Kai Control Center is a desktop application which lets the users of Kai customize their device. With the Control Center, the users can easily assign actions to various predefined gestures available with Kai using a simple GUI.
Vicara is a hardware technology startup based out of Bangalore, India. As a founding team member of Vicara, I was heading product experience.
Control Center is the customization dashboard for Vicara's first product Kai.
Kai is a Natural User Interface (NUI) device which recognizes the movements of your hand and finger positions to enable a seamlessly intuitive motion/gesture based digital interaction.
Using the data collected from it's myriad of sensors, Kai creates a virtual 3D model of hand within the device. Using this, the Kai is able to understand the position of hand and fingers. The moment of your hand is then translated to multiple gestures which let you interact with digital devices.
Using the patented finger tracking sensors, Kai can track the opening and closing of fingers contactlessly. The finger positions paired with hand movement constitute a gesture. By default, we included 10 gestures in Kai. Developers had the option to create their own set of gestures.
The Control Center for your Kai
Kai Control Center is a desktop application which lets the users of Kai customise their device. With the Control Center, the users can easily assign actions to various predefined gestures available with Kai using a simple GUI.
Designing Control Center came with a bunch of difficult challenges. As Kai was a very modern and ahead of its time device, the control center not only had to give a clean and easy to use interface, but also play a significant role of helping users get started with this new futuristic product they just purchased.
The main challenges I had to address while designing this app were:
- Educating users on how Kai works
- Teaching users how to wear Kai and how to perform the gestures
- Allow users to update their device
- Providing a simple to understand interface for them to assign actions to their gestures.
The designs I am presenting are from the latest live version of the app. The app itself had gone through multiple ground up redesigns. The designs have evolved based on changes in hardware during the R&D cycle, revisions to make the software easier to use and based on numerous support requests post launch which I used to handle.
Lets's look at the some of the main modules inside the Control Center
Control Center Home
The home screen is the overview of the active customisations in your Kai. Control Center used "Profiles" to store the settings.
- Universal Profile is the default profile which works everywhere across your system.
- Users can add profiles for specific applications. Users can assign the gestures different actions which would work only when that app is active.
Every profile will show a bunch of available gestures which the users can customise.
Kai users login to the software and validate their devices before starting. Their profiles are then stored on cloud and synced across all the devices they are using the Kai with.
A first time Kai user will go through the onboarding process. The onboard process was rather complicated. It involved constantly needing to jump between desktop app, a mobile updater app, Kai and the bluetooth dongle during the update process. The major steps were:
- Update the Kai band and Bluetooth Dongle (a usb stick which connects Kai to the device)
- Calibrate the device's motion and finger sensors
- Test out the calibration
- Learn how to wear the Kai and perform the gestures.
Onboarding users was one of the hardest challenges of designing the Control Center. The interface had to be intuitive, self explanatory, educating and needed to give feedback to the user at every step.
The evolved onboarding process uses a mix of text, illustrations, videos & visual cues to guide the user through this complicated process.
The main use for the Control Center was to allow users to easily customise how their Kai works. And by that, it means allowing users to set what actions are triggered when they performed a certain gesture. Eg, when I do a right swipe, switch to the next slide.
I studied every gaming mouse/joystick customization tools out there to see how they allowed programmable buttons to be customized. I then emulated that for customizing gestures.
Kai has 2 major categories of gestures: Swipe Gestures and Continuous Gestures.
Swipe Gestures: Swipe gestures are simple gestures which trigger an action whenever performed.
Eg, if Right Swipe is assigned to Copy action, then every time you perform a right swipe, you'll trigger Copy
Swipe gestures have 2 types of customization options:
- Macros: Macros allow users to assign a sequence of keyboard and mouse strokes by recording keystrokes. This sequence is repeated every time the gesture is performed.
- Mouse Mode: With Mouse mode, users can move their hand to control the mouse cursors and use the fingers as Left/Right clicks.
Continuous Gestures: As the name suggests, Continuous gestures are prolonged gestures which take use of the motion tracking ability of Kai. A certain finger orientation triggers the gesture and then the user can move his hand to interact.
Eg. User can pinch their fingers and then move their hand up/down to scroll up/down and release pinch when they want to stop.
Continuous gestures also have 2 types of customization options:
- Keystroke Based: Users can define the gesture using 3 parameters. 1. What to do when the start the gesture, what happens when they move their hands and what happens when they release the gesture
- Dial Menu: When the user starts the gesture, they will see a wheel on the screen with multiple actions. The user can move the hand to select the desired action and release to perform.
Community Profiles & Presets
We wanted to build a community around Kai where users could help each other explore new and better ways of using Kai. Control Center has a Community Profiles/Presets section where users can share the profiles they have created for Kai and others can explore and find ready to use profiles
Kai was launched on Indiegogo as a crowdfunding campaign. The campaigned was successful and we raised 120,000$+. Backers spread around 30+ countries received their orders in Feb'19