During the course of completing my Master's Thesis, I traveled to India on four separate occasions to conduct user research. This including observing people, interviewing them, and conducting workshops. A large part of my research was focused on the best way to get feedback from people given that conventional user research approaches do not always work in emerging markets. To this end, I explored using 2-D and 3-D prototypes as tools. The full thesis can be found online here:
In the course of exploring the viability of a novel solar thermal fuel for use in India, I conducted user research through conventional methods of interviews and observations, but also by using storyboards and a 3-D "looks-like" model nicknamed the "Magic Box". The goal of the Magic Box was for people to have something of the rough geometry, size and weight of what a product might look like, while still being unrefined enough for users to understand this was not a real product.
Another technology we explored was a novel soil testing method for farmers in rural India. We organized and conducted a workshop with farmers, during which we used storyboards and 3-D props to convey how the product might fit into their lives to gather feedback.