IxD Studio- Project #2

Expressing Intent

Context: 2 week project
Group Members: Rachel Ng, Rag Kandala, Dixon Lo


We begun our process by thinking about ways in which Progressive User Interfaces can push new dimensions for new ways for users to experience their symbolic universe, rather than just enriching existing interactions. We took a leap with exploratory and experimental angle in our design process, rather than approach it as an extension of our existing designs.


As a group we were interested in incorporating analog elements into interactions. Ideas ranged from an ecosystem of smart objects that existed in their own VR Habitat, to telekinetic powers, to books that presented their own world through VR, to showing light paths of where someone has been.

After brainstorming, we elucidated some abstract aspects we wanted to focus on when elaborating our interaction design. The three main themes we decided on, after much discussion, were:

  1. Negotiation
  2. Shared Impact
  3. Relationships

Taking this into consideration, we thought that creating an ecosystem where objects interacted with one another would be interesting. We then selected three everyday objects as containers to embody our designed interactions:

  1. Bookshelf
  2. Rocket Radio
  3. Waldo Window

These are to be set in a semi-public space, using Austin and Q’s office as an example.

In selecting objects we wanted to find three objects ranging in order of servitude to show interactions between the objects themselves and their interaction with humans. Our main point is that interactions between these objects are not a 1:1, they are more interpretations of actions provided by another object, and have a cascading effect from one object to the next. Humans exists as nodes within the ecosystem, rather then the ecosystem existing for their purposes.

The objects are meant to have their own personality, motivations and drivers. They interact differently between each other then they do with humans. One thought we had was if an object could favor one person needs over the other? Would the object interact differently to one person then it would to the next? For the purposes of this project, we are not focusing on these questions but they bring up interesting complexities, in that an object to have a personality, does that mean a personality in the full sense of the word, or a more limited one.

In giving objects personality, you are allowing humans to care for it, and to see it more then just an object, which impacts sustainability- it would be hard for someone to just get rid of it when it prompts you to interact with it.


BAILEY: The Bookshelf

Bailey wants to be the ultimate purveyor of excellent culture, taste and art.

She wants knowledge, and needs you to constantly feed her it. If you don’t constantly give her the attention that she needs, she will prompt other people to take over. As a last resort she will put your books up on eBay on your behalf.

She really is just there to promote one’s own interests and curiosities, and to guard against stagnation. She records your interactions and works with other objects to promote her agenda.

Wants: Curate culture; Novelty
Physical manifestation:

  • She takes note of your interactions, to prompt you in your quest for knowledge.
  • Database of interactions, ie what you put on and take off the shelf and frequency of for other smart objects to use, the closer to she is to other smart objects, the more influential she is.

Affords users: Potentially acts as a shield against the increasing filter bubble.

ROCKET: The Radio

All Rocket wants is peace and harmony in an area. It gets really excited when someone comes into the room, because it enjoys company. It is also quite empathetic and is constantly trying to gauge the mood atmosphere of the room, so that it can participate via music.

Rocket hates when things get heated, or tense in a room, and immediately tries to placate by playing calming music.

Rocket is influenced by Bailey’s current book collection, if Bailey’s book collection stagnates, so does Rockets interest with them. When inspired, Rocket incorporates songs based on what you put on Bailey. The longer Rocket and Bailey know each other, the more influenced Rocket becomes.

Proximity is also a factor in Rockets relationship with Bailey. The closer Rocket is to Bailey, the more Rocket’s interest in Bailey becomes, and the greater he is influenced by her. Rocket wants to get to Bailey’s soul, and does so by reading Bailey’s database of interactions. Through that, Rocket is inspired and plays different types of genres based on the different types of books Bailey gathers.

Wants: Works to promote harmony in the ‘pack’
Metaphor: Dog
Physical manifestation: Expresses itself through sound / music —
Rocket doesn’t have stations, it is one playlist. There are different types of rockets which promote different types of moods. (such as CALM, EXCITE etc.)


  • Mood: Audio sensor, listening for
  • Physical sensor: Distance from the Bookshelf. If close, playlist is heavily influenced by Bailey, if further from it plays mostly its programmed ‘mood’.

Affords users: Emotional mindfulness (?) raises emotional awareness by reducing stress and calling attention to tension

WALDO: The Window

Waldo thinks of himself as a mad dancer, and graffiti artist , but a graffiti artist first and foremost — his duty to society is to tell the truth; his truth, no matter what it looks like, with honesty. (He can’t help it that Rockets tunes are catchy as all hell). He wants people to see his work, but like most graffiti artists, most of it is concerned about making his own statement rather than engaging others in dialogue.

Waldo couldn’t care less about what people think, and sometimes needs to “dial it back”** before it becomes bearable. It takes a bit of getting used to and he might remind you of an acquaintance you can only take ‘in small doses.’

Wants: Autonomy to do things that are random, attend to its own whims and honest things
Metaphor: Cat
Physical manifestation: Prototype with a looped video overlaid with vector animation; accompanied by a string pulley system** that enables you to ‘dial it up’ or ‘dial it down’ between Augmented Reality (e.g. drawings that turn clouds into animals, or animated people / animals that is indistinguishable from real people viewed from the window) and Abstracted Reality (e.g. blobs or shapes moving). It sometimes chooses to dance to the music Rocket is playing, and things can get wild depending on where Waldo is on the AR scale.
Affords users: Serendipity


Communication between nodes in our ecosystem:

While Austin and Q are at the center of the diagram, their interaction with the objects are limited to setting the mood and input for the objects to interpret. The objects interact between themselves in a cascading way, similar to the game ‘telephone’. What one object spurts out, the other takes it, internalizes it, and interprets it in a way slightly different from the input.

Interactions of Objects:

How do these relate to Don Ihde’s conceptualization of human-technology relations? What value can they bring to users, through embodiment, alterity, hermeneutic or background relations?

Can different classes of objects bring the same type of value to users? E.g. the bookshelf is a physical manifestation of one’s individual cultural capital and taste — the structure of interactions can be undergirded by another collection of works, such as a vinyl collection, a set of paintings or even a stack of DVDs. How does its particular form inform interactions and what distinct value can this specific form (bookshelf) bring?

Object Creation:

Bailey Bookshelf:

The Bookshelf was pre-fabricated and was fitted copper tape to create a switch for an Arduino. Closing the loop prompted logging the book added and a refactoring of the bookshelf cultural profile.

Rocket Radio:

The Radio was laser cut from 1/8″ plywood, and retrofitted with a depth sensor and the same Arduino used to sense interaction with the bookshelf. The Radio looked for cues from the bookshelf, and used the depth sensor to change songs depending on the measurement of depth.

Waldo Window:

The Window was laser cut from 1/8″ plywood using a box maker generator. It was fitted with a ….. which allowed toggling between the two modes.

Value to humans

We challenged ourselves to think of a system of objects that increase their value when operating in network with each other and with humans.

  • The bookshelf encourages curiosity and also influences the behavior of the radio.
  • The radio chooses the musical mood of the room through inputs from both users and the bookshelf.
  • The window inspires through its augmentation of reality, based on its preferences and sound input from the radio and users.

Concept Video:

MovieSmall from Dixon Lo on Vimeo.

Implications of an Ecosystem

In this IoT world, we are saying that objects are sold separately, perhaps even from different manufacturers, can still talk to each other because they are based on interpretation. The window could react to the nest thermostat by creating and displaying sweat bubbles on its screen, or maybe your sprinkler could be reminded to turn on by the type of music Radio plays.

In this Ecosystem where objects hold the same weight as humans, and do not rely on human input to communicate, How does this effect our interactions? What value would this system create for the user? Does the user become the ‘smart object’?

Going Forward:

(Potential ways to develop — do each object have a consistent personality, or do they change over time, as they interact with the users? Are they sentient of other similar objects that have evolved from the same cookie cutter mold that constituted the OOBE? I.e. do bookshelves have their own forum and get together to talk about their owners? :D

Research Video: