Socio-Digital Systems | Archived Projects

Here is a list, in no particular order, of older project work undertaken by the Socio-Digital Systems team since 2004. For our latest projects see Themes & Projects sections of our homepage.

Design for Older People
Older adults are a heterogeneous group, but one that as a cohort may share certain values and have experienced particular events, such as becoming a grandparent, or lifestyle shifts, such as becoming retired. We have considered the attitudes of older adults, alongside the literature on family relationships, to consider how we might design technologies for this group to support communication, the recording of memories, and storytelling to grandchildren.

Lifelogging the Everyday
As a point of departure from the use of lifelogging tools, such as SenseCam, to support memory, we have focused on how such devices might be appropriated by people in their everyday lives. We have studied individuals as well as families and young couples to consider how SenseCam photos might serve as a form of user-generated content, a prompt for reflection, or an artefact in the telling of stories. We have also investigated how the experience of looking at such images changes over time, visiting participants immediately after photos were taken, and then again 18 months later.

A Memory Making System
This project examines the issue of family archiving and presents a system designed to enable families to capture, manage, create and store new kinds of digital memorabilia. Using Microsoft Surface as its hub it shows how families can upload photos and videos quickly and easily, and scan in physical objects, such as children’s artwork or a child’s first pair of shoes.

Reconfigurable Ferromagnetic Input Devices
Within this project we are investigating the use of ferromagnetic sensor arrays to create novel user interface systems. We have developed a number of prototype systems and created a range of applications for use with the sensor array. We are currently exploring the use of the device for creative expression, particularly as an electronic music interface.

Rudiments
This set of small robotic like devices, called rudiments, investigate human-machine interactions in a variety of different ways. Through careful iterations in their design, the rudiments are intended to provoke curiosity and discussion around the possibility of autonomy in interactive systems. They steer away from a humanoid approach to robot design and explore the potential relations and possibilities for combining robotic devices with appliance like characteristics.

Serendipitous displays
The serendipitous displays project explores alternatives to existing practices concerning the presentation of people’s personal digital content in domestic settings. In order to engage people in novel ways we heavily draw upon elements like surprise, serendipity, agency and anticipation. Tuba and Meerkat, two content displaying devices, are designed to explore combinations of these elements as investigations into their potential contributions to engage people with their personal content.

SketchStorm
This project explores how we might develop new digital tools to facilitate designers in an early ideation stage of the design process. In order to do so we created a technology probe called SketchStorm, a prototype application that supports some common ideation practices including sketching, image search and image collection.

Technology Heirlooms
This project is all about thinking about technology in the long term. While we tend to think of most digital things as only having a shelf life of a few years, the reality is that we're now taking digital photos, and keeping digital items, for long enough that we have to start thinking about the consequences of using them for reminiscing in the future, and even passing them on to our offspring. What does it mean to inherit someone's PC or to use digital technology to reflect on someone's life?

TellTable
TellTable utilises Microsoft Surface Technology to provide an interactive storytelling experience, helping to stimulate creativity and self-expression by children. The storyteller(s) can manipulate various digital characters and sceneries on Surface, which are created by capturing and editing real world elements using a camera. By doing so, they can narrate, act, and record the story in a lightweight way, similar to how children would tell stories using physical toys.

Wayve
Building on research with HomeNote and TxtBoard, Wayve is a situated display with which householders can create content by scribbling or taking photos, and then leave these to be seen within the home, or messaged to others via their mobiles, emails or other Wayves. A three-month field trial across 24 households demonstrated how the device supports the playfulness that is inherent in close social relationships, while supporting a sense of closeness across extended family networks.

Big Board
This project investigated novel, clientless architectures for seamless interaction between mobile phones and large public displays. The project was a collaboration with the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Digital Postcard
An extension of our HomeNote work points to the possibility of sending richer, image-based messages from mobile phones to situated displays in the home. The Digital Postcard project is exploring a number of different concepts which will allow friends and family to "push" images and text into the home from outside the home. Not only will these prototype devices allow people to send MMS messages to be displayed in the home, but people in the home can scribble and send messages back through the device.

Digital Shoebox
Most current digital storage is provided by hard disks hidden away in PCs and laptops, its content arranged in a complex hierarchy of folders. Pictures stored in these hidden devices are rarely seen around the home unless they are printed out. Shoebox aims to challenge both the visibility of typical storage devices in the home, and the ease with which users can surround themselves with their digital memories, by providing a container that is intended to be on display, and that is also intended to be used to hold images from specific events or people, rather then all the users images.

Epigraph
Epigraph is a device that lets members of families have a ‘presence’ even when they are away, allowing functional, informal and playful communication. It is placed in the centre of a home, perhaps in the kitchen or hallway, so that everyone can see it. It is linked to the internet and cellular network so that it can receive messages over any channel. Its screen is divided into a number of areas, with each area ‘owned’ by a different member of the family. Each member can ‘post’ whatever messages they want to their area, whether that be via email, SMS or MMS. Epigraph also allows people at home to communicate back to members of the family through touch of the screen and selection of predetermined options. If the remote family member has a GlancePhone, Epigraph also allows ‘glances’ of that remote user. Epigraph differs from other family messaging devices by focusing on presence, on informality, and in allowing the concurrent display of content form multiple channels.

Family Archive
This project aims to understand the needs of families to interact with, manage, and archive materials which are important in preserving and sharing family memories. We are developing a system which allows the input and safe archiving of both digital and physical media, and which allows natural interaction with those media. This work has been informed by our in-depth studies of "photowork" and of "videowork".

Glance-phone and Me-card
This project is seeking to explore whether radically simple' user interaction experiences on mobile phones can elicit new forms of communication. A particular concern is whether more lightweight forms of contact are likely to occur, such as glancing. The project is exploring whether these, in turn, can be leveraged in ways that reflects the proprieties of social discourse, with only certain people having rights to glance, call and interrupt. The project is therefore also exploring whether the design of novel address book applications will effectively support these rights by segmenting different levels of communication access.

Grab and Share
Grab and share is an application that allows those watching television at home to grab short segments of the shows they are watching, download them on to their mobile phone and then to share those same segments with their friends later on, perhaps at work or down the pub. This sharing often entails more than simply watching them together but the actual exchange of the files via Bluetooth in what is called a kind of trafficking. Grab and share works by linking the broadcast content to the mobile networks through a converged device, a DAB enabled phone, along with a bespoke application that allows the user to select, download and exchange the sought for segments of multimedia content.

  • Harper, R., Regan, T., Rouncefield, M., Rubens, S., and Al Mosawi, K. Trafficking: Design for the Viral Exchange of Digital Content on Mobile Phones. MobileHCI ’07.

Kitchen Postcard
In this project we are exploring the possibility of sending rich, image and text-based messages from mobile phones and through e-mail to situated displays in the home. We imagine that this particular instantiation, called Kitchen Postcards, would be kept in the kitchen, and allow friends and family to “push” images and text into that space from outside the home. We’re interested in how family members treat that content, particularly with regard to the device’s location. This display presents a number of visualisations of messaging content, from metaphorical to abstract, that allow us to test out a variety of ideas with families near our lab in Cambridge, UK.

Participate
This project is a 3 year collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham and Bath, the BBC, BT and two SMEs, Blast theory and SenseScope. The project is partly funded by the DTI and the EPSRC. The purpose of Participate is to design, develop and test the utility of novel, pervasive, lightweight and wearable technologies as a means whereby new forms of mass participation can occur in science, education, art and community life. The Participate website will shortly be on-line.

Shake2Talk: Multimodal Messaging for interpersonal communication
This research explores how modalities such as non-speech audio and vibrotactile displays could be used for remote communication. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words; could the same be true for a sound or a touch? A simple touch can have a much stronger impact than words, and sounds can evoke strong emotions and associations. It is, therefore, interesting to explore how people might communicate if they could send sounds or vibrotactile messages in place of, or in addition to, text or multimedia messages.

The Shake-to-Talk system allows users to construct audio-tactile messages through simple gesture interactions, and to send these messages to other people, via mobile phones. Such messages could be used to communicate a range of meanings, from the practical (e.g. “home safely”, represented by the sound and sensation of a key turning in a lock) to the emotional (e.g. “thinking of you” represented by a heartbeat) to the seemingly abstract (e.g. the sound of water sloshing). The long term aim of this research is to explore how such a non-visual, multimodal communication system might be used for interpersonal communication, alongside current messaging genres, when deployed with users.

  • Brown, L.M. and Williamson, J., "Shake2talk: Multimodal Messaging for Interpersonal Communication", to appear in the Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Haptic and Audio Interaction Design (Seoul, Korea), 2007, Springer LNCS.

Studies of Home Life
In our general studies of home life, we have been investigating the work done in and around family households, and focused, specifically, on what we refer to as organising systems (see Taylor & Swan, 2005). These systems come to operate in two ways. Most obviously, they organise daily routines and activities, such as household to-dos, shopping trips, holidays, children's parties, etc. At a more fundamental level, they also come to embody the social organisation of the home - they become a material instantiation of the way a home is socially organised. Looking at the organising systems surrounding specific artefacts and activities in the home, such as fridge doors, clutter, photographs, list making, etc., we have sought to raise questions about the assumed role of computing in everyday life. Some of our reflections have led to a number of design concepts, concepts that we hope might help us to critically rethink computing and the established directions being taken.

Technology Report for Everyday Memory
We are undertaking a number of studies aimed at exploring the ways in which technology can support autobiographical memory. For example, life-logging technologies such as Sensecam and MyLifeBits are intended to automatically capture and archive vast amounts of data in the course of our everyday lives. In these studies were asking whether the cues these systems capture really support memory for the past? We're also exploring how much people are able to recall about the past given a particular kind of cue and what kinds of cues are best for triggering memory (e.g., images, ambient sound, location).

Text-it-Notes
The Text-it Note system offers users an alternative means of sending and receiving text messages. By combining hand writing recognition software and some novel hardware, users can simply write messages directly onto conventional Post-it Notes; the message itself is then converted into text automatically, and the recipient identified with a final stroke of the pen. Incoming SMS messages can also be printed onto small paper labels, thus offering the user an entirely paper based messaging system.

TEXT2PAPER
TEXT2PAPER is a device that prints SMS messages on to clear labels that can be stuck straight onto paper calendars typically found in the home. It bridges both the digital and paper divide, and also the generational divide between those that are comfortable with paper (typically the parents) and those comfortable with the cellphone (the teens).

TimeMill
TimeMill is a digitally augmented mirror and image display device. Built by encasing off-the-shelf components in a unique physical form, the Time-Mill is a cultural probe designed to explore how visual image capture, tactile input, and aesthetically controlled image replay can provide a basis for reflection, evocation of place, and aesthetic wonder in a home setting.

  • Terrenghi, L., Patel, D., Marquardt, N., Harper, R. and Sellen, A. The Time-Mill: An interactive mirror evoking reflective experiences in the home.

Touch Talk
This project is seeking to identify ways to broaden the envelope of communications to include the sensual and the tactile. Such communications may be between persons or between things and persons (as in the case of using tactile mechanisms to provide alerts to people). The project entails building novel sensor devices that can be associated with mobile phones, situated in particular places (such as a desktop) or worn as an ornament.

Visual Answering Machine
Conventional home answering machines are awkward to use for a number of reasons. It is difficult to see at a glance who has called and who the messages are for. It is cumbersome to navigate through the messages, and to save and forward them. In this project we ask what would happen if voice messages were made visible to imbue them with many properties they currently don't have. Our first design is called the 'Bubble Board' and is a touchscreen designed to be attached to the kitchen wall for family messaging (see Banks et al., in press). It is another example of a person-to-place messaging allowing friends and family members to 'call the kitchen' and leave messages for all and anyone in a household (see also HomeNote).

  • Banks, R., Regan, T., Harper, R. and Sellen, A. BubbleBoard: A visual answering machine. ECSCW '07.

Whereabouts Clock
The Whereabouts Clock is a situated display for the kitchen wall which displays the general whereabouts of family members. The Clock works by using cell phone data. When a family member's cell phone is on, it automatically transmits SMS messages to the device when that person moves from one registered zone (such as 'home') into another registered zone (such as 'school'). Registering these zones only needs to be done once for each zone when the software is first installed. Thereafter, users need do nothing except switch on their phones. If they do not wish to be shown on the clock, they simply switch the application off. Additionally, users are given the option of texting in more specific information about their activities in each zone. So, for example, if a person is 'out' but shopping, they can text 'shopping' and the text will appear under the person's icon on the Clock.

Augmenting fridge magnets
One area of design-related research we have been undertaking involves the design of augmented fridge magnets. This work emerged from fieldwork examining the practical uses of fridge surfaces in family homes (see Swan and Taylor, 2005). In particular, it has been driven by the recognition that fridge surfaces lend themselves to being used as communal, household displays and that magnets play a key role in this. An underlying motivation to this design work is to build simple functioning technologies that are easily incorporated into people's everyday practices. The premise here is that simple solutions could be designed so that they can be combined to offer more functionality in a progressive fashion. That way, complexity arises through people's own real-world experiences with technology and does so in ways that are intelligible and expected. Magnets, and possible augmentations of them, are seen to be well-suited to this approach.

CODII ProjectCODII: Combating the Online Dissemination of Illegal Images
Much of the work researching online communities focuses on positive benefits. These are brought to people through sharing their interests, knowledge, and friendship online. Groups like the Social Computing Group and the Community Technologies Group build tools and research methods to understand and enhance such positive aspects of online community. The CODII project takes a different approach by examining how people organise themselves online to disseminate illegal images. The goal of the project is to design tools that help hotlines and moderators identify and remove illegal online content.

Conceptual analysis and the intellectual constructs of interactive systems research
This project is seeking to explore the conceptual underpinnings of key linguistic terms used to motivate, orient and evaluate technology. For example, the term intelligent environments implies something about the role and location of intelligence as somehow being embedded in the built environment rather than in the skilled behaviour of people; similarly, the term memory prosthesis suggests that memory is something that exists outside of the actions of people. In either case, the linguistic constructs have implications for design orientations which this project seeks to explore and use as a basis for strategic direction in those same projects.

HomeNote
This project explored the use of a simple message board for the home. HomeNote is a prototype device which displays messages sent from mobile phones. It also supports the local scribbling of notes on the screen with a stylus. We envision such a device being used by busy families in central places in the home, such as the kitchen. HomeNote builds on earlier work by Cheverst et al. (2003) and their use of a text message board in a care home, and also by O'Hara, Harper et al. (2005) who deployed a similar device into a household in London. With HomeNote, we extend the work by looking more broadly at the home environment and by looking at the ways local scribble is used in conjunction with remote communication via text messaging.

Peripheral ink display
This project aims to unlock the latent value in people's unread notes. There is evidence that people seldom refer back to notes they have taken in meetings, at talks, etc, but that when they do take the time to do so, they derive substantial benefit from the notes. Coupling this observation with the ease of manipulation that digital ink provides, we have developed a simple peripheral display which parses notes taken on a Tablet PC and renders them on a peripheral display adjacent to the user's work area. Our initial study (see Hsieh, Wood and Sellen, 2006) revealed that our prototype system provides benefits in both reminding and serendipitous idea generation. We are currently planning a larger scale study to refine and expand these findings. In conjunction with this, we are also interested in more generally examining people's note-taking behaviour and in evaluating the benefits of displaying a wider range of documents in this way.

zCast
The zCast project explores the potential of datacasting to provide novel services to the Media Center PC and to mobile devices. Datacasting involves the transmission of IP data over broadcast networks such as digital TV and digital radio. By delivering the popular content and experiences over broadcast networks, point-to-point networks are freed to carry interactions and responses. Where the content is huge (e.g., movies) or the networks scarce (e.g., mobile) these savings are significant.

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