Prototype #1 — Team MALM

Concept Recap

Check out our project tin cans slides


When we thought about prompts for our tin can phones, we wanted to test a range of prompts:

1. Playful + open ended


2. Playful + instructive


3. Serious + open ended

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4. Serious + instructive

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5. Game


6. Visual icons

visual icon



We tested different locations in the park, which varied in crowdedness and activity. We tried passively placing some on benches and actively giving some to people.


  • No one participated when cans were passively placed — only when we actively invited people:
    • indirect hinting
    • direct invitation
  • People did not read the prompts — they only observed them after the interactions were over
  • We had to inform people about technique of pulling string taught
  • Young kids were fascinated because they hadn’t seen anything like this before
  • Older people found it nostalgic, and multiple said they used to do it when they were kids
  • Some people liked it, others were more disinterested
  • Of the people that did try it, the majority had positive, engaged reactions
  • When people were using it, the string instigated different interactions itself:
    • Some people tripped or walked into it without realizing it was there
    • Some kids were playful and tried doing limbo with the string
  • Each conversation consisted of at least 5 exchanges
  • People on lawns seemed more open to participating. It was also a better environment for the tin cans, since they involve people walking, standing at a distance, and pulling them taught
  • Conversation topics were very basic introductions:
    • What’s your name?
    • Where are you from?
    • Where do you live?
  • Confusion about who was listening and who should be talking
  • Some skepticism and surprise when devices worked
  • When people who used it knew each other, conversations were more engaging and deeper
  • People watching other people participate garnered interest

Opportunities for next prototype 

  • Creating some kind of stand/display and signage to draw more attention to the prototype
  • Simpler prompt
  • 2 versions:
    • Open-ended platform where any 2 people can talk
    • Booth where one of us is there, and individuals can talk to us, kind of like a live “Ask Me Anything”
  • Lowering the barrier to entry: make it easier for people to just sit and talk without having to worry about walking, pulling it taught, etc.

Lingering thoughts:

  • What’s the takeaway? Sometimes, people just want to have someone to talk to. (Old man story)

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