A world of ideas
Moving from research to actual design is a complex process, and it begins with brainstorming. Criticisms are placed aside, a whiteboard is relied on heavily, and everyone contributes. We took several different approaches to coming with ideas and verifying them, each expanded upon here. We followed the methods for designing from data, as recommended by Beyer and Holtzblatt (1998).
One of the approaches we took was listing out possible technologies to use. This list included mundane items like a keyboard and mouse, along with more futuristic technology like voice recognition and a heads-up display. Another list we made was informally was called 'starting points', and included design ideas captured during the research phase. With these ideas on hand, we started making individual sketches. These sketches covered a cross section of the ideas and starting point, and an example can be seen below.
Refining the ideas
To move the sketches to more than just ideas, we had a dentist come to our lab and help elaborate on the designs. This process included removing any obviously incompatibles ideas and adding in more dentally accurate information. At the same time, we spent plenty of time expanding on each of the ideas and understanding what otherwise vague ideas actually meant in the real world. The pros and cons of each idea were listed, giving us a rough first estimate of which direction to follow.
Although these ideas were run by a dentist to verify their appropriateness and usefulness, we wanted to a get a bigger set of reaction. To facilitate this, we created storyboards for each of the concepts. These comics (several shown below) demonstrate how a dentist interacts with the system and the kind of value it provides to them. We took these storyboards to dentists, asked them to read it, and got their opinions.
Dentists were optimistic, but skeptical. Perhaps they had been jaded by previous experience with dental systems, but they seemed to doubt these systems could be built in the way described. This made it difficult to get an accurate measure of which ideas were most worth pursuing. As a result, we started our iteration process with several different technologies. We did, however, get a good bearing on which of the many directions were worth pursuing and are glad we got this very early feedback from real dentists.