A2: Sketching Interactions in Environments

IFTTT Exploration

In my first class, I was introduced to IFTTT that allows me to connect multiple environments from digital to physical space. During class, I created a applet that allows people to share the URL of the pin on pinterest on facebook.

Pin an image on Pinterest
The URL link of the pin will automatically be shared on facebook. It will also be shared on the users’ personal timeline.


Many of the students have problem balancing work and rest. A lot of my peers and I myself like to sit in studio for hours working on projects without taking a break. However, this habit does not promote healthy lifestyle nor maintain students’ working efficiency. I wanted to focus on the issue of work-rest balance and promote a behavior change through my design.

My initial idea was to use a time tracker to track the time that students has been working in studio. As the motion sensor senses the presence of the student, it will track the time that students has spent at studio. And if they have been worked for too long or pulled all nighters, it will trigger the light on students’ desk to warn the students. At the same time, it will also send emails to the professors to notify them the health conditions of the students. However, this solution deals with privacy. Students might not want other people to know they have been working for that long, or they didn’t want their health condition to be viewed by other people. As a result, they might not want to work at studio. One thing that has challenged me was how to give students enough motivation to pause their work and take a break. I didn’t want users to feel forced to take action, so I came out with a concept that softly lead students to change their habit and behavior.

  1. Social interaction: I focused on the social aspect of the studio. As the system connects students who need to take a break in studio, students will feel motivated when they can rest in a group and have conversation about their projects or lives. This experience give people more motivation to pause their work because they will not rest alone. It also connects people together.
  2. A physical relaxing space: I decided to implement a physical relaxing space in the studio. Firstly students can actually stand up and walk around the studio to mentally and physically relax at the same time. Some students currently take breaks by browsing Facebook or watching youtube video. However, this does not help their bodies to physically refresh and relax. Secondly, the physically space provide a platform for social interaction and enable students to relax together without distracting other people who are working. I made this relaxing space a half-private room by making the glass translucent to prevent distraction to working students.Thirdly, a comfortable relaxing space will motivate students to feel more willing to take a break.
  3. Time tracker: the system contains a time tracker on students’ phone. It will remind students to rest every hour and also tell students who else is taking a break. The tracker will serve as a reminder and help students manage the time they spend on work and rest.

I did a storyboard to introduce my design concept. The system contains a time tracker on phone which tracks students’ working time, and a physical relaxing corner in the studio that give students a more comfortable resting experience. As students start working in studio, they can simply send a text to the system to start tracking their work time. It will send a reminder to ask students to take a break every hour and tell the students who else in the studio should also taking a break. Students can send a text tagged tea or rest to start the break. After the system receives the text, the time tracker will start tracking the resting time. At the same time, the relaxing corner in the studio will turn on light and music, and the tea kettle will automatically boil the water, make the students feel welcomed to enter at anytime. Students can drink tea, chat with each other, eat snacks, and play some small card games in the relaxing room. The system will send a text after fifteen minutes to remind them to go back to work. Once students send a text tagged work, light and music in the room will automatically turn off., and the time tracker will start tracking work time again.

Exploration and Mechanism

For my live demo, I focused on the factors in the physical relaxing space. I want the tea kettle, music and light in the space to turn on with one trigger so that the interaction is simple and smooth. For my final mechanism, I decided to use text message to trigger the hue light and the tea kettle switch. For the music speaker, I decided to use phillips hue light as an input to trigger the light sensor attached to the music speaker. Therefore, the three outputs of the system can be either directly or indirectly triggered by one text message.

Tea Kettle:

I first tried the AC switch of littleBits. It worked with lamp because I can keep the switch on while attaching it to the AC switch and control its on/off stage with AC switch. However, since the kettle has a switch that can’t be pushed down when it is not wired, I am not able to control it with AC switch. Instead, I used a survo from littleBits. I connected the cloudbits to SMS by IFTTT. The survo can physically press down the switch when I send a text to IFTTT.


I tried both phillips hue and littleBits for the light. Because I want light to automatically turn on when students take a break, I tried cloudbits and also phillips hue.


For the music in the system, I tried two different solutions. I tried to trigger the speaker to cloudBit and also tried to trigger it with light sensor. I found out that cloudBit might not work sometimes because I have connected a lot of outputs to it (Phillips Hue and the survo). Therefore, I decided to trigger the speaker with a light sensor. Once the Phillips Hue turns on by the text, it will trigger the light sensor and then turn on the speaker as well.

You can see the fully working prototype video in my presentation.

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