Final Assignment:
I Familiarize

tl;dr: Get to know the domain we’re designing for in a rapid research exploration across users, precedents and objects.

  • Deliverable a) User Research

  • Deliverable b) Precedents

  • Deliverable c) Object Inventory

  • Deliverable d) Synthesis presentation

Due: Friday, Feb 23

In this phase, we’re going to very quickly build a shared understanding of the current landscape of the bedroom and the IoT. You’re going to coordinate three rapidly implemented strands of research, that will do this quickly.

Because of this, you’re going to divide and conquer. You’ll work in groups of three who will quickly gather, assess and evaluate knowledge that will be useful for the project, and report back to the remaining vision lead who will integrate and present findings.

Three people will be assigned to one of the following:

  1. User Experience Analysis

  2. Object Inventories

  3. Precedent Exploration

The remaining group member(s) is responsible for coordinating and synthesising the outcomes.

You may wish to plan ahead of time to direct these activities to a specific context (e.g. types of homes, bedroom size, etc.), yser group (single person, family, older adult, teen, etc) or activity (sleeping, grooming, etc.) within the connected bedroom scenario.

User Experience Analysis

Each member in this group should conduct a rapid user inquiry by interviewing one or two individuals while they are engaged in a bedroom related activity (the interviews should be at least one hour in duration combined).

You will use ‘contextual inquiry’ to understand the experience while it is taking place. The goal will be to develop a deep sense of the user’s needs, desires and wants around specific activities in your context.

To do this, you interview the person on-site while the do their normal activities there.As the subject goes about their tasks, observe and note what they are doing, but more importantly, see to understand why they are doing them. Learn by watching, but gather insight by asking them about what it is you see, and why they are done in a particular way. From these observations you should be able to see the flows and sequences within particular tasks as well as the motivations for them. You should also pay close attention to the objects and tools that they use during these tasks and how they help them achieve the desired outcome. Based on what you observed and what you heard, interpret that information and develop an understanding of what the task means for each person. Note that you should verify your interpretations where possible while on-site.

Each person should do the interviews independently, then you should meet to compare notes and develop some shared findings i.e. what similarities or differences did you find? what did you learn? what was surprising and why?

You should summarise your findings in accessible and useful forms. This might include:

  • highlighting particularly useful quotes

  • creating a diagram or mind map of ideas and desires covered

  • developing a persona based on the interview, or an empathy map

Find out more:

Develop Object Inventories

The first group has explored user desires, behaviors and routines, but wouldn’t it be nice to think about the objects and artefacts in the space in more depth. After all, these are what we’re going to try and imbue with technology!

And this is exactly what this group will do. Each member of this group will go to a representative site/location/context and develop an inventory of all the objects found there. You’ll want to

  1. Photograph the landscape of the space, both from a broad view and up-close

  2. Describe the objects found within the site

  3. Map their locations and placements

  4. Observe who, when and how they are being interacted with

First, move through the space and photograph everything - capture a record what you see and develop a record of the object landscape.

Next systematically analyse and decompose the objects you’ve found in terms of their material, aesthetic, functional, locative, and interactive qualities.

  • Material - what is the materials used? what are the qualities of these materials (hard, soft, cold, warm, etc.)? how durable are they? is the worn or what are the patterns of wear? is it disposable? portable? etc.

  • Aesthetic - a subjective visual assessment - is it pleasant or ugly? how old does it look? does it have any emotive signifiers? what is it’s meaning?

  • Functional - what it does - what activity or role within the space does it support? how does it communicate this role?

  • Locative - where in the space does it exist? is it public or private? is it accessible to some or all in the space? is it shared or owned?

  • Interactive - what are the behaviors the object affords? is it used for simple or complex tasks? it is multitasked? is it social, shared or collaborative? is there evidence of misuse or adapted use or adjustments?

  • Relational - what other objects in the space does it relate to? is it used before, after or in conjunction with another object? is there a sequence to its use?

Create a matrix (table) of the objects/products/artefacts in the space which explores these features.

In addition, sketch a map of the objects you uncovered i.e. show the spatial arrangement of the objects. On this map, diagram the connections and relationship they have to one another.

Don’t forget to plan ahead with your team. Don’t all go to the same place at the same time. For example, you could perform the same mapping task at different times of the day, only adding objects which someone interacts with during that time. Or you could divide up the space so that you each do a deep dive on an area of interest.

Precedent Exploration

Just like we did in week one, each member of this activity is going to research, find and examine a series of related precedents.

Each person will identify and rigorously review at least five precedent projects (consumer products, creative projects, research papers, theory, ideas, methods, etc.) that relates to the theme

The goal is to broaden your understanding of the project’s theme (knowledge relating to the bedroom, sleep management or other bedroom related technology, etc.) as well as deepen your knowledge of prior work that’s relevant to this project.

The emphasis here is on discovery. Explore news sites, blogs, aggregator, as well as conferences, journals and scientific papers to find exciting examples that could inform the project. This could equally be a historical example which informed the kinds of products and scenarios we encounter today, a breakthrough product which has had impact or influence, a current and state-of-the-art consumer device, a cutting edge research prototype, a speculative proposal for a future device. There’s no constraints on the sources or places you can look but some starting points are listed below.

For each project, write a short critical reflection on the project (about 200 words) in which you:

  • Briefly describe the project (a couple of sentences) and who made it.

  • Describe why you selected the project (what is interesting, inspirational, etc. about it)

  • Critique the project - what are its shortcomings; how could it be made better, what did they get right and what didn’t they get right and why, etc.

  • Draw relationships to other work: What inspired or informed it? Compare this project with related work, precedent projects.

  • Draw relationships to your work: How does it relate to your ideas for your project?

Finally, you should synthesise the themes and trends that you see emerging from this research. This synthesis should also formulate a matrix-based representation of the precedents, that can be used to identify potential opportunity spaces for your context.


Now you have at minimum:

  • interviewed 3-6 people

  • gathered 3 object inventories

  • researched and described 15 prior projects

Awesome, you’ve got a tonne of knowledge to work with. Now you need to make it useful.

This is where the Vision Lead comes in - they’re going to coordinate each of the three sub-teams (users, precedents and objects) and work with each team to integrate their outcomes. (Visual representation of these outcomes is highly encouraged!)

They’ll then take the major findings and present them in class!

This should include:

  • a summary of insights found and socio-cultural factors to design for;
  • material considerations involved; and
  • possible opportunities and directions to explore;