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NASA Selects Design for Astronaut Smartwatch App


NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), has partnered with Freelancer.com to crowdsource several designs for an Astronaut Smartwatch App, ideas for apps that use NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol, a number of CAD models of tools for the Robonaut 2 (R2), and other designs to be used on the International Space Station and elsewhere.

Over the past two months, the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) has been hosting a series of contests
and over a thousand UX, graphic and industrial designers from all over the world took part in the challenge and help NASA push the boundaries of human imagination and innovation.

Highlights of the collaboration:
1. One of the reviewers of the submissions was Vint Cerf, a VP at Google and one of the fathers of the Internet,​also known for his work developing the TCP/IP protocol suite that powers the Internet. The challenge was to create an idea of an app that uses NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN) protocol and GPS satellites to build up a localised probability map of where network connectivity exists. The winning idea was conceptualised by Chicago­based freelancer ‘betafind’, who was inspired by the trailer of The Martian and the difficulties that Matt Damon’s character faces communicating with Earth.

  1. A world­class UX and design for NASA’s new Smartwatch app.​An example of the design is below, while the full design can be found here.
  2. Other Key Stats:
    a. A total of 1535 entries received from 23 contests ­ the contests with the most entries were the DTN logo contest (263 Entries) and the Smartwatch App contest (237 Entries)

b. Top countries participating included India (277 Entries), the US (127), Bangladesh (123), Romania (100) and Pakistan (56). 81 countries in total took part

c. Over 110K visits to the NASA landing page on Freelancer.com in the past 2

The toughest task so far on the platform was the challenge to design the smartwatch app for use on the International Space station in the NASA Challenge: Astronaut Smartwatch App Interface Design contest. NASA is interested in the emerging world of smartwatch technology and is looking to create a smartwatch app that could be helpful to astronauts.

Freelancers were tasked to use the Samsung Gear 2 as a hardware reference for the design, and the deliverables were to be wireframes highlighting the unique design’s navigation, interaction, layout, look, feel, and other important elements of the design. The contest ran for 1 month with a reward of $1,500 for the winning design.

Two Canadians – Jocelyn Richard, a mechanical engineer, and Ignacio Calvo, an industrial and
UX designer – eventually won the challenge. They entered the contest because they were “passionate about space exploration and were looking for a side project to practice new tools and ideas.”

Jocelyn says, “It’s really awesome that NASA would open its design process, regardless of the outcome. Winning seems both incredible and rewarding; I’m really, really happy if our concept helps NASA in its great endeavours. To be honest, I’d like to keep working on the app: go past the concept stage and fully flesh it out, prototype it to research and iterate with users, driving it from a nice idea to a real, efficient tool!”

The team entered the contest not thinking that they had a high chance of winning. The sole purpose was to add the challenge to their portfolio. Now Ignacio might use the money to buy himself the new iPhone and Jocelyn will buy a plane ticket back to his home in France to see his brother receive his Ph.D.

Freelancer.com’s CEO Matt Barrie says, “We are honored to welcome NASA to the 16.7 million strong user Freelancer.com community, helping to create technologies and ideas that will be used for space exploration now and in the future. We are overwhelmed by the great response of our users, the media and other stakeholders.”

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