NLS COMPLETES PRELIMINARY DESIGN REVIEW OF PLAYER, CARTRIDGE, AND MAILING CONTAINERS
Good design is often the result of good planning and evaluation. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, has gone to great lengths to ensure its designs for the digital talking-book player and cartridge and their mailing containers are fully functional when built. One major component of this ongoing effort is the preliminary design review, during which NLS evaluates all design components to be sure that they meet the requirements for usability, portability, and durability. This review is necessary before the testing and analysis of functional prototypes can begin. During the June 2006 review, NLS approved all system designs and granted permission to move forward with functional prototypes.
"NLS is pleased to have successfully completed the preliminary design review," says NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "This is an exciting development that indicates the design process is on target and that we are prepared to develop functional prototypes, advancing NLS closer to realizing a fully digitized talking-book program in 2008."
The review team included NLS staff and representatives from Battelle and HumanWare. Throughout the review process, all worked to ensure that designs translate into functional prototypes that operate correctly and are user-friendly.
To that end, NLS examined a variety of issues during the review, such as usability. The team evaluated cartridge design for ease of handling and insertion and they assessed the adequacy of the print/braille labeling. Tactility and shape of the player’s buttons, and other markings were also examined.
When analyzing designs for the mailing containers, the team demanded plans that would allow for the production of prototypes capable of withstanding extreme temperature and other adverse conditions caused by shipping, weather, and other uncontrolled situations.
The preliminary design review follows multiple rounds of user needs testing, patron usability testing, and refinements to the DTB system.
NLS digital contracts coordinator Alice Baker is pleased that the review was successful and that the designs were satisfactory and on target. "All the hard work and months of effort have yielded a design that can be built and tested with confidence."
With the design review complete, NLS moves forward with the next stage of the process: production of functional prototypes. Battelle is currently charged with the task of manufacturing prototypes for 50 players, 90 cartridges, and 150 cartridge containers.
During this multiple-phase process, engineers will finalize the design drawings and build the prototypes. At the same time, they will test player circuit boards, USB connectors, and speaker components to determine which will work best.
To assess durability, prototypes will be tested in simulated real-world scenarios. They will be dropped from varying heights onto a range of surfaces, scratched, spilled on, and subjected to temperature extremes—all to ensure that the equipment will be able to withstand daily wear and tear when they come off the production line. Other prototypes will be treated more gently, tested in the less extreme conditions of patrons’ homes.
NLS expects to receive the first prototypes in September, but the pre-production stage of the design process does not commence until November, when—after more usability testing—NLS will be fully prepared to conduct the critical final design review. This is the last review prior to building preproduction prototypes.
ROADMAP TO FUNCTIONAL PROTOTYPES
Week of August 21
- Begin building functional prototypes
- Submit usability test script and take-home test questionnaire to NLS
- Send final playback device and cartridge specifications to NLS
- NLS provides HumanWare with books for quality assurance (QA) testing and software development
Week of August 28
- Begin building functional prototypes for usability testing
- Receive NLS approval of usability test script and take-home test questionnaire software
- Begin planning for vendor review of functional prototypes
- Draft technical data package information complete
Week of September 4
- Send draft technical data package information to NLS
- Complete 14 functional prototypes for usability testing
- Start usability tests of the functional prototypes
- Submit QA test plan for functional prototypes to NLS
Week of September 11
- Begin library usability testing at Rocky Hill, Connecticut regional library
- Deliver two functional prototypes to NLS to support Audio Equipment Advisory Committee meeting on September 13
- Begin engineering testing of functional prototypes
- Receive NLS approval of QA test plan for functional prototypes
Week of September 18
- Begin functional prototype QA testing of functional prototypes
- Receive final power supplies and incorporate into units
- Deliver remaining 18 functional prototypes to NLS
Week of September 25
- Quarterly review in Montreal
- Presentation of usability report
Week of October 2
- Meeting with potential DTB player manufacturers at NLS
Week of October 9
- Continue software testing
Week of October 16
- NLS provides manufacturer comments for inclusion in the draft technical data package
NLS progress review
Following a review of ongoing digital efforts the inspector general, Library of Congress, issued the remarks below on August 23, 2006.
. . .[O]ur survey revealed that NLS is effectively managing its plans to:
- develop a digital playback machine and related equipment,
- test and validate the new playback machine throughout its evolution from design to full production, and
- produce 20,000 talking-book titles in digital format by the time the new playback machine becomes available in FY 2008 . . .