We conducted a 6-month project with a physical therapy clinic, involving equal
parts ethnographic fieldwork and rapid prototyping. It differed from most reported
user-informed design by having an explicit dual purpose. On the one hand, the
prototype should provide significant, measurable improvements for the field site.
On the other hand, the project sponsor did not intend to develop the prototype into
a product but rather identify future opportunities and needs in the small-to-medium
health care sector, requirements for next generation multifunction peripherals
(MFPs), and business applications of existing technology. Thus, the project
simultaneously investigated specific solutions for a specific work practice while
looking for key technologies to address future needs. This paper provides a
detailed account of the process and results, highlighting particular contingencies
that come with a dual-purpose exploration, as well as the benefits of a small,
focused team that “oscillates” between research and deployment.