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An Internet of Things that manages your home, and maintains it.
my role
Product Design
User Research
UX Writing
April 2022—June 2022
motion + 3d assets
With the pandemic pushing work into the home, our users struggle to maintain boundaries between their work and home lives. People find solace in momentary transitionary periods between tasks.

However, These moments are currently being wasted with mundane tasks to prepare for their next task.

I set out to create an Internet of Things that automates and maintains environmental conditions in the home, all to create a better work life balance for teleworkers.

A new frontier of blurred boundaries

What people say about this problem.
The pandemic has accelerated the disappearance of third places. Remote work has forced the home to accommodate all facets of our life, eroding the boundaries between our work and home lives.
Building a strong foundation
35+ responses from participants aged 16 to 50 on their home experiences
Gather a diverse sample of current living situations and the enjoyment levels within these settings
Recruit for an extended study
Engage with participants to establish trust and expand on survey responses
Encourage deeper conversations and storytelling about home experiences
Analyze interviews through qualitative coding and thematic analysis
Participants mapped their daily home routines, favorite objects, and spaces
A photo study to explore different spaces within homes and their uses
Strong emotions towards the home were recorded through a diary activity
Research methods, and what they address.
Interview quotes: who's in control?
Smart home devices and privacy were a common theme in my research. While people were interested in automating their routines, the intrinsic fear of Man vs. Machine was clear. People require transparency and agency over the IoT.
Letting the participants lead.
The cultural probe was distributed to diverse participants across various countries, ages, and home types. Mapping exercises aided participants in visually depicting their home routines. Participants affirmed the results of the survey—setting up tasks is a burden.
Cultivating balance.
Through directed storytelling and the cultural probe, a common practice emerged across all demographics: intentionally compartmentalizing their day into distinct areas.
The real question.
My research revealed a central issue: frustrations in maintaining boundaries between aspects of life. The solution needed to foster work-life balance by creating clear distinctions between tasks.
Early process
Working out the nitty-gritty
TL;DR: from start to finish.
A quick summary of the process, from sketch to physical form.
While activities may not overlap between tasks, they must be able to coexist in the same space
Even if the space physically remains the same, boundaries still need to be established
User autonomy
Participants expressed a feeling that they lacked control over their current work-life balance
The use of IoT could exaggerate this lack of agency without a reliance on clear user control
Users did not want to responsible for minute changes to their environment, rather pass that to the IoT
A common frustration is fluctuations in temperature or lighting that are tedious to fix
There is a strong desire for tasks to seem and feel distinct, while still able to seamlessly transition
All processes carried out by the system must be fully transparent and under the users control
The system should be able to adapt to sudden changes in the environment without user input
Insights and opportunities.
Roadblock one
Feasible vs. conceptual
Proposed direction
Early ideation
Sensory or physically?
Initially, I considered physically altering ones space to create distinct, optimal layouts for different tasks. However, this would require new or retro-fitted furniture, alienating our target users.

Sensory-based compartmentalization could segment tasks, adjusting home lights, sounds, and temperature based on selected modes (work, relax, social, etc.) using existing smart home devices. However, the question remained. Is this feasible?
Rooted in existing tech.
To ensure feasibility, I conducted secondary research on existing and upcoming technologies. Muzo, Single Cue, and Phillips utilize senses and gestures to personalize our surroundings.

With this knowledge, I proceeded with the sensory direction.
Designing the logic
Storyboards, flows, and more
A universal dial that centralizes smart home devices for you to adjust. The go-to device to select scenes.
The logic processor of Otto. Process environmental data and commands your smart home ecosystem.
Climate, light, and sound data is collected from your space and sent to the hub for further processing.
Meet the family.
Roadblock Two
Fitting into existing routines
Updated flow
Early ideation
Adaptable: homeostasis-based flow.
While working on the device flows, I realized that the current system flow required excessive maintenance from the user, contrary to our insights of adaptability.

The solution? Homeostasis. By utilizing gradual changes, Otto constantly monitors your surroundings and makes corrective measures to keep your setting optimal.
Balance: creating personalized scenes.
This idea of readjusting a scene led to a unique way to handle scene creation. Through user testing, we discovered the initial work to create scenes was a significant barrier.

Using Parkinson's Law, I mitigated this pain point by designing a set of preset scenes with general names and descriptions that adhered to Healthy Home Guidelines. These broad scenes cover a variety of common tasks, and can be adjusted over time by users to curate the perfect scene that suits their unique needs.
Updated flow
Early ideation
Balance: conveying a feeling.
The question on how to convey abstract scenes remained. Initially, numeral values were used to distinguish settings (temperature, decibel, light level.) However, these values were not being perceived equally across users.

To combat this, I added qualitative, abstract words that provided increased context to the numbers. Numbers are still included for accurate descriptions of environmental conditions, but now words are highlighted to provide contextual clues.
User autonomy: your existing network.
The final concern that came up during user testing was managing all the additional smart home devices that Otto relies on.

To help minimize the amount of searching through devices, I followed Hick's Law and reduced the number of choices required to find a specific device by creating three umbrella categories.
Final product
It's all otto-matic
Round and around.
Otto's circular display is inspired by the round objects of everyday life. With an interface that mimics its form, the UI follows the motion of a dial, aligning with the rotation of the palm.
Gesture based design.
Initial explorations on Otto's UI interactions relied on complex touch screen capability that hindered the user journey. To mitigate this, I built upon existing gesture controls that leverage the user's pre-existing mental model from mobile devices.
All at arm's reach.
Rather than physically locating and adjusting specific smart home devices, Otto utilizes a proximity-based interaction that brings nearby devices right to your hand for easy adjustment.
Moving forward with a clear vision
An end-to-end project.
Otto was one of the first end-to-end projects I worked on, and I was able to see how my decisions early on in the process could directly impact the end product. I learned that keeping an open and unbiased mind is essential to the development of products.

I had a few ideas early on that I grew attached to, even if they didn't address user needs. I had to take a step back and understand that while pleasing to look like, it wasn't the solution for Otto. If i were to do this project again, I now know to keep an open mind early on.

I still believe that being playful and idealistic early on is a good way to generate ideas, but OTTO was extremely beneficial in teaching me to scale down and focus on usability.
Next project
Blueprint Component Library