September 7th, 2014
This is a clever idea! The gestural and lighting interfaces are both simple and intuitive to follow. I can see a few potential problems with the LEDs, however. What if while one student is halfway to an empty seat, another student takes it? Or if two paths intersect, how will each group figure out which path to continue on? While these can potentially be subverted with advanced pathfinding algorithms, there is a technological (and monetary) tradeoff with the ease of use.
While I understand the implication of group tables for groups and smaller tables for single people, I foresee a huge potential problem. As someone who works on the third floor of Hunt often (almost daily), I know from experience that not all seats are created equal, and I definitely have seats that I favor instead of others. And if this machine directs me to a seat that isn't "mine" and that one is open, I'll take my usual seat. How will that mess with the system if the user doesn't choose the chosen seat for them. Another problem is that not all study cubicles on the third floor have outlets near them (although most do). What would happen if the machine directs me to a seat without a nearby outlet and I need to use one? Would the machine know and ask me about my preferences?
I agree that the system of seat-finding in the library could benefit from some overhaul via technology.
It may make more sense/be more feasible to (instead of implementing LED lighting all over Hunt library) have an app that has a map of Hunt and shows the student where an open seat is or where ALL open seats are, and then the student can choose their favorite out of the available options.
I liked how you implemented gestures as a way of interacting with the system - the quiet area would be undisturbed and it is quicker than typing in answers into the system. However, I wonder if there was a better way to guide people to their seats instead of an LED trail on the floor - just because in areas where tables are close together, having LED lights moving across the floor could be a potential distraction.
I agree with Amanda; I have a tendency to pick the same few seats on the quiet study floor and if it doesn't direct me to my seat, I'll end up taking my own. It may be more beneficial if the screen at the front of Hunt just shows open seats, then makes it unavailable to other people when you go upstairs and sit in it. However, I really like the idea of using gestures to make inputting preferences faster.
I agree with Francisco, showing where all open seats are would be more helpful to me than just making me blindly find a computer system. It gives the person more control.
Very cool idea! But using pressure to determine whether a seat is occupied seems like it may be problematic. Installing pressure tiles all over the library would be time consuming and expensive, and there are many possible sources of error for these sensitive instruments. If someone were to set a particularly heavy backpack down, for example, and leave it, the tile would be unable to tell that the seat is actually unoccupied. I think having a small screen accompanying the seat that asks the student at set intervals - say once per half hour - if they would like to continue holding the seat.
@Zach: I think our idea was actually to have the pressure sensors in the chairs themselves. I agree that even that could be error-prone, though, and a system where the students themselves actually indicate when they're present or about to leave might be better. Prompting every few minutes seems like it would be distracting, though. It might also cause a problem with people abusing the system to "reserve" seats when they're not actually using them.
I can definitely say that I have experienced this problem firsthand many times, and that this solution has potential.
But just as some others have said, I think there are a few problems that need to be flushed out. Specifically, I think enforcement will be a huge problem, because if there is only one seat finding machine, then at some point a line will probably end up forming because too many people are coming at the same time. At that point, I feel that it is extremely likely that people will stop using the system and just try to get to a seat before the machine can assign it to the people in front of them in line, and then people using the machine may have their seats taken away from them as they are being led to their spots. What are you planning in terms of scale and enforcement? Are you planning on using as the main way of seating in the library? Or just for people coming in who are wondering if there could possible be a seat?
Very interesting idea. Might be a little overkill on the technology usage as maybe a touchscreen interface showing open seats on floor plans would be more efficient?
I think this is a great idea for getting people to their seats more efficiently and it sounds like it could provide a little bit of fun for those that are coming to Hunt, especially when they'r getting ready to sit down for a long study session. However, I do agree with Judy that the LED lights may potentially cause a huge distraction. It might especially be a problem on the third floor, where people are trying hard to focus, if they see a green or red light pulsing every once in a while near them. I think a better idea might be one that kdsmith just posted, which is to have an interface at the bottom of the library that just shows what seats are available at the time. This solves both the problems of distractions from the LED lights and the problem of not being given "your" seat. There could be an option possibly placed in the interface that allows you to select the open seat that you want; afterwards, the seat would no longer be shown as available, which would potentially prevent others that came after you from taking the seat that you wanted before you got to it.
I like the intent and design of this project, but as others have said, there are some problems with how you could implement this system, first, it would be a massive construction effort to rip up all the floors of hunt to install these LEDs. In addition to being prohibitively expensive, disruptive, and possible problems with having a queue, my main problem is that this would reduce the utility of the library by making it more difficult to move seats once you've found one or to collaborate with other people especially in the ideate spaces. An alternative might be creating an interactive map of hunt using cameras and motion detection algorithms in conjunction with visual markers on furniture to display empty workspaces and concentrations of empty seats. This way would also avoid the problems of enforcement since it would simply be a visual information tool to tell where empty seats and tables are. While the idea is good, no doubt, implementation does need to be thought about especially in a highly trafficked area like hunt library.
I really like your idea! I know I personally tend to take more time than is necessary to find a seat. I do agree with many of the other comments, but I would like to also introduce another issue I foresee. Is it possible that the LEDs may be somewhat distracting to those trying to study on the third floor? I understand that you chose a "pale" green color, but when I think of LEDs, I think of a bright, somewhat harsh light that might be a little distracting to those trying to study or read.
This definitely addresses a prominent problem many of us have faced before. However, i do agree with some of the previous posts that comment on the control taken away from the user. Sometimes, when I work in public spaces, I know that there are still some open spots. However, since I already have specific tables that I prefer to work at, I will decide to leave if that spot is occupied, even if the area is not completely full. A similar solution that gives the user more control is the reservation system for the work rooms in the basement. Although it would be completely unfair to reserve single seats ahead of time, it may be useful to be able to choose several preferred locations to easily check if those are occupied, and receive alerts when they are open.
These are all useful comments. While setting up a system like this would be very expensive, we were assuming an unlimited budget. It is true that the LED lights could become distracting; we didn't really talk much about that issue. The reason we preferred a gestural interface to a touch screen is that the gestural interface seemed to be a more efficient set up, assuming it works perfectly. Walk up to the area where it reads your gestures, flash your gesture, and it sends you on your way. Again, assuming it doesn't glitch, that seems faster than going through a couple levels of touch screen interaction. The app idea is sound, also, but I feel obligated to remind people that not everyone can afford a smart phone, and generating ideas that only serve the more wealthy portions of the population is unfair.
Thanks for all the input! There are a couple recurring points I see in the comments so far:
> LEDs might be too attention-grabbing, so how can we guide people to seats without distracting people already at work?
> A system of pressure sensors would be expensive and problematic, so what's the best way to tell which seats are occupied?
> How can we accommodate students who just want to go to one of their favorite spots?
These are good points and I don't know that I have answers for them now (though there have been some great suggestions).
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