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APAL


Industrial Design / UI/UX Design




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Helping travelers stay moisturized and noiseless on the airplane.





Overview

Today more and more people choose to use the airplane as their transportation method when they need to travel to other places. However, the airplane has to stay in a relatively low humidity mode otherwise the machine in the cabin might be damaged. On the other hand, the noises on the airplane are also crucial.
In this case, those two main important causes make the experience in aircraft becomes a suffer. After researches and ideations, I decided to go with APAL, which is a headphone that can give you enough humidity and it also has noise canceling function.  
The APAL is linked with a phone application to help with detail adjustments. The APAL phone application is preset with three different modes, which are sleep mode, music mode, and movie mode.







ROLE
Industrail Designer, 3D-modeler, User experience designer, Prototyper, Interaction Designer, Visual designer

TIMELINE
Jan, 2018 - May 2018

TOOLS USED
X-mind, Solidworks, Keyshot, Lightroom, Sketch, Adobe XD, Illustrator, Photoshop









Background
This was an industrial design semester project on wearable technologies. Through the semester we did researches on the history and trend of the wearable technologies. We had to find a real-life problem and design a brand new wearable technology to solve that problem. 





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Problem

Wearable Technology Research
I researched wearable technology from four perspectives, which are “where,” “what,” “who.” and “how.” After the research, I found out that the target user groups of wearable technologies are always huge. They were targetting a significant age group. For example, the smartwatch designed for children or elder people. The majority of wearable devices for older adults and kids are technologies with a navigation system and health monitor. Another popular wearable technology is fitness bands. However, all of the wearable technologies’ functions are so similar. Therefore, I decided to design for a specific group of people.

Problems in Cabin
The population of people travel by airplane is continually growing. But the in aircraft experience still need to improve. Based on my own experience and the media scan results, two main problems in the cabin that could cause uncomfortable is the noise and the dry air.





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Research Goal

The research goal was to find whether travelers were facing this problem, why they were facing this problem, and how to solve it. During the research, I conducted a media scan, literature reviews, interviews, competitive analysis, and also user tests. 


Media Scan

I conducted media scan to try to figure out whether the dry air and noise in the airplane are bad for travelers. 
According to the media scan result and the travel expert, Robert Haru in an article on Frommer’s, the humidity level in commercial airlines is about 10 percent to 20 percent, while some are as low as 1 percent. As a comparison, the humidity is about 25 percent in the Sahara Desert, and the average humidity for your room is from 30 percent to 65 percent. Therefore, the environment in the cabin can be a trouble for travelers. 

- https://www.farecompare.com/travel-advice/how-to-keep-from-drying-out-on-a-plane/


On the aircraft, the air is a mixture of fresh and recirculated air, which can help to regulate temperature and maintain a bit of humidity. However, to keep a comfortable humidity may cost a lot of extra fuel. The airplane has to carry excess water into the aircraft, which will lead to cost much more money, and the airline company usually do not want to do so. 

“The dry air not only weakens your body's defenses against disease,
but also – because it's re-circulated – exposes you to whatever
bacteria your fellow passengers might be carrying.”


According to the Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology articles, the researchers measure 200 airplanes’ noise at the same attitude level. The results show that the noise level can go as high as over 110dB, while the sounds above 85dB are considerd harmful for people.

-  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-018-0027-z



Insights:
It is obvious the environment of airplane need improvement, especially on the dry air and noise problems. Both of them can be harmful to people particularly those who have long-distance traveling and they usually have to stay in the bad cabin environment for over 15 hours.



Interview



NAME: MICHAEL LIU
AGE: 22

USER OF EXSITING PRODUCTS


Based on your experience, what do you think is the worst parts of the airplane traveling?
The worst part for me is the noise. I cannot fall asleep when I was on the airplane. I just bought a noise canceling headphone. And that helps a lot.

What do you think about the air in the cabin?
I think most of the time it is ok. While sometimes there are some gross smelling. When you sleep, your nose will be dry. And I always have a lot of water on the airplane. But I did see many people used the facial mask. I did not know why but I guessed they might be an allergy to the air or something in the cabin. 

Have you ever tried anything to keep yourself moisturized?
I tried the mask that has a wet sheet inside. I was excited when I about to use it. But when I used it, the experience is not as what I expected. First of all, it makes me hard to breathe because there is two wet sheet in front of your nose. And the wet sheet dries fast. This might seem because of the dryness inside the cabin. But I think it only works for about half an hour. The most important thing is mask always makes fog on your glasses! And the rope is too tight, which hurts.

Insights:
1. Travelers are suffering from dry air and noises. They tried different methods to make it better. 
2. The shape or design of masks gives others a feeling of sickness.

Improvements:
1. The existing products cannot solve both of the questions at the same time. And the noise canceling headphones are not designed specifically for the aircraft using. In my design, it may have some functions that designed particularly for airplane using.
2. I will not use the mask to be the shape or the style of my design. 




Competitive Analysis

In order to understand the current solutions of the noise and dry air problems, I conveyed competitive analysis. As I was doing the research, I found out that there were no existing products that could solve both problems at the same time. Therefore, I did the competitive analysis separately.





The first three products are the current solutions for dry air in the cabin.  The first one is a mask designed specifically for the cabin using. The problems are the comfortability and aesthetic. Users said the size of the mask is not adjustable, so the top of the mask can cover part of your eyes, which is annoying.  And if the user is wearing makeup, the mask would rub off a little bit. The second one is a hand-held humidifier. The downside of it is users have to hold it the whole time, which is neither convenient nor comfortable. The third one is a mask with wet tissue inside. This one is really easy to carry around because it is really small and light. However, the wet tissue can only work for about half an hour. Both masks can be hurtful to the ears or the heads. 
In case of the noise canceling headphones and earphones, I picked the three typical products from two best selling brands. They represent three basic market segments, which each of the products focused on one of the market segments. Overall all three products provide basic noise canceling function, while the headphone is more advanced in noise canceling function as well as comfortability. 

Insights:
1. There is an existing technology that can trap the humidity from people and make a loop so people can use the humidity again and again. 
2. Masks are not as comfortable as headphone style. 



Material and Manufacturing Research


ABS has good impact resistance with toughness and rigidity. Another important strength of ABS is that it is a light-weight plastic.
Soft foam and leather will be the material of the ear cover. Leather will make the headphone looks elegant, while the soft foam will create a comfortable user experience.
This mask’s filter is an existing technology, and this is how the official website explains it.
“The HumidiFlyer is a comfortable, especially filtered mask designed for air travel, which traps the expired moisture from your breath.  When you breathe in, that moisture is used to humidify the dry cabin air.  Simple recycling!”


Injection moulding
Injection molding BrE or Injection molding AmE is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting material into a mold. Injection molding can be performed with a host of materials mainly including metals, (for which the process is called die-casting), glasses, elastomers, confections, and most commonly thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. Material for the part is fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mold cavity, where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity.[1]:240 After a product is designed, usually by an industrial designer or an engineer, molds are made by a mold-maker (or toolmaker) from metal, usually either steel or aluminum, and precision-machined to form the features of the desired part. Injection molding is widely used for manufacturing a variety of parts, from the smallest components to entire body panels of cars. Advances in 3D printing technology, using photopolymers which do not melt during the injection molding of some lower temperature thermoplastics, can be used for some simple injection molds.





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Mind Map

I did mind maps in order to expand my thoughts and exploring more possibilities on this topic. I started the mind map by dividing the product into two parts, which are a separation part and a control panel part. Then I brainstormed the possibilities of each of them, and listed the pros and cons next to them.




The second round mind mapping was focused more on the separation part and this step mean to discover and investigate more on the possibilities and creativities.





According to the mindmap, I came up with several ideas which include combining the headphone with a mask, with humidifier, or with the filter that can trap the humidity. On the other hand, the combination of a neck pillow with a humidifier is also interested to me. But the neck pillow is big to carry around especially for travelers. So, it is also important to make the neck pillow portable. 





Ideations



Convey the possible brainstorming ideas from the previous step; I did some more rough sketches to visualize it. The ideations are a visualization version of the results from the mindmap. At this point, two of the ideations are entered to the final. The first one I called it “ Foldapillow H2O”.




It is inspired by the Japanese Origami. However, the design of it makes it not as comfortable as a regular neck pillow. And according to my survey results, travelers especially long-distance travelers feel the noise is more important than the neck problem. Therefore, I decided to go with the other one, which is a combination of the headphone with the humidifier filter.



The shell is foldable, and it contains the humidity filter inside. And the headphone contains noise canceling function. It is convenient and multi-function.





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User Flow




Headphone as input:





Phone application as input:













APAL Rough Wireframe and Usability Testing

I made rough wireframe based on the user flow above, and tested them to check the feasibility and usability. The main questions of the user tests are:

  1. Do you understand each step?
  2. Is there any step make you feel confused?
  3. Is there any function that you feel you might not use?





Insights:
Participants mentioned they did not understand the meaning of “ambient sound control” and “noise canceling optimizer.” And they also indicated they would not want to read a long explanation about how it works. 
Improvements:
I decided to give them a short expaination that no more than 5 words. 

Insights:
Users did not understand how to pair the headphone with the phone application with the current wireframes. They felt there were missing screens.
Improvements:
The screens in pairing was missing screens and I meant to add them all on there and made it simple and easy for users to understand.






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MoodBoard

The design wants to convey a high technology and fashion style. The ideal user experience of using APAL is comfortable and making the whole travel experience becomes an enjoyable time. 







Final Outcome





Industrial design part:

The final model is done with the 3D printer by using Polylactic acid (aka. PLA), and the original file was built by Solidworks. However, in the future, if this product is introduced to the market, the material choices are ABS, soft foam, leather, and the new technology filter. 












The instructions of the interaction parts of the headphone can be checked below. To turn on the headphone the user simply press three seconds. 



The APAL phone application is designed to use with the headphone. In the application, the preset mode, which includes music mode, movie mode, and sleeping mode, is designed specifically for airplane or long-distance travelers using. 





Part 1: Pairing the application with the headphone





Part 2: Music Mode





Part 3: Movie Mode






Part 4: Sleeping Mode











Project Takeaway

This project is a solution to provide better air travel experience, in which it approached from both industrial and UI/UX design point of view. Designing APAL is a truly unique experience. The APAL is the first project that allows me to utilize my knowledge from both fields. When designing APAL, I am not only considering a single product but both inputs and outputs on the different separate medium at the same time. For example, the users enter the input on their phone, and the output will show on the headphone. On the other hand, phone applications are the users entering the information on the phone, and then they see the output on the phone as well. This way of thinking is brand new to me.