UClean is a product of the "Designerly Perspective on IoT Systems" course I followed in my second year of Masters at the TU/e.
Design of digital products, and in particular of IoT system products, has become mostly focused on employing screen or voice controls. These controls target the cognitive perception of users by the implementation of, among other, iconography, light signals and sound feedback in various forms and combinations. However, research shows that theories of embodied (Dourish, 2001) and rich interaction (Frens, 2006) could be applied to the design IoT systems for a better user experience. During this course we try to explore the possibilities of integrating tangible, rich and embodied interaction to IoT systems in a set of design exercises as well as literature. We examine the ways how various aspects of digital products can be coupled in order to create a growing IoT system, which provides meaningful and rich experience.
‘UClean’, a management system for scheduling the cleaning tasks in a friendly student house, was designed to improve the communication issues between roommates. It is composed of two parts, a display device and a sticker for control. In the display device, a round-shaped card presenting roommates’ names in the center, while a series of ring-shaped modules with incremental sizes indicate the cleaning tasks in shared spaces and the time to clean. The smallest module represents to the easiest task set by its users. Stickers have the same function in conveying information to users visually. Each sticker connects and corresponds to a module in the display device. A device was added to the system, namely, "WeVent", which controls the airing system in the house with an emerging functionality of measuring air quality and adjust air venting while cleaning activities are being performed.
The team effort in this project was mostly equally distributed. however, the course was mostly theory centered with a lot of debates on rich and embodied interaction. What I mostly learned and applied was in the area of Creativity and Aesthetics of interface design.
Check the following document for the full design process of UClean and WeVent:
creative & aesthetic
I took courses in designing digital user interfaces before but nothing compares to the design of physical interfaces which are respectful to the human skills. I learned that even though the principles of rich interaction are quite clear, they are not set in stone and they can be “molded” according to the context the product is placed in. This ambiguity sometimes gave us a hard time in designing UClean, but it also offered a lot of space to think outside the box and debate about why certain things “feel right” and certain things don’t. I discovered that there is a very blurry line between “right” and “wrong”. This blurriness created a conflict between “we should go for this because we feel like this is rich interaction” versus “but is it rich enough for the rest to perceive it as rich?”. I liked the challenges it posed but I have to say it was frustrating sometimes to position oneself as a designer in the center of the triangle: intuition, theory and feedback.
This was my first time designing for an IoT system. I learned new ways in which a rich system can grow (hybrid, modular, shape changing and service). The theory learned in this course were applied in the design of Dumbo.