VALY research

Umeå Insitute of Design | 10 weeks group project  | 2015 - 2016

In cooperation with Heidi Taperson and Christoph Zobl and New Boliden

MY CONTRIBUTION desk research, observations, user study, concept development

Researching solution for the mining industry in 2035 - future of automation and remote work.


Research in Aitik mine

We found out three main areas which drew our attention the most and which we wanted to focus on: Ergonomics, Visibility and Culture. 

During the field study at Aitik (Sweden’s largest copper mine) in Gällivare we visited two crusher units where we had the opportunity to observe and interview miners in their own environment. 


Visual overload

Many streams dense with information.



Bad sitting posture while operating the machine.


Importance of teamwork

Close bond with co-workers which can be lost when work is done remotely.


Sound study

To aid visual overload we decided to explore sound feedback.

4 users

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Card sorting

Users could play sounds using simple interface with set of ten buttons and then assign one card describing one response of the system  (for example “small error”, “time to take break”) associated with that sound. 

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Declared emotional reaction

We played sounds from our collection of 10 sound samples and asked users to give us their emotional reaction to each of the sounds by using special cards prepared for this occasion. Sounds were played in random order some from the front and some both from the front and the back.

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Card sorting

All participants agreed on a meaning of two sounds (‘a task is waiting’ and ‘done. success’). 


Declared emotional reaction

Interestingly two participants said that sound no.9 was ‘neutral’ when played from the front, but ‘worried’ when played from the back.


Tactile feedback study

To help with visual overload we decided to explore tactile feedback.

5 users



 Various small task were performed by users - like checking the pivot point movement, axis movement and using control on  different surfaces.



We filled seven balloons with every day substances. Users were asked to compare controls, in respect to the size and type of feedback, by trying them out. 

About green control 'It seems like I should interact with something inside. Dence base for clicking, applying pressure. Fluid top for movement.'

- K.

About green control 'Feedback is instantaneous - It's fast, like a keyboard. Bottom is firm giving it more stability. And top is more free to interact with it.'

- A.





Bigger green control filled with potato starch and water was favored by the highest number of users. Starch created stable base of flexible mass on the bottom while water formed fluid bubble on the top. Users liked this control also because they instantly knew how to operate it.




While going trough the exercise stable base made it easy to interact with green control, move around and prevented it from rolling away when not in use. Soft bubble created by the fluid on top of the control was seen as a space for precise movements and adjustments. 


Confirmatory study

4 users

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In confirmatory study we asked users to interact with our model and interpret feedback and visual language of controls (we employed Wizard of Oz method and contextual inquiry).

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Most of the feedbacks and signs were interpreted correctly. Only very specific icons related to mining seemed to be problematic to users who were not miners.


Adjustable surface & personalization

We designed a smart surface inspired by MIT's shapeshifting pixel project InForm.  We would allow different controls and buttons to emerge when they are required by the operator.we allow users to sit, stand or further customize their workstation by rearranging their controls to their comfort. 

Ergonomic bubble control

the bubble concept would also emerge from the surface, resembling a mouse. However, there are additional axes of freedom, allowing there user to tilt, roll and rotate the emerged interface.

Visual underload

The visual sense is unloaded by the addition of
a sound as a crucial part of the interface feedback as well as haptic feedback of the table. We propose to create a sound cone, comparable to a personalized sound space, to avoid wearing headsets.

Boom tip control

Being able to control a boom tip in such an intuitive manner greatly reduces strain and stress on the future operator as well.