Minecraft is a sandbox game that is really hot among kids and some adults. It creates a world where players can freely explore, construct and create their own version of reality. It does not have a story narrative, or a serious of missions to complete. A new versions of story mode is also to be introduced this month.
I decided to create a Minecraft Mod to teach the importance to preserve the environment and keep the balance of nature.
To make this mod, I am planning to keep most of the mechanics of the original game, and make only a few changes to it. I’d like to (1) make the area available for exploration much smaller than the current map, (2) make the resources for the map relatively scarce, and (3) make the landscape in the game undergo a constant dynamic change according to the player’s behavior.
The reason that I kept most of the game’s original mechanism is that Minecraft has already constructed a very realistic world in which the player is experiencing the game through a first person perspective. Therefore, it is very common for the player to be under the idea that whatever happened in the game is a direct consequence of his actions. The first two changes I made are to increase the difficulty level of the game, to make the survival in this virtual world even harder than it is now. And the third change - the most important change - is to build a connection between player’s choices in the game and the change of his living environment. Since Minecraft have already provided a number of distinct environment for human habitation, there should be no technological difficulty to gradually change from one into another (e.g. when the trees got cut down, the forests gradually turn into grasslands, and if the situation did not get better, turn into deserts). Not only the appearance of the landscape will change but also its effect on the resources (e.g. in deserts the water evaporates quickly and the sheep and cow herds are nowhere to be found). The species are also facing the danger of extinction, and once they died out, the player loses an important source of food. Gradually, the player will realize that the only way to survive this game is to be economical of the resource consumption, and grow some new resources (crop, animal, tree, etc.) when he consumes them. Hopefully, through playing this game, the player will have developed deeper understandings of climate change, ecological balance, renewable and nonrenewable resources, etc.
The reason I think this mod could work is that through this first person point of view, players will attribute the consequences (climate change) to his personal action. In that way, under the pressure of survival, the player will be forced to make eco-efficient choices, through which could lead to a schema change on the issue.
1. Dash Button + Amazon Prime Now
Dash Button is an Amazon product that allows users to easily reorder their daily essentials with a single press of a button. The idea is that you place a button on the side of where you keep your daily essentials, such as Tide laundry pods, toilet paper or shaving cream, and when you find that your inventory is low, you simply klick on the button and Amazon will take care of the rest. The outcome of such product is that your essentials will never run out. Here is a link to the products homepage.
Prime Now is a service that guarantees a 2-hour delivery at any day when a costumer shops on Amazon and ships to metropolitan areas in US. By integrating their storage system and delivery service, Amazon made this service both time and cost efficient. This service requires a subscription of Amazon's Prime membership and an app on smartphone.
My design inspired by the two above is a programmable set of buttons that provides an easy way to order grocery and have it delivered to the costumer with in 1-2 hours.
Just like the dash buttons, these buttons will be located in places convenient for access, like on the side of the fridge or microwave. The buttons are connected to a computer or a smartphone via Bluetooth, where users can modify what actions to perform on pressing each button. In my design, each button each button represents a dish or course. For example, button 1 represents baked potatoes while button 2 represents Mu Shu Pork.
When a user gets up and is thinking about cooking a meal for lunch, he/she simply presses a couple of buttons and all the ingredients for the chosen dishes will be delivered to him/her shortly. Because the amount of the ingredients for each serving is pre-determined, no ingredient goes to waste, the user always eats fresh, and it is very easy for the user to keep his/her calories intake.
The idea is that currently people (especially single people) who live in cities are facing a dilemma: eating outside or ordering takeouts are both expensive and unhealthy, yet buying groceries and cook is time consuming, not to mention groceries go bad quickly, wasting peoples money and at the same time compromising their health. With the newly designed "dash buttons", all the ingredients are prepared (diced or shredded, for instance) for the users before they are delivered, so that the user simply needs to focus on the cooking. It is fast and convenient, and everything happens behind the scene, without user realizing what's going on. The goal is that users will cook more, always eat fresh, and no food goes to waste.
2. Ozmo Smart Cup + Apple Watch (or any other fitness tracking wearables)
Ozmo Smart Cup is a kickstarter project that aims at using a smart cup to measure a person's water intake, so that it could suggest the users to drink water and stay hydrated. Here is a link to the project.
My design is to use the cup's idea and function, but to put it into other fitness tracking devices like Fitbit or Apple Watch, and help users understanding their bodies' needs better. I believe that in this wave of wearables, sensors are the key. By making the sensors small and energy efficient, i.e. light enough to wear on human body without causing discomfort, we can recreate everything in hour lives and add new meanings to them.
By putting a sensor in the cup, like the creators of Ozmo cup, now we understand how much water we are drinking daily. But there's still one problem: we don't know how much water we have in our bodies, and whether I need more water this very second. That's where the wearables come in. Imagine a wearable that has all the body sensors built-in into a watch-sized wristband, and the battery can last for years. It is constantly measuring the body's blood pressure, heart beats, blood sugar level, BMI, and what kind of activity the user's engaged in. By collecting these data silently in the background 24/7, the software gets a better understanding of what's going on with the body than anyone else in the world, and when it detects that the body does't have enough water, it will remind the user, not by beeping the cup, but beep on the user's wrist. In that case, the user do not need to pour water into that particular cup and drink, but to drink from any cup, and sensor will notice this intake from what it's been tracing. It's not about how much water we take in; it's about whether the body getting what it needs when it needs it.
3. Dobot: Robotic Arm for Everyone + Notification
Dobot is a robotic arm that can perform various of tasks. It has a couple of sensors so that it is able to identify and recognize certain objects. So there's a certain level of intelligence inside it.
Aren't we all a little tired of being told about what to do by our phone's notifications constantly? And I can say for everybody, but even if I got a notification to do something, either routine or important, there is a good chance that I end up not doing it anyway. The problem is not what we don't know it's time to do something; it's that even if we know what need to be done, we are not able to get around to (aka. too lazy to) do it.
What if instead constantly remind us to do something, now the smartphone redirect the reminder to our robotic arm, or perhaps in the coming future, our robotic servant? For example, if it's time to take your medication, instead of reminding you to do so, your smartphone tells your robot, and the robot pours you a glass of water in the temperature you prefer and bring it along with the medication to you. All you need to do is to put the pill in your mouth, take a sip of water and swallow, and then go back to what you were doing. The same goes to watering your plants, feeding your cat, paying your bills, etc. Basically, the robot lays down the ground work and you simply take seconds to do your part. By simplifying the tasks, users would feel more encouraged than simply being "notified" to do stuff.
I recently moved into a new neighborhood, and is trying to adjust to the ways things are done here. One particular problem I encountered is their recycling policy. I get really confused about what to do when I first went into the trash room, as the instructions are so vague, and some are even agitating. For example, there are only two recycling bins in the trash room next to the trash chute, which is fine for most apartment buildings, except it says "bottles and glass" on one bin and "newspaper" on the other. So I was really confused: are newspapers the only type of paper recyclable in the building? Did it mean that all magazines and unwanted mails go directly in to the trash chute? What about the paper bottles like those for milk and coconut water? Do they go into "bottles and glass" instead? What's more amazing is that there are like ten large boxes lying on the floor of the trash room, not broken down, not in the recycling bins, not anything, just lying there, one on top of the other. Then, on the wall writes the biggest turn-off for my devotion to recycling: "Please breakdown cardboard boxes and take them to the ground level trash room." (See picture below)
As a result, the trash room has been a huge mess. Some people don't know where to put their waste papers, so they just stack them on the ground; most often the boxes are not broken down, let along brought down to the ground floor; once I even found a pizza box in the recycling bins.
I believe that there must be a better way than how the recycling is done in the building currently. And below are some of the measures, once taken, can make a huge difference in people's habits of recycling.
Reduction + Reminder
One of the major problems in recycling is that the rules are so unclear and complicated that the residents are never sure whether they are doing it right. By simplifying and clarifying the instructions, the community management could make recycling easy and attractive to residents.
Below are some of the measures that can be taken:
Another approach I can think of is a simulation game. Recycling rules are complicated and confusing in general, and are not strictly enforced usually and varies from building to building. Sometimes people have the good intention to make the word a better place, but they are just unfamiliar with the procedure and are afraid to make mistakes. A simulated software or website can be a safe place for the residents to explore and make mistakes while they learn and avoid the consequences in the real word.
The simulation said above should contain the following features:
Rewards + Recognition
Perhaps recycling is good to the environment. Perhaps by recycling I am making a difference in this world or saving the earth. But I can't see the results of my actions directly, therefore less likely to make this habit sustainable. Some more direct stimulation, i.e. rewards and recognition, might be helpful to fill this gap:
By taking all the measures above, i.e. providing a simulated environment for residents to learn through trail and fail, simplifying the recycling procedures and rewarding those who are doing a good job, I believe that trash room situation can be resolved, and our garbage men's life can be made a lot easier.
Cecilia has recently graduated from college and moved to New York City. She is currently living in a three-bedroom apartment with two other female roommates. One of the is still a senior in college while the other one is working in a educational institute in Brooklyn. Every morning when Cecilia gets up, she finds herself in a difficult situation: she really needs to use the bathroom, but usually it is occupied.
The apartment the girls currently live in has only one bathroom. Furthermore, there is no walls to separate the toilet bowl with the shower. This means that even if one of her roommates is in the shower and not using the toilet, she still can not go in and release herself.
Perhaps the problem would be solved if everybody could sit down and work out a morning schedule that suits everybody’s need. But Cecilia is just not that lucky. Her roommate who works at the educational institute only works there part-time, which means her schedule is not fixed for each day. The same problem goes to the second roommate, who has to get up early for class on some of the days in a week, and prefers to sleep in for the rest.
The bathroom schedule is only one of the inconveniences for Cecilia. Another great example could be the use of kitchen. Since they don’t really know each other very well, they cook and eat separately, which means they each will have to cook herself one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner everyday, and the kitchen will have to witness 9 cooking activities in the meantime. Since their schedule are so flexible, the time they need for the kitchen often overlap, and sometimes their could be no clean dishes left for the last person.
Cecilia has thought about moving out and getting a place on her own, but right now show won't be able to afford it. She could really use some help with the schedule conflicts.
The reason why Cecilia can't afford a place of her own is, apart from the fact that this is New York City, of course, that she just graduated from college and has not landed a job yet. For the recent two month, she has been going through dozens of job-hunting websites, handing in hundreds of applications and resumes, and going to tons of interviews. She felt really frustrated because more than half of the effort is a complete waste of time. Many of the entries she looked at contains either incomplete or inaccurate information. Some are being very vague and abstract about the job title, providing no clue what specific skill this position requires or what the responsibilities will be; some even deliberately left out some important information, such as salary, working location, etc.
Without these critical information, the filters on most job-hunting websites are simply not usable. Cecilia often sees a job she likes, looks through the details, and find no info about working location at all. It is not until her second round of interview that she was told that the company is based in New York, but the position is in a remote place like Seattle or Phoenix. She is wondering if there’s an easier solution.
I think Apple Watch is a perfect example of behavioral change through the help of technology. What’s interesting about this new product of Apple is that it uses a popular and widely-adopted technique in gaming - giving badges to users to recognize their achievements (completing Move, Stand and Exercise goals daily, monthly and more). At first, I think of it as kind of childish, and refuse to believe that people will stop being lazy simply because it will earn them a few badges on a screen. But I was proved wrong by myself later, as I find myself trying like crazy to close the circles and earning those shining badges. Initially, the daily Move goal for me was 420 cals, and I had serious trouble accomplishing it. Now, 3 months later after using Apple Watch, I have turned the Move goal up to 630 cals per day, and is still able to complete it usually. I have no reason to deny that having this watch did change my daily behavior and led me to a healthier life.
I think the design rationale behind this piece of wearable technology is that people love being recognized and rewarded for their achievements, not just in the virtual world. This strategy has been proven repeatedly in games, and now once more in real life.
Do you track where your money had gone every month? Do you know how much money you spend monthly? And how many percentage are you spending on food, clothes and commute each? I know I don’t. In order to know that, I will have to keep a record on every transaction of mine, some of which as little as buying a soda on vending machine. I tried to do that once on paper in college, and gave up in a week. I tried once more after graduating from college, and this time on a mobile app, and gave up after two month. It’s just too much work.
After coming to the States, I found that most transactions of mine is mostly, if not entirely, through credit card, therefore are reflected online in my monthly statement digitally. Furthermore, I recently learned that there’s an app called Mint that can import all your transactions from your online bank account and you don’t need to lift a finger to record any of your transactions and your monthly report is there waiting for you to examine. I believe that a better knowledge on who I am spending my money, and that what I’m spending it on, could potentially change my shopping behavior in the future.
There are many other technologies that simplifying what was once a complicated task. It’s not that we don’t know they are important or potentially useful, but to get those, the cost (money, time, effort, etc.) is too high that we decided not to pursue them. Making them simple and easily accessible can mean attitude or behavior changes in the future.