After two years of dreaming and thinking, writing and arguing, Humaginarium is getting around to making. A prototype actually! We’re coming to the job from several starting points at the same time, weaving loose threads into tapestries that tell a fabulous story.
This is our second prototype project. In the first a few years ago, when Humaginarium was no more than a sparkle in my eye, three collaborators made some beautiful pictures and movies. We tried to make a vision of health education tangible and we succeeded to some extent, but the project was backasswards. I know now that prototypes should describe structure and flow, mechanics, utility, feasibility, usability. Ours was merely storytelling. You can view pieces of it on the Humaginarium channel of YouTube. It’s no big deal.
This time around we’ll start with a Paper Prototype, and probably go no farther for a while. A Paper Prototype is rough sketches paired with design specifications. In other words, a script and a flip book or a set of storyboards explaining how Diabetes Agonistes software may work. A Paper Prototype itself doesn’t work. It just lies there making people think and think again until “fabulous” begins to stir.
Sketches are visual, so there is a visual dimension here. A Paper Prototype is more than words, but it’s not the slick CGI that we produced the first time around. Our sketches will demonstrate how people control software operations; how they interact with objects on a screen and with other players; the kinds of content they view and touch; the way objects behave when they show up and perform; how learning is fostered by entertainment; and then how new knowledge gets used beyond the fantasy, in a player’s real life.
A team of Humaginarium creatives will make the Paper Prototype. Our technical partners at AWS will offer practical advice and connect us with resources that can validate, or at least critique our designs from expert and naive perspectives. Naive because the purpose of any prototype doesn’t end with self-expression. A Paper Prototype must be shared with people like the customers we have in mind – those who love to play video games and have a chronic illness – who have no functional or economic stake in what we’re doing. Their questions and suggestions should give the “fabulous” in our Paper Prototype a boost.
The Paper Prototype will take weeks or months to finish. What then? More prototypes actually.
- A Proof-of-Principle Prototype to demonstrate core functions in our software specifications. It may draw little more than lines, shapes, and characters on a screen, but will show that our mechanics are feasible and compelling.
- A Working Prototype to grow out of these coding experiments. Based on iterations known as Horizontal and Vertical Prototype, we’ll get to an integrative system that can be tested and optimized.
- A Visual Prototype that returns us to the artistic realm of storytelling, where we were a few years ago. Here we decide how things look and feel not just in sketches, but with colorful illustrations and animations.
At that point, after much exploration and decision making, we’ll leave the dungeon of prototype development and bask in the sunshine of MVP: minimum viable product. An MVP is Diabetes Agonistes all worked up (pretty much): unfinished, imperfect but ready for showtime. The MVP is given to people who play with it and offer feedback; and since they’re playing in the Cloud, their usage analytics will generate bundles of fresh insight for product optimization.
We hope that the distance between MVP and launch will be very small because by the time we get to MVP, “fabulous” will no longer be a goal. It will be a certainty.