What is a prototype?
Updated: Jun 8
To build a prototype may sound overwhelming at first. For some, it may even sound unrealistic to prototype their solution in only three months. In this post, we elaborate on what we require participants to submit when we say we ask for a prototype. Actually, it is not so demanding as it may sound!
A prototype is an early sample of a product built to test the concept or process. The prototype is generally used to evaluate the aspects of the product by analysts and users. As such, the prototype can be seen as the step in between the formalization of the idea and the evaluation of the idea.
A good prototype should show a clear representation of the actual product by presenting how it will either look or work. The more precise representation the prototype is of the actual product, the easier it will be for the users, investors and other stakeholders to understand the product. This will result in more valuable feedback for further development of the product. Ideally, the prototype should be able to perform some basic functions of the actual product, and it should be possible to easily improve and adapt these functions as new information is revealed through testing and observing.
Some prototypes are models purely built to test specific functions and thrown away after. These are referred to as close-ended prototypes. Other prototypes may be further developed until they form an actual scalable product. This is referred to as evolutionary prototyping. Either way, developing a new product may require several rounds of testing and prototyping until the final product is complete.
A prototype can take several forms, such as paper-based, digital or miniature. The optimal form will depend on your product and what functions you want to test. Functional prototypes are designed to imitate the actual functions, while display prototypes are more focused around the look and feel of the product.
A paper prototype can, for example, be hand-sketched drawings of the product’s interface, front-end design, or the back-end work.
A digital prototype allows product developers to create a virtual model of the product which enables them to see how the individual components will work together and how the product will look once it is completed.
Miniature and Scale Model
Miniatures are small versions displaying the product, typically 3D printed, and may present both the functional and the display aspect of the product. The scale model is a smaller and a non-functional model commonly used for prototyping large products like buildings.
MINIMAL VIABLE PRODUCT (MVP)
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of the product that has just enough features to satisfy the early adopters. Research and analysis based on the first customers’ behavior can reveal valuable information about the product for further development. This strategy seeks to maximize information about the customer with the least money spent and reduces the risk of costs related to incorrect information and wrong assumptions.
An MVP must include these key elements in production quality:
Functionality - the set of features must deliver clear value to the user.
Design - the design of the MVP must be up to the highest industry standard.
Reliability - production quality standard needs to be achieved by rigorous testing.
Usability - the MVP must be easy to use and intuitive.
WHAT DO WE EXPECT IN THE OCEAN COMMUNITY CHALLENGE?
We would like for the OCC solutions to have passed the idea phase and to be in the testing process to better prove the viability of the idea. We do not expect a minimum viable product, and the prototype can take several forms, such as paper-based, digital, or miniature. The optimal form will depend on your product and what functions you want to test. The technology must only be at a minimum of TRL 2 (technology readiness level 2 - technology concept formulated).
A good prototype should show a clear representation of the actual product by presenting how it will either look or work. The more developed the prototype is, the easier it will be to prove the viability and feasibility of the product to the jury. We, therefore, do recommend efforts to develop a precise representation of the product to help the jury grasp the essence of the product.
However, this is no requirement and the most important aspect is that you are able to clearly present and demonstrate the potential of your solution for the jury to fully evaluate your submission.