Udte Paon (Feet that fly)
Illustration by Parvati Pillai
Udte Paon is a conceptual, multi device, internet based platform for teenage girls in rural India to synchronously learn across locations. A lot of girls in rural India don't have opportunities to cultivate skills and social norms prevent them from travelling outside their villages. Udte Paon provides access to a network of students and teachers, simulates a classroom learning environment and encourages creativity and mastery of dance skills. It uses technology to bridge space and time to build a collaborative community that encourages peer to peer learning and sharing knowledge and experiences. This was my 4 month long undergrad thesis in 2011.
Illustrations by Parvati Pillai
HOW IT WORKS
In this scenario, Rima goes onto the Udte Paon app
on her tablet device and finds the song she wants to learn to dance to with a pre-recorded video of an instructor. She connects the tablet to her TV and starts dancing, matching her steps to the instruction video. The tablet device has a camera that maps Rimas motions and records her as she’s dancing
Rima sees herself on the TV dancing next to the instructor. She uses specific motions to control the video like rewind and fast forward. Rima sees that her cousins are also on the Udte Paon network and invites them to join in. The cousins are in different locations but they are dancing at the same time in their respective houses. What they see on their screens is all three of them dancing in real time but on the same screen, next to each other. This helps them choreograph the dance better and have fun at the same time!
Create an entertainment service for a rural Indian audience using 4G wireless internet for mobile devices. Understand the dynamics and cultural context of rural India to provide a meaningful conceptual solution. The project was sponsored by Intel.
Reviewing projects and literature
I researched social and collaborative media projects from the points of view of the user, the technology and business. These included social innovation projects initiated by governments, universities and entrepreneurs across the world.
Using four states in different corners of the country and using the lenses of Economy, Landscape, Parks and Sanctuaries, People, Architecture, Rituals, Art, Textile and Handicraft, I created visual moodboards. Since India is such a vast and varied country, this helped me gain an understanding of the people and environments the designed system would have to fit within.
Motifs in vernacular art are passed down from generation to generation and evolve slowly. Art becomes a part of tradition and is an expression of the aesthetics of a certain culture. Studying the motifs and color palettes informed my design decisions for the interface.
Through secondary and primary research in rural Karnataka (informal discussions through a local facilitator) and urban Bangalore (collaborative mind mapping), I derived device ecosystem and stakeholder maps. I studied past and current trends in technology in India, trends in dance and the process of learning different kinds of dance. Based on this background, I created scenarios and user experience maps focused on different user needs, goals and varying skill levels. I then compiled a list of features that would be most relevant for the users
HOW THE PLATFORM WORKS
Creating paper prototypes and wireframes led to a system model and user interface that had apparent rather than necessarily inherent usability to make the user want to use the platform and not feel inhibited by the technology.
People had a more positive response to the interaction model that I had created on the paper prototypes than the standard menu-based mobile app. It helped validate the design metaphors before refining the visual language.
Defining a visual style for the icons and for the menu navigation was challenging. the research into the visual style was great reference but I had to translate that into easily distinguishable and recognizable imagery and make it relevant for digital interactions.
REFINING THE PROTOTYPE
The swirling panels of a skirt are the aesthetic and functional metaphor for Udte Paon. It allows for multiple points of entry. As the user selects an option within one of the panels, the size (representing the related options) of the other panels change. For example, if the user chose the song 'Teri Meri', the area occcupied by the other panels would change in proportion to each other based on how many Teachers, Steps, Styles and Videos were there. This encourages a more exploratory interaction rather than a linear progressive disclosure of limited choices.