Reflections–Andrew Walraven

1) Final Project Experience:  Our project certainly got off to a slow start, and we were probably a bit behind for most of the semester, but once we got on top of it, the results came out all right.  For me personally, working on this project really felt like working on a separate studio-level workload alongside my regular studio work.  It was a constant challenge to make sure deadlines were being met for both classes.  In the end, it was satisfying to see our project reach the point of a solid concept pitch, and now I have some new elements to add to my portfolio.

2) UX Class Experience:  Overall, it did not turn out the way I had anticipated.  My expectation was that this was going to be more of an instructional, skill-building course, where we learned how to work on the CS side of design (making apps, websites, programming, etc.)  Rather, it was a more abstract, concept-building course, focused on the “why?” not the “how?.”  It certainly was an interesting subject, and I enjoyed our discussions about AI, robotics, ethics of computer science and engineering, social science, etc.  After dipping my feet in a bit, I think that I don’t want to pursue UX design as a career path (instead, focus on product design), but I consider it valuable experience nonetheless.

Update for March 2nd


Ted: From a rural area and has been paying attention to the several water crisis across the country (such as the one in flint). And is now concerned about his water quality in his home.  Currently he has to buy disposable testing kits or send tests to 3rd parties.  He wants a way to frequently monitor his water quality.

Dianna:  Dianna is a mother of 4 who lives in California.  Recent water shortages have made water conservation a big concern/desire of hers.  She as of now, does not have a way to keep track of her family’s water usage, and would like to be able to keep track of this throughout the month.






Items we may possibly need:

Raspberry Pi(~$40)/Arduino(~$20) (some sort of computing)


Temperature: Adafruit temperature sensor($14)

Water Flow: Liquid Flow Meter – Plastic ½” NPS Threaded($10)

PH Sensor: PH Sensor kit($150)

Turbidity: Turbidity Detection Sensor($92)

LCD: LCD Display($40)

Internet: GSM Shield($150)

TDS, water flow, bacteria?, temperature?

Team: Andrew Walraven, Nathan Eggleston, Jad Sidi-yekhlef

Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence

Intelligence on Tap:

The prospect of using Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence as a “design material” is an exciting prospect, one with potential that we likely can’t even anticipate fully.  However, I think the challenges that the author brings up (and still others he did not) need to be addressed before ML/AI can/should be “on tap.”  These challenges are: Designing for transparency, Designing for opacity, Designing for unpredictability, Designing for learning, Designing for evolution, and Designing for shared control.  I think, especially that it is critical that users should always be informed of the use of these systems and the unpredictable nature they embody.  Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that no matter how “intelligent” these systems may be, they should, on principle, not be able to override the authority of its user.  This would make the creator of the system liable for any and all havoc caused by the machine.


Challenges for Working with Machine Learning as a Design Material:

“We did not see research investigating issues such as the impact of false positive and false negative responses from agents, or the need to collect ground truth labels, which might negatively impact UX.”  This is something that I had been thinking about when reading the previous article: It sounds so grand when people talk about the power and efficiency provided by machine learning associated with big data powerhouses like Amazon and Google, but what about when it is accidentally or intentionally trained poorly?  I think the chatbot experiments proved why this is a huge problem.  People may lie to the machine, which has no way of distinguishing true from false statements provided by its user.  It’s possible that there may be a way to train the machines to account for this in the future, but I assume that would mean teaching it to lie itself, to understand lying, which would be incredibly problematic and would destroy any trust in the machine that users could build up over time.
Machines Learning Culture:
For this article, I wanted to comment on the part regarding “normalcy.”  The Turing Normalizing Machine is designed to somehow identify what makes people “normal,” and the creators hope to decode the mystery of “what society deems ‘normal.'”  But here is the problem with this goal: It will never be truly solved.  Each person has their own beliefs and biases of what normal is, which in turn affects what they consider to be normal appearances.  In consequence, the machine will be getting flawed and contradictory data.  Sure, they can construct and image of what the machine thinks is the most “normal” appearance, but even if it could sample the data of every person alive, it couldn’t choose a form that satisfied everyone’s “normal.”  In other words, people may see the machine’s aggregate person and think it looks weird, and they would be neither right nor wrong, as what is normal to them is different to people of different locations, beliefs, age, gender, etc.  All this to say: It’s a fun little project, but will never “decode the mystery,” and has no real, practical value other than ironically pointing out all the differences in perspectives about “normal” that prevent it from being ever universally accepted.

“A Practical Solution”–Andrew Walraven

1) PDF Presentation: Walraven_Wallet

2) Tagline: “A Practical Solution”  –I picked this tagline, because I think it accurately describes the wallet design I developed.  It isn’t too much different from a standard bi-fold wallet, except that it makes it easier to reveal Identification, and it offers a practical solution to the problem of storing change for people who use cash.

3) My persona is a conglomerate person, based on the people I interviewed for feedback: Chad–A junior engineer, studying at Virginia Tech.  He is a busy man and tries to be as efficient as possible.  He likes his basic, bi-fold wallet well enough, but he wishes it had a way of quickly storing the change he collects when making a cash transaction.  Also, when he uses the Blacksburg Transit system, he dislikes having to unfold his wallet and pull out his ID card to show to the bus driver.

4) Post-It Note: “Change slot is mostly a feminine attribute; is this for a certain gender?”  My Response: First, I want to address the question and say that my user group was all male, but I didn’t really have a gender in mind when I was designing mine.  Second, I want to address the initial assertion that a change slot is “mostly a feminine attribute.”  Is this really true?  If so, why would that be the case?  From my perspective, a place to store change hardly seems like a gender-specific element, so I’m really not sure what you [the writer of the note] mean.

I (Andrew Walraven) am the only remaining member of this team, but originially was working with Hithesh Peddamekala.

Sengers and Blythe Readings

Sengers–“The Engineering of Experience”

I found the explanation of the transition of casual work/home balance to distinct work/home separation, in order to increase efficiency in that work, to be quite interesting, but I do have a hesitation: Although I agree partially that there is something lost by adopting “Taylorism” in its purest form, the author doesn’t really provide a sufficient argument as to why increasing efficiency in the workplace or at home with “fun” is inherently wrong.  The author claims that, “as a culture we need to consider systems that take a more integrative approach to experience,” but does not even try to prove why this assertion is true.  On one hand, I agree that it can be nice to be more relaxed about the boundaries of work/play, allowing for more neutral experiences, but on the other, I love the aspect of separation that allows me to clock out at the end of a work day and not have to be thinking about work when I am home with my family or hanging out with friends.  I love this quote: “Human behaviour is rich, complex, messy, and hard to organize into rules and formal models.”  But I think the author may be ignoring the fact that some people enjoy striving for efficiency and organizing their lives with “to-do lists” and “schedules.”

Blythe–“Making Sense of Experience”

I enjoyed reading this excerpt, but I will say it was a bit of an exhaustive “experience” (pun intended) navigating through the highly-specific philosophical or etymological discussion.  I think that I agree with most of what the author is asserting, but there was one thing that I was not to sure about.  Perhaps I misunderstood something, but it seems to be a contradiction when, at the beginning of the paper, it is suggested that “experience” should not be confused with subjective perceptions, but later, several examples of subjective aspects of experience are provided (The sensual thread, the emotional thread, making sense in experience, interpreting, etc.)  The author even states at one point, “People do not simply engage in experiences as ready-made, they actively construct them through a process of sense making.”  In other words, the experience is subjective to how people make sense of them.  Experience may contain other aspects that are objective, but it definitely contains lots of subjectivity.

Sidenote–I thought this quote was particularly interesting: “we cannot design an experience. But with a sensitive and skilled way of understanding our users, we can design for experience.”  This is probably a good observation to keep in mind while studying “User-Experience Design” as a class.

Wallet Prototyping–Andrew and Hithesh


For this assignment, we met up in Burchard hall to build some quick prototypes to help generate/analyze ideas.

For this design, we wanted to have something to accommodate people who like to pay with cash and change, as opposed to using a credit or debit card. The front of wallet contains a transparent sleeve to hold an ID so that users do not need to open their wallet when they need to show their ID. The back of the wallet has four elastic pouches to hold quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. The idea of having the pouches be elastic would allow for the wallet to still be slim despite having the coins on the outside of the wallet. The elastic pouches would be tight enough so that the coins would not fall out if the wallet was held upside down. However, it wouldn’t be so tight that the user would have trouble trying to get a coin out.


The idea of this wallet is for it to be integrated with a smartphone to make it more dynamic and convenient for the user. The user can use an app within the phone to choose between any type of credit, debit, or gift card that he or she wants to use. The physical card attachment to the back of the phone would represent the selected card from the app. The attachment would use NFC technology to wirelessly pay and RFID for Chip payments. A barcode will also be displayed on the card attachment for when RFID or NFC technology may not be available at a consumer location, so the user can use a barcode scanner. The card-like extension would slide out easily when the user slides a smooth mechanism on the back of the phone.


The design of this wallet allows it to be sleek and thin, since there are no folding parts. The front of the wallet contains a transparent screen so that the user’s ID can easily be shown to others when needed. There is also a zippered pouch on the front so that the user may store any change if they need to, but it is compact when not in use. The back has numerous compartments for any cards that the user needs to carry. Since the wallet is longer and thinner, cash bills don’t need to be folded, but can be placed in unaltered. By not folding the dollar bills, the thickness of a wallet is greatly reduced.