mamaRoo4 User Interface
Project Type: Physical User Interface Design
Product Details: https://www.4moms.com/mamaroo
The new version of 4moms mamaRoo infant swing, was recently launched in summer 2017. I helped to design the new user interface, which improves usability, and allows for easy "foot-friendly" use for key actions. To try the interactive prototype, CLICK HERE.
1. Project Scope
The mamaRoo is a robotic infant seat that is designed to bounce and sway in 5 unique motions, mimicking the soothing motion of a mother comforting her baby. In addition to the 5 motions, the product also incorporates build-in sound effects as well as the ability to use auxiliary sound input. All sounds and motions can be controlled remotely using the bluetooth-connected 4moms app.
As part of the mamaRoo4 product update, our team was tasked with redesigning the product's user interface. Our constraints included keeping the same cut LCD screen type (though we could change the cut design), the same overall interface shape and dimensions, and not to move any of the existing button contact points (though we could eliminate them if needed). Within these guidelines, our goal was to update the aesthetic of the interface and improve the usability of the product.
2. Exploratory Research & Identifying User Needs
Based on years of customer feedback, we knew that one of the main pain points with the previous version of the product was the ability to operate the interface with one's feet. The buttons were small and close together, and it was difficult to visually identify the icons on the buttons from more than an arm's length distance. The functionality of selecting a motion type, starting and stopping motion, and changing speed was also unintuitive. Even experienced users frequently reported that they just randomly jabbed at buttons until the product started doing what they wanted it to do.
Additionally, the previous product design did not have a master on/off switch. Instead, there was one button to start/stop motion, and a different button to independently control playing/pausing sound effects. This made it difficult for users to turn off the seat in a single action, particularly if their baby suddenly needed to be attended to.
Finally, users also reported issues with using the product in the dark, which is a frequent scenario for babies who use the mamaRoo for napping. The iconography on the rubber-stamped buttons was ambiguous and difficult to identify though purely tactile feedback. Furthermore, the blue backlight of the product screen was always on, and users reported that it was so bright that they often had to cover it with a blanket.
Key user needs:
- Ability to perform key actions with one's feet
- Easy access to a master on/off
- Usability in the dark
3. Concept Generation
In order to start prototyping a more logically intuitive and physically usable interface, we started by mapping out the logic functionality of the device.
Initially, we explored more drastically different interface concepts that incorporated other interactive touch points besides just buttons, including knobs and sliders. This even included concepts which eliminated the screen completely, which would have been a significant cost-saving measure.
Ultimately, we decided to use the existing back end electronics, to simplify the product engineering and minimize the scope of manufacturing changes. However, even within these constraints, we updated the cut LCD screen design, designed an improved button layout with a new rubber button cover, and improved the embedded software logic. This allowed us to incorporate a large, foot-operable power button on the left, and a more intuitive hierarchy of motion type vs. speed and sound type vs. volume selections on the right.
Throughout the course of several design iterations, we also improved the tactile feedback of the rubber buttons. We achieved this through experimenting with various rubber thicknesses, durometers, and cross section profiles for the rubber cover of the UI.
4. Interactive Prototype & Usability Testing
I created a fully functional interactive prototype using Processing, with Java-based code, both to aid in the conceptualization of the new UI design, as well as to conduct quick iterations of usability testing. Users could touch and interact with the "interface" to control the mamaRoo (we used a wizard-of-oz style method in which we secretly controlled the mamaRoo with a bluetooth connected app, to mimic the user's actions). Using this approach we performed "speed" user testing, to determine whether the iconography, layout, and functionality of the interface was intuitive. This also served as a zero-cost proof of concept before we pulled the trigger on tool changes and manufacturing process changes.
In order to update the embedded software on the mamaRoo to incorporate the new button layout and functionality, we also had to consider the impact of the interaction changes on the mamaRoo app functionality. The app design had to remain compatible with both the new mamaRoo4 as well as the previous mamaRoo 3.0 product functionality using the old interface.
I designed an interactive logic mockup (CLICK HERE to view) to aid both our app software engineers and our embedded software engineers in making updates that would be compatible across all product versions.
ABOVE: Interactive prototype of the mamaRoo4 interface. Click on the grey rubber buttons to interact. Make sure your volume is turned on. (If the prototype won't load properly in your browse, CLICK HERE to view in Open Processing.)
Interactive logic map of the back end controls and variable states for the mamaRoo. Can be controlled by either the old product interface (mamaRoo 3.0), the new product interface (mamaRoo 4.0), or the app interface. (If the prototype won't load properly in your browse, CLICK HERE to view in Open Processing.)