Connection in the IoT

FRICTIONLESS CONNECTION

In the new world of the Internet of Things, can connected devices foster human connection?

I paired with Intel UX research legend, Paul Sorenson, to find out. As part of Intel's New Devices Group, we undertook a project to explore possible consumer uses for connected devices.

Paul led research on the project, and I focused on design. Our first step was to gather input from users. We used William Gaver's work on enhancing the everyday with technology as our inspiration. Paul organized sessions with groups of 12-14 participants each, drawn from Intel employees across many different disciplines, all between  the ages of 34-60. We gave them paper squares with images of everyday objects - keys, clocks, sandals - and asked them to combine these into sets that would each solve a problem they have today. Participants worked alone, and then shared their results with the group.

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Participants devised a variety of inventions, with only one persistent commonalty: overwhelmingly, participants explained their inventions in terms of family.

Design

Thinking about family, we pitched ideas to one another. During a lull in the session, Paul happened to mention that his daughter was in Europe, and he missed feeling her presence in the house. I was intrigued with the idea of ambient awareness - the feeling of missing another person sharing your surroundings, rather than actively missing the person themselves. What things evoke nostalgia and place? I thought of snow globes. We decided to solve for the problem of missing presence. We called our solution, Vyou.

Vyou begins as an alarm clock, in the form of a glass globe. Within the globe is a vision of another place. This vision is a video feed from a tiny camera that sits on the window sill of a faraway family member, pointed at the view from their window. When the alarm goes off, the feed starts. The user can see both whatever is outside their family member's window, as well as time and temperature in both their and their loved one's locations. 

Additional devices, like a watch or wall-hanging, could also receive images. If the remote user wished to send other videos, or sound recordings, they could do so via a mobile app.

While the core functionality provided an effortless, light connection between two family members, a mobile app would allow them to opt in to more direct communication of images, video and audio.