A motion sensor enabled water fountain.
While walking through LaGuardia Airport I came across a special water fountain. With a parched throat, I approached the water fountain on the right and, well, I didn’t quite know how to use it.
This was due to the very poor and confusing affordances presented to the thirsty user. Initially I thought, “Wow, the button on this fountain is missing, it must be broken. What are those two holes for?” At that point the motion sensor detected my proximity to the fountain began serving water.
I was intrigued. This apparently “smart” water fountain must have been deployed to minimize ones exposure to certain alphanumeric viruses. As an HCI person, though, I realized there were serious problems with how this fountain was being presented. To get a better understanding of the problems, I observed two interactions with the “smart” fountain.
A man walked to the “smart” fountain, looked at it, seemed confused and then used the second, lower water fountain. He was probably beyond the range of the sensor, which is why nothing happened.
Next, a young woman walked to the “smart” fountain and put her finger on the water dispensing part of the fountain. The sensor then realized she was there and began with the water works. However, her finger was blocking the hole where the water was supposed to be dispensed from and, well, it got a little messy.
To practically improve this design, I would suggest add a sign or sticker to orient users. That way, you can manage and mitigate their past expectations with this new and, for me anyway, awkward experience.