Oce Internship: Fireflies

Name: Internship at Oce Technologies BV Venlo
Date: 12-2006
Duration: 16 weeks
Type: Individual
Stage Education: Bachelor, Third year, First Semester

In short:
A design concept developed during an internship at Oce Technologies that uses the metaphor of fireflies to give the user a pleasurable magical experience as well as a functional one. The fireflies guide the attention of the user to the part on the printer that is relevant at that time while going through a problem solving procedure.


The user was asked to resolve (multiple) paper jam

The test participant was asked to resolve the “depleted tray” error


The assignment I got was to design an alternative interface that does not use the regular screen + buttons in order to provide a richer interaction. In my analysis phase of the project I’ve discussed the question why would you want anything different than the regular GUI + buttons? The answer to that question is in short: The experience users get from using the regular printers/copiers can be classified as “dull”, after using a printer/copier you’ll probably not remember it unless it has been a negative experience. The design challenge here is to design an interface that provides the user with a positive experience. The second design challenge is to design an interface that is easier to use when the printer wants something from the user (resolve paper jams, refill paper, refilling toner etc.) than the regular guides displayed on the screen. The final concept consists out of a lot of leds that have been mounted on the body of the printer just like a swarm of fireflies. Once the printer requires attention at a specific area of the printer the fireflies will move to that specific area and will point out a specific place e.g. a handle. This way the regular GUI is only used to make clear what is wrong and the fireflies will guide the user to do the rest of the steps necessary to resolve the problem. This concept will also provide the user with a more positive experience; just like in a fairytale the fireflies have something magical.

As you can see, a printer/copier can be quite complicate.

Disney films have been a great inspiration in this project

A small summary of the realization of the prototype.

The prototype consists out of 64 orange 120 degree leds. Océ had provided me with a 3165 copier. Due to the complexity of the interface between a pc and a printer (status info) I’ve chosen to make the prototype in a “Wizard of Oz” setting and to choose 4 scenarios that would have to work on the device to proof my concept. The LEDs are driven by a PhigetLED64 board which is a able to drive 64 leds and their intensities. I’ve used UTP network cable to make the connections from the Phidget board to the LEDs. In total I’ve
used 80 meters of UTP cable which is 640 mtr of cable in total (8-wires in 1 cable).
Eventually I’ve painted the crêpe tape in the colour of the device’s body.

The software’s been written in Macromedia Flash 8.0. If you ever have trouble with a slow communication between Flash and a PhidgetLED64 board try using MAX/MSP as a proxy. It helped for me. As you can see in the interface of the software there is an unfolded view of the printer with the leds mounted on them. I’ve used 20 green dots as groups of fireflies. By programming the behaviour of those green dots I’ve been able to get the “rough” movement of fireflies. The specific movements are done by overwriting the global behaviour and manipulate every led specifically. On the right side of the interface there is the control panel for the operator of the prototype. Every frame every green dot will calculate its distance to every led and according to the distance will give a contribution to the intensity of that led. So if the green dot is close to a led it will give a high contribution to the intensity of that led and when it is far away of the led it will hardly give any contribution.
This way all the dots are contributing to all the LEDs and therefore will generate a list of
intensities that should be sent to the Phidget Board. This method is the basis for this program. The rest of the program consists out of behaviour programmed into the green dots.

The Software

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