The Invisible: Microscopes

Problem Statement

This project was an exploration of usability and user experience through designing a microscope using a smartphone and fisheye lens.

Questions I addressed:

  • How can the process of exploration through magnification be elegant and enjoyable?

  • What level of design complexity is appropriate or necessary?

  • How can the mundane become exquisite?


Solution Methodology

Set 1: First explorations

My approach to determine how to create an enjoyable experience using a fisheye lens was based on quickly designing and testing many different low fidelity prototypes. I experimented with various techniques for controlling micro-movements before deciding to narrow my focus on one specific mechanism. 

Set 2: Pulley Mechanism

In further exploring how a pulley system could apply to a microscope I was faced with the question of appropriateness and complexity. I was drawn to the combination of the moving and fixed pulley, which applied the physics principle of "work" and featured superior usability compared to my first pulley design.

However, as a microscope which should afford quick transportation and effortless exploration of the physical world, this design solution was fundamentally flawed.

Set 3: optimizing simplicity

While the simplicity and mobility of Wedge1 was effective, there wasn't a similar feeling of pleasure during use which was present with the pulley mechanism. When sliding just the wedge, the system didn't provide any notable kinesthetic response, only visual.

The raised wedge designs created a sense of precision through the pressure and tension the user felt from the elasticity in the rubber bands while using the microscope. The interaction was far more solid and deliberate with this design.

Final Exploration

My final design iteration increased the deliberateness a person would feel when using the microscope, smoothing the experience of focusing the lens through increasing the rubber band tension.

What I learned

  • Value of rapid prototyping to explore different solutions

  • What elements of a user experience make it enjoyable

  • Importance of context in creating meaning

  • The power of simplicity and elegance


Explorations with microscope

While these images spark interest, my most powerful exploration was my video showing the magnification of the RGB LED's on a laptop screen. The importance of context is evident, as without seeing the original image of what is being magnified, the blown-up photo loses meaning.

Demonstration of Microscopes