Hello: An IoT photoframe for families staying apart
What is Hello?
The concept enables a child (who stays away from their families) to effortlessly share a photograph they have taken on their smartphone to the photo-frame situated in the parent’s house. When the parents interact with the photo frame (i.e lift up the frame), the child, through a widget on their smartphone, is informed of the interactions that have happened with the photo-frame and gets a nudge to call their parents.
Where does it fit?
In the Indian context, conversations between parents and children form an integral part of family bonding. When they occupy the same physical space, these conversations usually happen over meal times when the family gathers after the day ends. When these children move out of the house, the medium of these conversations moves to audio, video calls and text messages. These conversations help them to keep upto date with each others’ lives and well being.
However, it is observed that these conversations tend to become shorter, irregular and banal for many people. People find them monotonous as they start revolving around the same topic. This stems from the fact that they do not occupy the same space and time, which results in not being up to date with others’ lives and hence don’t have topics to talk about. This causes them to not look forward to these calls. At times, if one person forgets to call the other person up, the other person feels a lack of attention and interest from them.
Sharing the photograph
Interaction Design (photo frame)
Hello leverages a series of interactions associated with a physical photo frame to move the dialogue forward. The photo frame affords interactions that communicate different messages. All these interactions can be sensed through an accelerometer.
1. Lifting the frame
The parent might lift up the frame to look at a new photograph that has been received.
2. Zooming into the photo
The parent might zoom-in to look at the details in the photograph. This shows curiosity.
3. Stroking a face in the photo
A new interaction designed to indicate that the parent misses the physical presence of the child.
4. Holding the frame for a long time
This interaction also indicates the parent misses the child.
5. Showing others the photo
This interaction indicates excitement on parent's side and acts as a curiosity element for the child.
The widget on the child's smartphone gives verbal meaning to the interactions that have occurred with the photo frame. It consists of the following elements.
1. Thumbnail - reflects the last photo shared
2. Status - reflects the interaction that has happened with the frame
3. CTA - nudges the child to call/ text/ add more pictures
4. Pin - to hold the status from fading away
5. Date - of the last photo shared
Sending a text
The form of the photo frame is fidgety to afford lifting. A magnetic snap holds the frame to the holder.
The primary research involved 🗣 long interviews with young people (age 18-29) who were living away from their parents, 📄digital surveys for young people (age 18-29) and parents (age 44 +) and observing the 💬 WhatsApp chats of these young people.
Key Observations & Insights
1. The conversations between families living apart tend to become monotonous as they do not occupy the same space and time. This causes the children to not look forward to these conversations.
2. Children often forget to call back which makes the parents feel less important in the children's lives
3. Children remember to call parents when it is ritualistic (eg: after dinner, after class etc)
4. Parents usually initiate the calls and feel nice when the children do so.
5. Mode of communication - Audio/Voice calls (70%), video calls, messenger apps.
6. Millennials excessively use smartphones to capture photographs.
Asymmetry of information will spark conversations.
Asymmetry of information can be seen when one party possesses information that is not known to the other party. This will cause curiosity and thus help the conversation move forward. During my interviews, it was found that parents often notice when the child is wearing a new dress or is with new people. They enquire the child about these subjects.
Online sessions with 3 participants were conducted; a mother-daughter pair (working professionals who stay in separate cities) and a male student living apart from his parents. The participants were shown use case videos and asked questions about the main benefit the product would add to their lives, how the product could be improved for them, why they would use/not use the product.
The daughter in the pair liked that she could know her parents were missing her. She liked the one-to-one aspect of the product as she finds herself talking to 5 people simultaneously on other platforms and feels the conversations can never be meaningful that way. She also gave an insight into her home. When her relatives visit, her mother casts the photographs sent by her on the TV screen and they view them.
The mother spoke about their busy lifestyles and found the asynchronous mode of communication efficient. She was apprehensive about times when the child does not send a picture. She also suggested that she could encircle the elements in pictures she is curious about, for example, her child’s new hairstyle. This confirmed the earlier theory of asymmetry of information sparking curiosity.
The student participant was hesitant about personal photographs being seen by someone other than the parents and siblings. It was important for him to know about the frame’s location.
New Conceptualised Features
Mapping out error and edge cases led to conceptualisation of new features and modes.
1. Nostalgia Mode
Incase the child does not share pictures over a long period of time, the nostalgia mode turns on. It showcases old pictures sent by the child.
2. Contextual Photograph Reveal
Child may be unaware of the location of the photo-frame in the house and may hesitate to share pictures that they feel would be inappropriate to be seen by visitors at home. This may lead to the child sharing less interesting photographs that do not have the potential to spark conversations. This could be addressed by the child marking some photographs to be revealed only when the parents pick up the frame.
Photograph is revealed when the frame is picked up by the parent.
The design process is iterative, and it became very evident in this project. But I was grateful that despite the lockdown, I had access to the user group and took feedback on each step. Since, I also fit the user group, the motivation to take up this topic was personal.
Kindly email me to know more about the project.