Diem

A smart house that cares for you.

Keywords:

Industrial Design

Graduation project

Internet of Things

Smart products

Artificial Intelligence

Design concept

Nowadays people have increasingly more smart products to aid them in their daily routines. With current technology there is almost no limit to how smart our products can be.

Diem is a smart autonomous product which has the intent to care for you. It cares for you by giving your home a healthy day/night-rhythm to help your body to stay balanced.

Diem mimics nature by gradually dimming the lights in your home for you to subconsciously know when it is time for you to go to bed. The user can adjust the light setting as well. However, the product has a clear mind on what the best setting is. It will ‘protest’ if the user raises the light setting above the maximum allowed setting for that time and it will make sure that the proper light setting is maintained, and will become stricter, the later it gets.

Aim of the assignment

Diem is the design that I created for my graduation project. My graduation project for the Design for Interaction master at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering was a ‘Research through Design’-project, which means that I conducted research by means of design interventions.

During this project I wanted to explore new interactions between people and the products of the future.

To do that I created a hypothetical scenario, close to what is possible right now, in which products have a mind of their own. This way I wanted to answer the following questions:

This project was a collaboration between Noodlewerk Apps and the Faculty of Design Engineering. The project was also part of ongoing research at the Connected Everyday Lab of the Faculty of Design Engineering, conducted by Dr.ing. M.C. Rozendaal and became one of the design demonstrators.

Context of the project: the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is quite a recent concept. It is the network that comes about when connected products (or smart products) connect to each other to communicate and to collaborate. Although the concept of Internet of Things is promising, there are two major downsides:

  1. Almost all connected products only connect to a smartphone and require the user to install an application to configure and communicate to that product. This makes the current Internet of Things a centralised system with the user as the center.
  2. Connected products are significantly more complex than their non-connected counter parts. The average person that does not comprehend everything needed to instantiate these complex systems will then be excluded.

I investigated a solution for these problems by allowing connected products to act autonomously. An artificial intelligence changes the interaction with a smart connected product from ‘using it’ to ‘collaborating with it’. In his current research at the Connected Everyday Lab Marco Rozendaal calls this new type of products that can sense, respond to and cooperate in human activity in an autonomous manner ‘Objects with Intent’.

Personality in products

The most important part of designing an autonomous product is to make sure that people allow it to do what it is doing. It should be clear what its intentions are by merely observing the product.

It’s not just a matter of what an autonomous product does, but also how it does that.

Perception of intent already occurs with inanimated products. For example, the sound of a coffeemaker can make it sound grumpy or the shape of a car can make it look aggressive or friendly. Therefore I focused on creating a personality for my prototype. I used this personality to determine the shape and how it moves and communicates. This perception of a product having its own life and personality is called animism.

Process

A conflicting scenario

For me to be able to test the interaction between a person and an autonomous product with a clear mind of its own I needed a scenario in which the intentions of both the person and the product would come to play. To raise the chance of interaction I therefore decided to create a conflict by envisioning a scenario.

Prototyping

To get genuine reactions of people towards the personality I designed I needed a prototype that responded directly to what a person does. Therefore I used an Arduino to make the prototype able to respond as well as change the light-setting of a ‘Philips Hue’-lamp.

User testing

I presented my prototype as a proposal for a new type of ‘Smart Home’-product to intentionally mislead participants of my user tests. I did this, because I wanted the participants to discover the autonomity of the prototype on their own. Even though it felt like lying, it resulted in sincere reactions from the participants which were very valuable for defining useful guidelines for designing autonomous products.

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