Innovative minds to enhance users’ mall experience

Olivia Olarte-ulherr - Senior Reporter, Abu Dhabi
Filed on January 29, 2015
Innovative minds to enhance users’ mall experience

Engineering students come up with creative ideas to enhance users’ experience in malls

Every action has a corresponding reaction. This was the concept behind ‘the reactive toilet’ which commends a good user and penalises those who are not.

Kyler Meehan positioned himself in front of a urinal made of cardboard. ‘Welcome sir. Your aim missed, please aim carefully,’ a voice in the speaker alerted.

‘Sir, you’ve completed your performance successfully,’ it noted later. The American student repositioned himself sideways and the message changed to ‘Sir, I was not pleased with your performance,’ followed by a squirt of water on his trouser.

Innovative minds to enhance users’ mall experience (/assets/oldimages/cr_0127.jpg)

The ‘reactive toilet’. 

“Essentially in public spaces, particularly in male bathrooms, the area is not always left clean for the next user and this affects the next person’s experience. So we’re trying to make people aware that their action affects the next individual that uses the bathroom. So, if you use the bathroom properly it will let you know and will congratulate you for doing so but if you don’t, it will let you know with the message and a splash. You get public shaming as a deterrent for bad action,” Kyler, 19, explained.

The reactive toilet is one of the 12 projects created by freshmen engineering students at New York University, Abu Dhabi, during their two-and-a-half week intensive course this month.

For this year’s programme, students at the Design and Innovation class widely-known to them as the ‘Superlab’, were asked to come up with ideas that would enhance users’ experience in the mall.

What do you miss about home? Don’t bottle-up those feelings, express it and let another person listen to it. This was another idea created by a different team of students who used a water bottle to relay a message.

“When you’re far from home, what you really want is a message from home or a reminder of what your home is,” said Camila Viera.

“The idea would be to have this shelf full of bottles and you can grab one, uncap it and listen to the message someone else has recorded of what reminds them of home. Then you could leave your message for someone else to listen to and perhaps someone else can relate,” explained the 18-year old from Colombia.

Innovative minds to enhance users’ mall experience (/assets/oldimages/inno_0127.jpg)

Students demonstrating the ‘message in a bottle’ concept; Lynn’s reflection project; and Herme’s smart application at the ‘Superlab’ at the New York University, Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photos 

In their ‘message in a bottle’ concept, the students used a microphone, recorder and speaker and connected those in a circuit which was coded to record and play the message when uncapped.

“It knows when it’s to be heard and to be recorded,” Camila said.

The Design and Innovation class at NYUAD was aimed at introducing students to electronics and product design techniques early in their course, enabling them to gain basic engineering skills while creating innovative and patentable ideas that could have significant commercial value for the future.

“We believe in giving our students three levels of competencies — their chosen field of study, cultural competency and social accountability,” said Ramesh Jagannathan, vice provost for entrepreneurship, associate dean of engineering and research professor at NYUAD.

According to him, his class is so popular that 47 students enrolled this year (from 33 countries), compared to 24 last academic year, to experience the $500 million-worth of materials and Idea (innovation, design, entrepreneurship and acceleration) lab infrastructure.

“We were using technology that we haven’t worked with before (such as) the Mp3 trigger, the sound and speaker also the sensor is something we devised on our own. We have to research the science and this is what we came out with effectively,” noted Kyler who wants to pursue mechanical engineering.

Other innovative ideas that came out of this batch include the Hunger Games-inspired whistle as a call and response system to find someone in a large and crowded place when using a cellphone is not an option.

Innovative minds to enhance users’ mall experience (/assets/oldimages/maj_0127.jpg)

Designers of the ‘spirit of the majlis’

“This system will create a network of whistles along the path to your friend (by connecting) to the mall WiFi or peer-to-peer connection from one device to another device,” explained Leo Asatiani from Georgia. The ‘Hermes’ app is downloadable for mobile application from the mall WiFi.

Other simple yet noteworthy ideas include the ‘spirit of the majlis’ which makes use of heat sensors to create Arabic patterns on the mat aimed at connecting those seated in the majlis.

‘Lynn’s reflection’ sets-off a chain reaction that changes the tiles on display with the mere touch of the rail, while with a single wave of hand, one can actually orchestrate the movement of a fountain.

It is a commendable output with just over two weeks of brainstorming and putting the ideas together especially from students of different cultures, minds and attitudes. And bringing those together is as challenging as the task at hand.  “Of course, when you have a group of different people there are arguments, but we tried our best to solve them as soon as possible for the best of the team and to get the job done because that was the main goal throughout,” said Mohsin Syed, 18, from Saudi Arabia.

Dr Alfred Bloom, vice-chancellor of NYUAD commended the “level of creativity” and the “phenomenal performance” of the students. “We are very proud of them,” he said.

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