ddd dd Rebo with its companion app.
ddd dd Rebo being used in the jungle for off trails (conceptual).
ddd dd Watch us talk about it for 3 minutes, it covers most of what we did :)

Rebo — Temporary Navigation Landmarks for Off-Trail Hikes.

INTeraction Design
design research
physical product
School Project

Rebo is a foot attachment that enables safe, off-trail exploration while people hike by dispensing eco-friendly, fertiliser solution as temporal markers for navigation. By doing so, Rebo aims to vanish both the reliance on a map in navigation and the use of environmentally harmful physical landmarks in off trail hiking.

Yuan Jie, Designer
Serene Tan, Designer
Xiao Jieying, Designer

Under the supervision of
Kevin Chiam.
What I did
Design Research
User Research
Art Direction
Demonstrated the working prototype of the mechanism.

Learnt about the need for careful, controlled experimentation.
The Challenge

Can the magic principle of "vanish" be meaningfully applied to the design of everyday interactions?

1. Defining "Vanish"

We defined "Vanish" as
an interaction. To do that, we generated synonyms into
gravity maps.

2. Observation & Experimentation

We wondered if vanishing complex information could help people? (e.g Maps)

We then experimented navigating using only fundamental map elements.

Reduce information = Map clarity = less disorientation = easier navigation?

3. Prototyping & Testing

Finalised our design opportunity and designed prototyped Rebo.

ddd dd Our example of a magic principle to functional interaction.
Exploring Vanish

We quickly observed what vanishing can mean to us.

Translating synonyms into meaningful interactions helped us create meaningful directions for brainstorming. We then drafted a few relevant research topics and started low-fidelity experiments to quickly gather observations.

ddd dd Our tests weren't properly controlled at this point unfortunately, which we learnt about afterwards.
Final Definition of Vanish

Our definition of “Vanish” means removing ineffective usage of objects through clearing distractions.

dd Early on, digital maps were only used as a reference to find your way from A to B. 6

6 https://www.corcystems.com/insights/20-year-tech-evolution-of-maps/
dd Nowadays with an abundance of information, we use maps for more than just directions, but listing down all the information is not necessarily a good idea. 1, 2, 3

dd We also start to introduce trend visualisation into our maps with heat maps and charts, which adds another layer of complexity. 4

dd "The cost of convenience, in other words, is spatial orientation." 5

1 https://smallmultiples.com.au/articles/what-to-think-about-when-designing-maps/

2 https://www.justinobeirne.com/apple-maps-increases-city-label-density

3 https://www.justinobeirne.com/maps-self-driving-car

4 https://medium.com/google-design/design-for-a-map-927b533ac544

5 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-29/is-google-maps-changing-our-behavior

Finding a Context

Is distraction the cost of information abundance in maps?

In looking for a context to put our definition to work, we took a look at current trends and realised how there is an increase in layer of visual complexity in current map visualisations as compared to just directions in maps from the past.

ddd dd We tried our best to properly control our tests at this point, isn't proper documentation beautiful?

Guided by our secondary research, our primary research was divided into 3 main categories: Map Interaction, Map Control and a general inquiry.

Our hypothesis is that, if all of the map controls and interactions existed in one dimension, it reduces the effort needed to translate between users’ spatial orientation, making navigation more effective.

dd Physicalised Trails to Strings. This was a good visualisation of completion.
dd Physicalised Trails to Cotton Balls. Participants found this very tiring.

Our first set of experiments seek to test whether fully relying on one essential element of a map would allow people to still use a map effectively.

We decided to physicalise those elements, in order to keep them in a single dimension. In layman terms, the goal is to test whether the user can navigate without stopping to look at the environment.

For simplicity, we called these “physicalised single dimension navigation”.

dd Participants were tasked to find a specific colour.
dd Participants were tasked to follow our phone haptics.
dd Participants were tasked to follow the Sound.

It became a little complicated with directional arrows, since we couldn't just place an arrow on the ground. Physicalising it meant we had to explore other mediums: Haptics, Sound, Colour.

dd Trust in backtracked water.
dd Backtracking with water.

Pushing the idea of physicalisation further, our next set of experiments explored trust and backtracking.

When left with a disappearing trail of water to backtrack with, participants found it useful as it provides constant affirmation.

Their sense of affirmation did not waver even though there were missing spots of water to guide them, because they were able to pick up the missing pieces for finding their direction.

Experiment Insights

Does physicalised single dimensional navigation make wayfinding more effective?

dd People can navigate without constant guidance, repeating and timely guidance is just as effective and reliable.
dd Physicalization introduced a sense of assurance and scale of completion across all mediums (cotton ball, water, string).
dd Splitting a long distance into smaller sections motivates a repeating sense of achievement.

Our findings conclude that in some scenario, one dimensional wayfinding can provide the same assurance as their digital counterparts, by bringing a sense of completion and assurance.

Moving forward, we seek to implement this insight into a possible context.

Crafting a Solution

Where is navigation and backtracking crucial?

dd There is a significant number of people getting lost because they strayed away from trails without being able to backtrack.1

dd Trailblazers are not sustainable in the long run as physical trails often take years to biodegrade and it is confusing when trails are made by different hikers.2

1 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/article/

2 https://extension.unh.edu/blog/2014/01/sugar-maple-trees-damaged-tree-marking-paint

dd Current navigation tools does not recommend hikers to stray away from the stipulated/planned trails.3

3 https://mountainhouse.com/blogs/backpacking-hiking/best-offline-navigation-apps-hiking

Choosing to focus on scenarios where navigation is crucial, we realised that 41% of hikers get lost because of going off trail. Current physical navigation techniques can also harm the environment.

Can physicalised one dimensional navigation help hikers find their way back to the trail while being eco conscious?

Crafting a Solution

We designed Rebo — a foot attachment that enables safe, off-trail exploration while people hike by dispensing eco-friendly, fertiliser solution as temporal markers for navigation.

dd After straying off trail, users are able to backtrack with Rebo's trail.
dd Rebo dispenses a liquid mixture of blue fertiliser every 2.5m, as a landmark for backtracking.
dd This blue fertiliser disappears after 3 hours. It is visible in the night due to the quinine(flourescent) in the solution.
ddd dd Rebo form finding concepts.
ddd dd Rebo form finding concepts.
ddd dd Rebo's working conceptual prototype, made with a microbit.

What i've learnt throughout this semester project.


Logical flows work well in our brains, but it also needs to be communicated well to work.

There were many times when the group presented many information, but didn't get anything through to the audience. As we worked on more content, we had to remember that content is meant to be digested.