clients of the company that were unreachable for me, as they are in Macedonia, and I have no contact with them. What I did was to test the user interface on the company employees, so basically I did the testing on the secondary target group only. The test was done by sending a questionnaire to the employees and presenting them with the prototype and explaining them the idea. The employees are software/interface-developers as well, so their feedback was very valuable."

Studying in Denmark is a valuable experience
"I was studying in the Electro Technical University in Skopje, the capitol of Macedonia, when I read in a newspaper about this school in Denmark and I just wanted to try, because it would be very different from everything that I had tried before. It would give me a new experience, a new way of looking at things, a new way of adopting values. So I just went for it."

"We have excellent conditions of studying - both as regards computers, books, materials, and supervision. I learned most from "Project Management", "Communication," and "Visualisation". The level of "Programming" and "Interaction Development" is not kept so high, because there are people studying from zero. But as a way of thinking, the way of working in a team, the way of understanding things and projecting it and planning, I learned a lot."

Working in groups and projects
"In Macedonia everything is individual, and there is a lot more theory in it. Here everything is done in groups and is more practical. I think that having knowledge of these two methods gives me an advantage in front of people that work in only one way. I can apply different methods at different times and in different situations. There are definitely a lot of positive things of working in groups and exchanging opinions and learning from each other. All in all it was a really valuable experience studying and working this way."

"Study-wise I would like to have more classes and more theory. I think it's good to know a lot of theories because they ensure better practice. Good practice will get better in time, but if you know the theory, you will probably have a better starting position."

Friendly and relaxed relationship with the teachers
"There is a friendly environment, and the relationships with the teachers and the supervisors are different from the ones in Macedonia; they are more relaxed and on a friendly basis. Although this can be a disadvantage, for sometimes you need an authority in order to study or to absorb some theory. But it's not a bad thing that the relationships are more friendly and relaxed."

An open window of opportunities
"After coming here in Denmark, my window of opportunities opened a lot more than when I was back in Macedonia. I have more choices, and I am a little bit confused of what to choose. There are so many things that I want to try."

Ilin has been accepted at the engineering college in Copenhagen, but he's not sure that he's going to start. "That will require three more years, and now I'm young, so I want to experiment a little bit more." So far Ilin's plan is to travel for at least two months, then work as a trainee in some European company and from September 2005 continue the studies in Scotland at the University in Dundee - probably Multimedia Design. After one year in Scotland, Ilin plans to take a Master's degree in Spain - in the field of open source and Linux operating system.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Second Level Servicing

"Second Level Servicing"? What's that all about? Well, it goes like this: services like TechShop provide access to high-power fabrication equipment that anyone can use simply by dropping by a TechShop. However, Breakpoint offers another possibility: He'll drop by TechShop and build your project for you, thus creating a service on top of a service. This is a great idea for those who just don't have enough time or skills to do the work themselves, yet still want to take advantage of the terrific services offered by TechShop.

Have something crazy to build? Let me know...
Well folks, in my role as Director of Special Projects for TechShop, I am now looking for anybody who has projects for any of the following:

* Laser cutter/engraver
* CNC plasma cutter
* CNC router/mill, metal/plastic (roughly 12x12x4 inches max; larger may be doable), metal casting
* CNC hot-wire foam cutter (VERY large bay, suitable for architecture, movie sets/props, etc.)
* 3D printer (fused-deposition modeler, ABS plastic, 12x12x12 inches max-- this is the real deal)
* Vinyl cutter (3 feet by any sane length; suitable for banners, signs, etc.; cutting or plotting operations only)
* ...anything else in TechShop is open to discussion, but these are the most straightforward candidates

...and needs parts in quantities from 1 to 500 within the next six months. We are considering launching a BETA short-run production capability-- our prototyping services are already live-- and I need a few test projects! Burning Man projects, props for video shoots that are still months away, etc., are probably ideal. Laser and foam work in particular I think we will have alarmingly quick turn-around on.

As you probably know, YOU can walk right on into TechShop, take a class, get a membership or day pass, and start working on Your Own Cool Stuff. However, if you need a bunch of something, or if you have zero time to do it yourself, you need to call or email Yours Truly, and I will help you evaluate some options!

Obviously, while we're getting the kinks out of this process, we're offering some price breaks-- I'd like to offer these to my friends and Genuinely Cool People who have a little flexibility before we offer them to The World at Large.

So, let me know!


NPL system speeds up CMM/machine tool calibration

The UK's National Physical Laboratory has a measurement system claimed to bring laboratory level measurement and calibration standards to shop floor CMMs and machine tools

The UK's national physical laboratory (NPL) will launch what it describes as a 'revolutionary new measurement system' at the UK's MACH 2008 machine tool exhibition. NPL said that its system will bring laboratory level standards to the shop floor. It enables significantly improved calibration times and thereby, minimises machine downtime for industries across the rapid manufacturing sector, said NPL.

Partnered by ETALON, NPL's Laser Tracer is a high-speed, ultra-precise, mobile system for the calibration and verification of coordinate-measuring machines (CMM), CNC machine tools, and other advanced measurement applications.

Laser Tracer uses a highly stable laser source and an NPL patented internal design that is mechanically and thermally decoupled from the tracking mechanism.

In this way, NPL said that Tracer provides 'the ultimate' in measurement stability and accuracy.

* Laser Tracer operation - like conventional laser techniques, Laser Tracer locks out the machine during tool or CMM probe.

It uses the laser to track a reflector mounted on the machine during tool or CMM probe.

The system automatically drives the tool during the measurement cycle for the machine test and then guides the user in simple steps through the testing process.

NPL said that the internal algorithm ensures self-calibration of the system during the test and enables all machine error contribution with unprecedented precision.

Measurement routines do not need highly skilled technicians, said NPL to manufacturingtalk and are significantly quicker than existing traditional methods.

Uncertainties of measurements are generated in real time with a comprehensive test report or UKAS calibration certificate produced at the point of measurement.

Automatic correction of stored error maps is also available for many machine types.

New machines being supported every month and the measurement procedure is designed to meet the requirements of the emerging standard ISO10360-2.

Laser Tracer product manager, David Lowther, said: 'With the Laser Tracer, NPL is bringing cutting edge measurement standards only ever seen before in national standards Laboratories direct to the customer in their place of work.

Machines can now be calibrated in less than three hours, rather than the current time of up to 2 days, and with greatly improved accuracy that will ultimately save time and increase productivity for businesses.

NPL can also provide complementary consultancy and support, on site, to diagnose and solve production critical measurement problems for companies'.

* About the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) - NPL is the UK's national measurement institute and a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available to man.

For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation's primary measurement standards.

These standards support an infrastructure of traceable measurement through the UK and the world that ensures accuracy and consistency.

Good measurement improves productivity and quality; it underpins consumer confidence and trade, and is vital to innovation.

We undertake research and share our expertise with thousands of organisations and individuals to help enhance economic performance and the quality of life.

NPL services range from free technical advice, joint projects, training, secondments, problem solving, consultancy, contract research to highly accurate UKAS accredited measurement services.

The National Physical Laboratory is operated on behalf of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) by NPL Management Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Serco Group plc.

* NPL at MACH 2008, NEC, Birmingham, UK April 21-25, Hall 5, Stand 5596.