Micro Challenge #29 – Building a 3D prototype

10 June 2020 - 4 minute read

Welcome to the twenty-ninth of Altitude Foundation’s #MicroChallenges2020

Today’s challenge will help you test out your idea by creating a three-dimensional prototype!

What’s a Micro Challenge?

These challenges are short activities to help you develop, revise or refresh your coding skills, posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Over the next few weeks, we are running a series of guest challenges, put together by our friend at Newcastle University Open Lab, Megan Venn-Wycherly. You can learn more about her work here and OpenLab here

These challenges work as stand-alone challenges and also as a mini-course which builds together. The first in the series can be found here.

Micro Challenge #29

Today’s challenge is to create a prototype of a product or idea. If you need inspiration, try using the ideation squares challenge to explore your thoughts. You might also want to look at our prototype planning challenge.

In HCI, we use Wizard of Oz prototyping to show what looks like a finished project (most of the time!), but is really just “a man behind the curtain”. It helps us explore how people might interact with our prototype projects. You can make videos, pictures, models etc. which represent what your system might look like if it were finished, and how users are intended to interact with it.

Here’s an example created by students from Newcastle University as part of the module “Advanced Interaction Design” (a particular part of HCI): Gammatochi, a smart pet which reacts to the environment and the user.

The “Smart Pet” is a toy with a mobile phone on photo mode (any animations are done with GIFs. The “app” is just a PowerPoint presentation set to be the dimension of the phone screen (and isn’t actually interactive, it’s all just animations…)

The Challenge:

Today’s challenge is to try to build a 3D prototype of your idea. You could use the Gammtochi as inspiration, but you could also build your product out of cardboard or materials, The only requirement is that it is a 3D model that shows off your prototype’s design and its physical dimensions. 

You don’t need to be an artist or sculptor to do this – you just need to represent the user experience. Anyone can do this, no matter their artistic ability. 

You might want to think about:

  • the material that the prototype will be built out of?
  • how that material will affect the user’s experience of the computer, and the ultimate goal of the product?
  •  does its design help offer a solution to the problem you are exploring?

Review it:

Once you have designed the prototype check whether:

  • You have a clear idea of who your user and can explain how the user profile influences how they interact with the computer

Now you can start testing your prototype!


  • Could you get a friend or family member to use your prototype? What can you learn from that?
  • Share your ideas with Megan @Mwycher on Twitter for feedback and tips on how to take your challenge further. 

Share it

We would love to see what you have created! Please send any pictures, videos, or files of your activities to us – either via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #MicroChallenges2020 or to challenges@altitudefoundation.org. If you are emailing them to us, please let us know if you are happy for us to share your stuff on our social media platforms (with credit, of course).

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