Crewmembers aboard the ISS regularly perform experiment and
maintenance procedures. They work off static procedure documents and
use tools stored all over the space station. Currently, NASA personnel
must manually track the location and status of their equipment, so
tools are often misplaced or damaged, and data logs are unreliable.
Working on a team with NASA we created a tool to improve astronauts'
and engineers' ability to track and share tool statuses and procedure
information more efficiently.
Our generative research consisted of literature review, competitive
analysis, and contextual inquiry. Utilizing the data we collected we
created an affinity diagram and generated insights to guide our
Observing biology lab technicians as part of our contextual inquiry
After observing many individuals working in analogous domains, we
created an affinity diagram and many contextual inquiry models to help
us understand the data and discover design insights.
Based on our research, we developed three high-level insights that
guided us through the design process.
Ease in gathering key information for quick reference streamlines
Successful collaboration requires coordinated sharing of
procedures and status information.
Related physical objects and information become more meaningful
when they are kept together.
We brainstormed hundreds of product ideas and began to narrow our
focus to a select few. We created storyboards of these to present to
our client and further narrowed down the ideas. With our top ideas
selected we began creating low fidelity prototypes.
After brainstorming we began narrowing down ideas for impact and
Prototyping + User Testing
Working at NASA Ames, we started creating prototypes. We started with
very low fidelity prototypes and three different ideas. We created a
user test that would simulate a procedure that an astronaut in the ISS
would be performing. Without direct access to astronauts, we recruited
NASA personnel who worked in test facilities as their work is
analogous to the ISS astronauts. We ran weekly user tests and created
new prototype iterations for each week.
An early paper prototype for a wrist-mounted device.
Our final product, HeliOS, succeeded with helping astronauts and NASA
technicians find tools and execute procedures. It is a companion
application to the paper procedure documents and procedure viewer
software already in use. Existing procedure documents provide the step
by step instructions for what should be performed. HeliOS facilities
everything else. It provides a not taking area, tool tracking, tool
calibration information, and the ability to share information with
coworkers who many not be present.
Final designs for HeliOS. Users can see a list of the work they need to
get done. On an individual job, they can see any notes they or their
coworkers left and tools they need, including the status of any of the
A user gets alerted when notes are added to any jobs they are working
on, or when they status of any of those jobs change. They can also see
any notes they have left.