Last year, Target had an Open House set up in its downtown San Francisco city store. The Open House was a very early stage prototype of what a smart home might look like. The coffee maker talked to the baby monitor, which talked to the lights, to the curtains, to your cell phone, etc. Everything in your home was smart, connected, and could communicate with each other. So, for example, the baby monitor would hear your baby cry in the morning, which would signal to the coffee maker to start brewing, which would signal to your alarm clock to wake you up. We’ve seen this type of functionality in movies, but Target was prototyping a physical space for potential users to explore. Instead of us, the users, seeing a video or a movie, we got to explore and experience the environment first hand.
One thing aspect of the smart home I was surprised by was these text bubbles that were projected on the walls with the conversations that were being passed from baby monitor to coffee maker to alarm clock. The texts were peripheral information for the human in the scene to pay attention to if they so choose, but their main purpose was to inform the user of what was going on and that devices were in motion/action. The text bubbles gave the illusion that the human was writing the messages themselves delegating and giving orders to the devices. While I didn’t like the text bubbles on the wall because I found them unaesthetic and distracting, it did make me think about what types of information I would want to know about when devices are fully connected such that they can truly act as full personal assistants. Having a personal assistant that tells me everything they are doing is almost more distracting than me just doing all of the actions myself. But, having no visibility into actions that are going on between devices could potentially be dangerous or concerning depending on the device/situation. Of course, these thresholds of how much information would like to know/not know varies for each user. But, I thought this was such a great way to “provoke insights into important functional and emotional issues and inspire thoughts about how to deal with them” (Experience Prototyping, pg. 426). I don’t think I would have had such a strong reaction and thoughts on the idea if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.