QFrame is a platform for the app Snapchat that is targeted toward the elderly. It was the final concept of a semester-long group project for a senior year mechanical engineering course called Innovative Product Design class.
QFrame is a physical product platform for the app Snapchat that is intended for senior citizens or, more specifically, grandparents. Grandparents want to be more connected to their grandkids; they want to know every mundane aspect of the lives of their grandchildren. Grandchildren (particularly millennials like me) are already sharing this with each other through social media, and Snapchat especially presents a fantastic opportunity due to its simplicity and the fact that it is picture- and video-based.
Below is a video for our first design review that introduces the idea of the frame. I was responsible for the video concept, script, acting, and production. Editing credits to Peter Ferenz, other acting credits to Segun Fontenot, and other production credits to Abhi Lohia and Max Wang.
From our interactions with senior citizens, we identified needs for connection to friends and family as well as autonomy. About half of the seniors to whom we spoke felt were very uncertain about smart technology like smartphones, tablets, and computers, despite that the other half were almost offended at the thought of not being comfortable with those devices.
The Snapchat picture frame was one of my brainstormed ideas supported by our empathy research. My team rated this and several other ideas on their feasibility and desirability and the Snapchat picture frame was ultimately chosen. The chart below shows that Digital Interaction, the broader category containing the Snapchat frame, falls along the center line of feasibility and desirability. Our other brainstorm session product ideas were grouped under each of the other categories. The Daily Activity Accessibility category looks like it ranks highly, but when it came to voting subjectively on the ideas within the top categories, none of the ideas in that category made the top three.
Because all of our technology already existed and was more or less available to us, we addressed other design challenges. Our skill sets and backgrounds as a team resulted the first challenge, as six mechanical engineers prototyping a software product.
We initially thought that making a physical button interface for the product instead of using touch screens would both address the accessibility needs of our target demographic and appeal to our interests as mechanical engineers creating physical products. For the first physical prototype, above, (made of cardboard, using a team member's iPad Mini as our software platform), we envisioned an interface as simple as two buttons (the blue and red dot stickers).
I was responsible for creating the mockups for the software, which I made using Adobe Experience Design (Beta). Below is the initial mockup. To simulate physical buttons, only the button icons at the bottom of the screen are functional. The image below is clickable, so try it out! (Try pressing the arrow buttons and then the menu button.) If the embedded version does not work, try accessing it here.
However, after looking at research regarding seniors and touchscreen technology, as well as speaking to more senior citizens who showed interest in the product but who already felt tech savvy, it quickly became clear that physical buttons were probably unnecessary.
We needed to solve three problems at once:
1. How do we make our product comfortable for senior citizens who may be unfamiliar with digital technology?
2. How do we appeal to senior citizens who are already familiar with digital technology?
3. How do we keep ourselves challenged and entertained with this as mechanical engineers?
Amazingly, there seemed to be a single solution. Allan Chochinov from the School of Visual Arts MFA in Products of Design program visited the class and gave us the advice to be creative with our physical interaction ideas, as well as to think carefully about the role that the frame might have in the lives of users. This led to a brainstorm session with my team, which I facilitated, on the role of nostalgia in our product and the purpose of picture frames.
Based on the brainstorm session, I proposed testing a new sort physical interaction for the frame: a frame that changed function as it was rotated about a pivot point. The rest of the team agreed that the idea was worth testing and could enhance our product. This simplified to a touch screen that would function as a digital picture frame when in landscape position and a Snapchat platform when in portrait position.
The purpose was simply to test whether incorporating physical interaction with the product affected user behavior and/or enjoyment, however we never actually tested it with our target demographic. We were going to make a rotating mechanism, but abandoned it during fabrication. The video above shows a demo of the QFrame for the third design review.
The final version of the mockup is below. I updated the design to adapt it to a touch screen, while trying to envision what changes Snapchat would need to make it more accessible to elderly users. These changes include clear terminology and instructions, large icons and text, eliminating the Snapchat timer (usually not more than 10 seconds) and creating a way to "screenshot" messages without buttons, while still preserving the ephemeral nature of Snapchat messages.
Click through the mockup below! (It's more than just your grandma's favorite pelican picture.) For the landscape images, click the bottom left corner (or mail icon, if available) to go to the home screen, or click the center of the image to go to the next image. From the home screen, click the top left corner to return to the landscape images. This was intended to simulate rotating the screen from landscape to portrait mode to change from digital picture frame to Snapchat frame.
Made using Adobe XD.
The Innovative Product Design course culminated in a Demo Day showcase where all of the teams presented their work. I set up an actual Snapchat account for team QuVit to display on the frame, in addition to my mockup, and my classmates enjoyed sending and receiving Snapchats from the frame.
We received a lot of useful feedback and fielded many thoughtful questions at the showcase and over the course of the project. Ideally, the next step would be to license some aspect of this technology and then sell it to Snapchat, Inc., but ultimately what we came up with is an existing app on an existing tablet stuck inside a wooden frame. And yet the idea is innovative in its simplicity and purpose. The people who spoke with us about the QFrame told us they were excited about it; they could see it providing a connection to aging family members that they do not currently have. Maybe that is a sign.
Since we never fully implemented the physical interaction mechanisms that were mentioned earlier, I chose to pursue those ideas in my culminating project of the semester, the Flip Frame project.