Wildlife Observation Tools (aka Interaction in the wild)
Wildlife tracking presents a number of technological challenges. What kinds of sensors and communications devices are available? How do you hide the equipment in nesting places, feeding places, and other regularly visited spots? Can you attach tracking radios to the animals themselves without causing them hardship? How do you ruggedize the equipment? How do you gather data from the equipment you've placed regularly and reliably?
These challenges are related to common interaction design problems with humans, so understanding and mastering them is valuable experience for interaction designers. For anthropologists, zoological, and veterinary researchers, understanding the technologies behind their tracking equipment, and the approach that technology designers take in developing and deploying these tools can benefit their research.
The goal of this class is to give students an introduction to the technological challenges of tracking and observation of wildlife. Specifically, students will be presented with the challenges faced by Professor Anthony Di Fiore's research group in tracking spider monkeys in Ecuador. Students will discuss the challenges associated with spider monkey research, survey the state of the art in animal tracking with a focus on appropriate tools for this research project, and work in groups to develop interactive prototypes to address one or more of these challenges.
Our hope is that this class will serve both to introduce students to the subject, and also develop some workable prototypes that could be developed further in future semesters, either through other research projects related to this particular work, or on their own.
In order to realize the goals of this class, we plan to introduce students access to current tracking tools: radio collars, ruggedized cameras, microphones, and other current tracking technologies. We will also introduce common sensor and communication technologies used in physical interaction design practice. Students will use the latter to either modify or extend existing gear or to develop new devices.
This website is both a syllabus site for the class, as well as a collection of notes assembled in Fall 2009 by six students who worked with us to define the problems well, and gather information on possible solutions. The material in Projects and project ideas, Links, Images, and Tasks is thanks to Christina Bergey, Kenneth Chiou, Anand Dacier, Morgen Fleisig, Paul Rothman, and Carolina Vallejo.