Degree 44

Last Sunday, a few of us friends met up and decided to go meet up and among other things we visited Degree 44. Degree 44 is a design show held by Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. This time around it was held on 9-11th June at IDC, IIT-B and 13-15th June at Nehru Centre, Worli. It showcased various types of design concepts ranging from animations, short films to product designs, refined technology and much more.

We began our journey through the wonderland starting with a interesting concept called Illumiletter. It was a demo of touchscreen and how it can be used. The equipments used were a web cam hidden below a non-reflecting surface with a source of light above it. With the movement of hands over the touchscreen surface the light is blocked on certain region. As such the co-ordinates are calculated and movement detected. The actions are reflected on the screen. We have already seen such concepts around in popular technologies like iPhone for instance but what was different here was that this is a low cost technology compared to the other concepts. Though currently there aren't really many desktop applications supporting the technology, we could in the near future see a lot of usage of such designs. Although a bulky design this one, we can surely expect this one to get smaller, affordable and common in the near future. The software used for the demo was based on API's obtained from Natural User Interface. Some more information can be found here.

The next design was an audio tactile machine for the blind showcased by Mr. Hashim Bashir. The machine was equipped with a few sticks that would move up and down as the music played, a concept similar to visualisations seen on our digital music players. It was followed by some animations and short films by Deepa Chordia, two of which were Dada No Des(Gujarati) and Forbidden Truth. Next were animation films by Ajay Singh Suphaiya titled Arjuna and Purna Avatar. The above and more short films were filmed at the small auditorium next to the exhibition hall.

Next were projects on Auto Styling, where different designs were developed for automobiles, followed by Game Design which included developing games of various levels of difficulty and skill levels. Then came a project on Experimental Learning Kit for School Children and an interesting concept of Communications Device for Micro-Trade Network by Girish S. But, unfortunately no one was around to explain about it. It consisted of a software having 4 parts – a calculator, a rough pad, a ledger and a Balance Sheet. It is designed in such a manner to reduce redundancy and calculation errors.

Then, along the line was a nice collection of Educational Toys for Underprivileged Children by Benjamin Lourenco. We next came upon a design of Low cost ATM for Rural India, that caught our attention but again no one around to explain the concept. It was designed by Munwar Khan. Some of it's salient features being – no PIN, not much knowledge of number system required, 20% cost of present ATM's, no requirement of ready-money.

Then we came up 2 projects by Sandeepkumar Maske, which personally, interested me the most. First one was Parimiti Educational Kit, a snake and ladder type game with the basic aim to teach children about perimeter, areas and such abstract concepts about geometry. One of the demonstrations shown to us was how to calculate the area of square molded from a rectangular piece of wire of given length and breadth. Another one was where rectangular blocks on 1 cm were given which had to be arranged as fence around the given area. Children have to calculate the length and find the total number of blocks that would be required to form the fence. Thus, it fulfills the objective of making it easy for children to grasp the abstract concept, which they may have problem visualising otherwise. The other project was 'Green Energy for the Masses'. This was based on concept of using wind energy to power homes in rural area. The design was created such as to harvest the maximum possible wind energy, by using technology like helical turbine, battery banks to convert from A.C. to D.C. and store the power. The design is to be fitted on the terraces of the building and is suitable to supply power to one household. The design isn't intended to be aimed at mass generation of electricity. With a slight modification in the design, it can be made to fit the urban scenario too.

Then the next few designs weren't of much interest to me. Moving further off the one that caught my eye was redesign of Indian coins by Shantanu Jog, it focused on visual redesign as well as better usability in mind. Again no one around to explain further and there were no show pieces, we had to satisfy ourselves with the images of redesign that were put up. Still, they did look quite exciting. Then came a project on On-screen font in Malayalam by Biju Neyyan. Not much to see here again but a nice design concept, at least theoretically. The font is known as IDC-Sree. I haven't been able to find more information on the same on net ":-("

Following that came design of Information Graphics for Mumbai Suburban Railway by Manish Shah. It focused on providing more signs and visually more appealing ones. Again, the signs had to give more concrete information compared to loose ones by current signboard.

Next was Mobile phone designed for elderly by Kavita Krishnamurthy. It was code named as Sparsh. The UI was designed specially for the elderly, so they can understand and use the device easily without having to go through a steep learning curve. It consisted of features like touchscreen interface, pulse and tempreture monitors, SMS sent in case of emergencies to numbers set for the purpose, GPS and so on. Nothing radical about the concept but what catches the attention is that it is a really feasible and usable design rather than something extravagant.

Then again a few projects which were mildly interested me like Stock Trading Application for Infrequent Investors by Atish Patel, A Business Organisation Tool for small scale fabricator. Next were couple of conceptual designs for interactive television viewing, called Clipo.It is supposed to make viewing television as more fruitful, enjoyable activity, content can be shared, stored and viewed interactively among other notable features.

Next was a cool design on Devanagari Text Input on Mobile Phones by Anshuman Kumar. Some of it's features are :- Saral Text Input Method, scrollable On Screen Display displaying the alphabets in alphabetical order, audio feedback so these with bad/no vision can also use the system.. Then was a study on A Cross Cultural Comparative Study on How Users Maintain their Phonebook, by Anshuman Kumar. The study was carried out on Koreans and Indians. It focused on strategies adopted by these two factions and why and how did they form groups to store the contacts.

The last design was an Interactive Podium for Faculty in Virtual Classroom, known as Drona by Parth Nulawar.

My account isn't comprehensive and misses lots of projects that were on display at the event. The full list can be found in the 'Projects' section of the official website. In the end, if I have to select 3 most interesting designs of the lot, that would go to Illumiletter, Green Energy for Masses by S. Maske and the cartoons by Shaunak Samvatsar.

Disclaimer:- All the above mentioned text is my personal opinion. There are some nice projects but they never really caught my attention as I had no interest in that specific topic.

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