GROWMARK iPad and Touchscreen Interactive Design for Farm Progress Show

Iona was asked to help GROWMARK increase one-on-one contacts with their customers at the 2011 Farm Progress Show. To do this, we partnered with GROWMARK to develop an interactive gaming strategy that was entertaining and engaging. GROWMARK provides customers with the inputs they need to be successful in their operations. Their divisions work together to provide member-owners and customers with not only the products they know and trust, but also the means to deliver, market, and store those products.

I had the privilege of working as the lead designer on the team. The end product was really well received at the show and pushed the boundaries of interactive design and development at Iona.

After meetings with GROWMARK staff and determining the goals for this experience, Iona developed written user case concepts for possible development. From the concepts, GROWMARK staff selected the one that was entitled Yield Maximizer. This concept was an interactive game that had an appealing physical interface with an immediate visual WOW factor – how is that happening?. This concept combined the physical nature of an iPad into a game involving FS products. This was achieved by transferring images from an iPad to a touchscreen interactive. Animation, sound effects and music helped create a gaming feel.

There were a total of four interactives that focused on GROWMARK’s main branding products: seed, grain systems, energy and agronomy.

The video for the seed interactive can be found here:

invited users to envision themselves as farmers. A user walked up to a large, touchscreen monitor that showed a patch of fertile land and the growing conditions in that field. Next to the monitor was an FS bag that had an iPad embedded onto the surface. The user then saw a question that related to the field conditions and asked them how to best maximize their yield based upon the given conditions. The user had to choose a seed product that best answered the question on the touchscreen. After selecting which product would work best, the user was prompted to pour the seed out of the bag. When the user picked up the physical bag to begin pouring, they saw the seed pouring from the iPad onto the touchscreen monitor. The seed looked as though it was raining down from the top of the touchscreen. Depending upon the seed choice, the conditions provided, and how fast the user poured the seed, their score was calculated. The user’s score corresponded to how tall their field appeared on screen. Users could post their scores to a leaderboard at the end of the game, which created a fun, competitive environment.

The remaining interactives were very similar in the user experience. This made the game play friendly and understandable as the player moved from interactive to interactive.

For the agronomy interactive, the user drove an applicator that sprayed either pests or weeds in the field. The material used was chosen based upon the prompted question and field conditions.

The energy interactive had an iPad attached to an FS jug for lubricants. The user had to fill a tank by pouring the liquid out of the jug with accuracy. The liquid choice was based upon a question posed to the user on the touchscreen monitor. When the user picked up the jug to begin pouring, they saw the liquid pouring from the iPad onto the touchscreen monitor. The liquid looked as though it was falling down from the top of the touchscreen into a reservoir.

Lastly, the grain interactive allowed the user to physically move a knife gate that had an iPad attached to the front. Once the gate door was lifted, the user saw a touchscreen monitor behind the inside of the gate. The user had to answer questions on how to properly dry and store grain. . The interface opened and closed with the knife gate, mimicking the concept a slot machine pull. Once the user answered the question, the seed fell from the inside monitor and provided the user with a score.

Just like any project at Iona, we followed our 4D Process. During the Define phase, we created sketches, determined the goals and objectives of the project, identified the desired learning and experience outcomes, recognized the target audiences, and determined the functional and technical requirements. During the Design phase, wireframes, node maps, sketches, the graphical user interfaces and the system architecture were created. There was also a lot of animation created during the Design phase of the project. The animations and visual style were very fun, energetic and rich in their graphical look and feel. Iona worked closely with Growmark to illustrate all of the elements in the interactive such as the crops, pests, products and machines.

We worked with the client to integrate the software and hardware on site so that during the Development Phase of the project, we were working with the actual final hardware needed for the final output of the project.

Adobe Flash was the main platform for the interactives. The software running on the iPads was written in Objective-C using the cocos2d game engine with the box2d physics engine running under the hood. The iPads communicated with the computer using a socket over a WiFi network. During the Development Phase of the project, we conducted usability testing. We collated the feedback from the testing and created the appropriate revisions to the designs and programming efforts.

One of the unexpected developments at the Farm Progress Show was the extremely high level of wifi interference. We solved this problem by installing individual routers at each station.

As a designer, it is a thrill to see users enjoying and learning from your created product. This project combined interactivity and mobile devices in a fun and appealing way that allowed the client to advertise their product and have users learn about the product they provide. Most importantly, there was a noticeable increase in the one-on-one conversations following the game play. The visitors had fun and the level of engagement by young visitors was extremely high.

The following are photos of users with the interactive from the 2011 Farm Progress Show.

Creating a Catastrophe

One of our major practice areas at The Iona Group is producing video.  We produce a wide variety of types of video – high energy marketing, training, corporate, museum interpretation, etc.  Some of these productions require professional actors and many feature celebrities.  We have shot Jeff Gordon, George Lucas, Albert Pujols and many others.  We have also shot others less gifted on camera . . . scene 1, take 32.  In working with actors there are always budget limits that have to be considered in casting, talent fees, set design, location selection, length of shoots, etc.  No matter what the budget, our goal is to try to create an end product that is as great as possible.

While YouTube video has certainly changed the perception of what level of production value people consider acceptable, there are still several projects that require a higher level of talent, lighting, audio, editing, etc. to convey the right messages to the target audiences.

Recently we had a training project that needed to really make the audience squirm in their seats.  The client’s goal was to create a catastrophe scenario that would be used to train response coordinators.  While the training incident selected is truly “catastrophic,” it also is something that could happen tomorrow.  To convey this in a credible manner, the client elected to have us build a series of five newscast clips that would show how the situation evolved over a 6 month period.

The budget was such that we needed to keep the production local and use a green screen rather than buy or rent numerous props to create a news set. We purchased graphics that allowed us to build a virtual news set that looked quite real.  The next challenge was to find someone who could be a believable news person but also act well enough to convey the emotion behind this once-in -a- lifetime story.  We went to local theater departments, social media sites and contacted actors we had used in the past to see if they had any suggestions.  After the usual screening, we came down to a candidate who looked and sounded like a broadcaster but would need some direction to convey the emotion of the scenes in question.

We furnished the final script to the actor in plenty of time for him to become familiar with it and identify any awkward wording or questions on pronunciation in advance.  We also planned the wardrobe needed for all scenes and checked to make sure that camera friendly options would be available. On the day of the shoot, we had one person direct the acting while another followed the script and made sure that the dialogue was correct. In a training video, it is important to follow the script.

The set had been put together the day before and all lighting and audio equipment was ready to go first thing in the morning.  We used experienced staff in all production roles so there were no mistakes and adjustments were quickly made. If at all possible, start as early as you can in case problems come up.  Our actor did a good job of responding to direction and we were able to get him on the right path for every scene quickly.  Using a teleprompter helped matters but since it was a newscast, it was believable.

The shoot went well we were done ahead of schedule.  Several graphics had been planned in advance and when they were added, they helped create newscast credibility.  Adding “shaky cam” augmented video from the scene of the catastrophe added great realism without incurring the cost of high end animation.

After editing and adding all of the special effects, we wound up with a product that was on time, on budget and our battle hardened staff squirmed in their seats when we aired “the catastrophe” at a production meeting.

Sad to See Them Go

From left – Alex Miner, Aaron Ingles, Leigh Null, Adam Bockler and Matt Vroman

We had a great group of interns this year at The Iona Group.  I’ve worked at some places where the interns were basically ignored and had to hunt around for things to do.  That wasn’t the case for this crew.  Every one of them got thrown directly in to real projects and were asked to do things they had never done before.  To a man (and woman) they all responded by digging right in, figuring out what needed to be done and making a strong contribution.

Suspect that many of these smiles are from the prospect of getting a chance to relax by getting back to just school. This picture was taken at the Iona Bistro in front of our building and I’m proud of that fact that I can barely see B.J. Aberle in the reflection over Leigh’s right shoulder as he was taking this shot.

links for 2011-07-29

links for 2011-07-22

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