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We are all horny

Honking is so embedded in Indian driving etiquette that Audi India has confirmed, in media, having designed extra loud, ultradurable horns for vehicles sold in India. Meanwhile people face a rapidly growing problem with many side effects of noise pollution. Some of them being increased hyper-tension, blood pressure, hearing loss, increased risk of heart attacks and disturbed sleep patterns. Reports in Indian cities show that noise levels are way beyond the permissible limits. Truly we are all horny.

Honking like other behaviour, over time, becomes a habit. And habits are essentially automatic behaviour where one does not consciously think about the action, but rather, the decision-making happens automatically. So we thought that it was important to shift the driver from an automatic mode of honking as a habit, to make him deliberate on whether the situation really demanded that he honk. We needed to make the driver conscious of the habit of honking by giving him immediate feedback while the driver was still driving the car, so that the next time the driver honked only when he thought it was necessary, rather than honk indiscriminately.

This approach led us to create a ‘Horn Reduction System’ we’ve called Bleep that has proved to reduce honking amongst each and every one of participants by an average of 61%.

Bleep – A horn reduction system

Bleep is a device with a simple red button fitted in an easily accessible place on the dashboard of a car. The red button has a frown sketched on it and when the driver presses the horn, the red button begins to beep and flash. In order to switch the device off, the driver needs to press the red button.

The 6-month long experiment

Bleep has been tested on manual and automatic geared cars amongst 30 people including men, women and chauffeurs of private vehicles, over 6 months and over 3800 kms. The participants were given either of two cars – manually geared Swift or automatic Honda City, with Bleep fitted, to be driven for 4 days during the working weekdays. Two days with Bleep off and the next two days with Bleep on, so that we could compare the number of honks per kilometer in the control situation (pre-Bleep) with the experimental situation (post-Bleep). Bleep has been tested as triggering off every time the horn is pressed, which is a stricter version in the manually geared Swift car, as well as triggering off every third time the horn is pressed, which is more lenient, in the automatic Honda City. In the first phase of the experiment the drivers were not given any information about the experiment. In the second phase they were simply shown how the system works.

The results

We have found a reduction in honking in each and every one of the participants wherein honks per km reduced between 19% to 96% (on an average by 62.5%) when Bleep was triggered every time the horn was pressed (stricter version). A reduction in honks per km was found between 16% to 91% (on an average by 60.3%) when Bleep was triggered every third time the horn was pressed (lenient version). These numbers prove that the reduction in honking relates to indiscriminate honking that drivers can do without.

The science of Bleep

The science behind the effectiveness of Bleep is that it assists the driver in reducing honking by using a visual-cum-sound reminder. The driver gets instant feedback when the red light with the frown beeps and flashes when he honks, making the driver conscious about his inappropriate behaviour of honking and making him deliberate about when he really required to honk. The driver having to physically switch off the reminder further helps in persuading him to honk lesser. The frown on the device is designed to indicate that honking is socially inappropriate behaviour. A study called ‘Overcoming Intuition’ done by Alter, Oppenheimer, Epley and Eyre has shown that frowning helps the brain reduce the reliance on intuition and activates analytical reasoning. Another research at the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that peak brain activity (arresting attention) occurred during a short period of silence between musical movements, which is evidence that sounds that have a pause in between make you more alert. That’s why a seatbelt reminder like sound was used in the beep.

Bleep comes with many other unique features like recording, displaying and transmission of vehicle data like number of honks, speed at time of honk, location, time, etc., inside the vehicle or at a remote location and many other customised features. Patent pending.

Bleep has got featured in the Times of India (click here), Radio One 94.3 (click here), Top Gear India’s June issue and HT Mint (click here).

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Should playgrounds be made more child friendly?Dr. Sandster and her co-researcher Leif Kennair from Norwegian University of Science and Technology think that offering children opportunities for thrilling experiences through ‘risky play’ helps to ensure they grow up as normal, well-balanced adults. ‘Risky play’ provides kids with a safer situation to learn about dangers than real life. For example, playing at heights can provide kids with the motor skills and perceptual competencies to better navigate heights as they mature. Instead of short climbing walls, there should be towering monkey bars. Instead of plastic crawl tubes, there should be tall, steep slides. And balance beams. And rope swings.

They say the rationale is that the more we shield children from potential scrapes and sprained ankles, the more unprepared they’ll be for real risk as adults, and the less aware they’ll be of their surroundings.

Kids need places to work out their fears, they say, and challenging playgrounds can provide the perfect opportunity for such growth. They argue that modern society has an exaggerated focus on child safety, at the expense of kids’ needs to figure out their personal limits. (You can read the original article here.)

We’re all for children being exposed to a controlled degree of risk, not for the sake of being risky, but because its fun, challenging and makes them learn and grow. But at the same time we must ensure that our playgrounds don’t become risky because of being designed and maintained poorly.

Illustration by Mayur Teckchandaney

Shaken, not stirred and Tall, not short

How many?

Many people attempt to diet, but a few also attempt to cut down on their drinking habit at some point in life. However, majority fail, often blaming it on a lack of motivation.

What we found here is an interesting factor at work, which could help reduce the intake of alcohol.

In an experiment, Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum from Cornell University asked students to pour a single shot of whiskey from a full bottle into a glass. Those given a short, wide glass poured, on average, 30% larger shots than those given a taller, narrower glass. This happened because we use the depth of the liquid as an indication of the amount of liquid in the glass, not noticing that one glass was far wider than the other. These researchers then repeated the experiment with experienced bartenders and discovered that they poured, on average, 20% larger shots into the short, wide glass.

So if you want to reduce your drinking, stay away from short, wide glasses, and stick to tall, narrow ones. But of course, if you want to get drunk faster or get someone else drunk faster, use short, wide glasses.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Beware of large crockery from the blog Behavioural DesignSo you’ve been trying to lose weight since sometime. And you’ve bought new fitness wear, taken membership to the gym, tried yoga, consulted a dietician, gone on different kinds of diets, even skipped meals, bought your favorite dress a size smaller so that you will motivate yourself to lose weight, but nothing has helped?

Try a simpler way. A few years ago, Brian Wansink invited a group of friends to a party and secretly conducted an experiment. Each guest was randomly given a Medium or Large sized bowl accompanied with a Medium or Large sized spoon respectively. The guests then helped themselves to ice-cream. Seconds before the guests took their first mouthful, the researchers weighed the bowls. Results revealed that those who were given the Large bowls and Large spoons had, on an average, taken 31% more ice-cream than their Medium bowls and spoons counterparts. Andrew Geier and his colleagues from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated that this effect is not confined to ice-cream and parties. In their study, a bowl of M&Ms was left in the hallway of an apartment, along with a spoon and a sign saying ‘Eat your fill: please use the spoon to serve yourself’. On some days they kept a teaspoon and on others a tablespoon. Findings revealed that using the larger spoon caused people to take almost twice as many M&Ms from the bowl.

So try replacing your crockery and cutlery with smaller sized ones and let me know if it works.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Here’s a smart way of how design can be at the core of how your company does business. This was in the news in the US in 2008, but is increasingly becoming relevant to the way design can be applied to get better business results today.

U.P.S, the logistics company, realized that their trucks would sit in the left lane, engine idling, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, so that it could make a left-hand turn, something that was wasteful — of time and peace of mind, for sure, but also of gas and therefore money. We’re talking about more than 95,000 big brown trucks delivering packages every day. U.P.S realized that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each truck, translates to huge savings overall. So here’s what they did:

This design thinking helped UPS shave over 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes. That in turn resulted in saving roughly three million gallons of gas! It also reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.

So next time you are in any of the cramped metros of India (which would be quite often), plan your route so that you take as many free left turns as possible.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

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