Rolling through the dial with Radioball

June 1st, 2010

Teague's RadioballI usually prefer to write about tools, processes and methods here, but when I see a project that so completely exemplifies the values and priorities within a design process, I just can’t help but want to share it. Teague’s RadioBall is one of those projects. Go ahead and watch the video after the jump:

First, the fact that the complete interaction can be described so clearly in 40 seconds shows how novel and intuitive this little thing is. I don’t even need to describe what it does. It clearly combines form, interaction and customizability in one elegant package. It is in short – a great idea. However, while I won’t be surprised when I see something like this on a store shelf sometime soon, what struck me was the use of physical and digital prototyping tools to so completely and effectively express the idea.

The body is built with a 3D printer and the electronics are all off-the-shelf development tools such as Arduino and XBee, with the addition of an FM radio, accelerometer and speaker. None of these tools are custom and none of the technologies are opaque. In fact, all of the schematics, models and code are available on the Radioball Blog Entry. This entire project was realized by two people in a “short time” in order to serve as a “starting point for conversation about the need for richer, more spatial interactions.”

What I tend to write about are essentially tools to aid in, facilitate or speed up a traditional design process. What I find so exciting about Radioball is that an entire functional prototype was developed to describe the idea. I can write about tools that make 3D modeling easier, software to help you build walk-throughs, or electronics that you can use to aid in detailed user studies, but those are still essentially tools that aid an old-fashioned process. This thing is completely new, both in concept and execution. I can’t wait to see more projects like this and won’t hesitate to share what I find.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start building my parts list for building (and maybe improving upon) my own Radioball.

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