SMART HEIRLOOM

Designing for the everyday systems and interactions within people's personal lives can be a tricky challenge. The product experience should foster new traditions & rituals without overstepping into the user's privacy.

In exploring how to strike this balance in designing with Artificial Intelligence Systems, I created a 'Smart Product' iteration of a family heirloom. Working across multiple family generations, the 'Smart Heirloom' uses AI to store and pass down stories which would otherwise be lost to time.

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HEIRLOOM
INTERACTION DESIGN

For iterating on the device’s central interaction, I used digital sketching and basic storyboarding to explore some different kinds of relationships between the device and its owner. 

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Micro Interactions

Heirloom collects and stores stories from its current owner, each connected to an Event or Location, data which the user may give the Heirloom access to.

The device either prompts the owner to share a story or be prompted by the owner to listen, creating a new story to be passed down.

These stories are collected from the first day of ownership until the owner decides to give up the device to their next of kin, whether that is years or decades later.

Macro Interactions

Passed to a new owner, the Heirloom can both collect stories from this new user and

re-tell stories from it's previous owner.

 

Sharing stories can either be prompted by the user asking for a specific kind of story, or the device prompting after finding a similarity between it’s current owner’s Events/Location and a story from a past owner.

 

These interactions continue in a long-term cycle, building up new stories and passing down old ones.

FINAL STORYBOARD - COLLECTING STORIES

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FINAL STORYBOARD - TELLING STORIES

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USER RESEARCH

Through remote interviews and participatory exercises like the below matrix diagram, I worked with a potential user base for a new smart device.

 

Identifying spaces where both remote connection between users and the smart device industry could co-exist and strengthen each other.

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Takeaways & 'Smart' Device Roles

After multiple conversations with stakeholders and potential family users across the age spectrum, insightful answers were given precedent and organized by question.

 

Another exercise with potential users had them filling in the blanks of the roles a smart device could play in their households/lives.

 

Terms were also organized into timelines with users to see how a device could evolve for them over time.

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Users already have experience being connected to their loved ones through storytelling over tools like social media and direct messaging. Making this process physical, personalized, and more private could add significant value.

DEVICE LIFECYCLE & FORM CHANGES

Following the user research, much of the interaction design was focused on creating value for the owner at all 3 stages of the device’s lifecycle - the initial role as an Assistant, the ‘Passing Down’ to the next owner, and as an Heirloom with the new user.

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In order to create user engagement at each stage, the device's physical form changes progressively over time, reflecting the passage of stories both told and collected by it.

The user journey of the first and second user were explored and visualized within the context of a Mother-Daughter relationship.

FORM & TECHNICAL
SYSTEMS DESIGN

Questions like ‘How does the device mimic a traditional smart home device?’ and ‘How does it distinguish itself using sensory design features?' were used to strike a balance between familiarity and originality in a field already cluttered with ‘Smart Home’ devices.

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Softer shapes and materials such as glass, wood, fabric, and exposed electronics were also used to keep the ‘warmth’ of an ‘Heirloom’ object rather than an intrusive purely ‘Smart’ object.

Designing with technical considerations for a device and system that is based in the future meant basing as much of the interaction off of simple, existing technologies as possible - RFID codes, current Location and Event apps, and the capabilities of current ‘Smart Home’ Devices were all used.

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A ‘Smart Heirloom’ is designed to be purchased by consumers today and then used across multiple generations. This allows the device to have an extremely long shelf life, as it constantly renews itself and its relationship to each new user.

Its success would be measured by having a consistent usage rate over time, a long-term use period such as years or decades, and multiple passings between owners.

Combining ‘Smart’ technology/interactions with already established rituals like the passing of stories in a non-invasive way can create experiences that are both familiar and novel.