Project 2: Connecting Distance-Separated Intimates, Friends, Families

Worth: 15%

Sketch, design, implement and document via a portfolio a set of devices that connects distance-separated people, such as intimates, close friends or family members. The two devices comprise:

  • a cell phone with an interface of your design,
  • an information appliance constructed from Phidgets

Social networks bring so-called friends (mostly acquaintances, but even strangers) together. However, there has been surprisingly little activity in designing systems that let two distance-separated intimates stay in touch. By intimates, we mean a broad variety of relationships:

  • couples in long-term relationships
  • dating couples
  • aging parent / caretaker (e.g., family member) for monitoring / health
  • parent / child
  • grandparent / grand-kids ...

Your task is to design, implement, document and demonstrate a system, comprising an information appliance and a cell phone, that provides an alternative way for two people in a particular relationship to stay in touch. Ideally, you will know two people in this situation and will use them to inspire your designs. In particular, you will

  • create a persona that describes the particular relationship and couple that will be your audience,
  • design an information appliance that is usually installed in the home of one of the people. This includes packaging the information appliance in a way that is both fitting to its purpose and aesthetically pleasing
  • design a phone interface that interacts with the information appliance.

Be creative. While your product should be functional and relevant, it should also be aesthetic, engaging and intriguing within the scope of your audience.

To prepare for this assignment, you will learn:

  • other aspects of programming phones in WPF (e.g., how to store data, how to use maps, etc),
  • how to program Phidgets (hardware including sensors and actuators),
  • how to program the network connection between the two via the iNetwork platform.

Pedagogical Objectives

  • Apply basic sketching techniques and lateral thinking to produce various designs in a somewhat constrained but still highly open-ended project
  • Acquire experiences creating and developing sketches in your sketchbook using various sketching methodologies
  • Acquire first-time experiences creating a physical appliance
  • Acquire experiences creating a persona.

Assignment Deliverables and Details

  1. 10 competing design sketches, 10 sketch details, and sketch refinements. In your sketchbook, generate a minimum of 10 competing (different) designs for the device pairs. Include details of how the two devices would interact. As before, talk about your design with others. Choose one or more of these designs, and then explore that design in detail (again, a minimum of 10 sketches) where you consider both variants of that design and particular in-depth details of the how a sequence of actions would unfold over it. You will be asked to briefly present your best one(s). You will also be asked to summarize your design as a narrative storyboard. As your ideas change, sketch them out. You will be asked at any time to show your sketches to the instructor, TA, and/or the class.
  2. The Information Appliance. You will design and implement an interface appliance based on Phidgets, paying attention to its form factor, its aesthetics, its level of engagement, how it fits its function and role, how it senses information from the environment (input) and how it conveys information (output).
  3. The Cell Phone Interface. Similar to the above, pay attention to its aesthetics, how it fits its function and role, how it gathers information from the person (input) and how it conveys information (output).
  4. The Interconnection between the Two. The two should work together smoothly.
  5. Persona description. Include a persona describing this couple (1 page each person, plus 1 page for their relationship).
  6. Demonstrate your work. During class time, you will be asked to demonstrate all the above work to other class members and the instructor
  7. Visual project summary. Within your web portfolio, create a web-based visual summary that illustrates your system. Provide a title, minimal text (perhaps as annotations), and visuals that reveal what this is about. Emphasize the visuals over text - let it tell its own story. Don't feel bound to a static page - you can have things unfold, have sets of pages, animations, overlays, etc. You will also be asked to include a video demonstration of your system.


  • an LG touch-sensitive phone running Microsoft Windows (provided)
  • lab computers with Visual Studio running Silverlight and the Windows Phone emulator
  • access to the above software where you can download it to your own computer
  • A selection of Phidgets hardware and cables (based on USB)
  • Phidgets software for controlling Phidgets hardware
  • The iNetwork toolkit for communication
  • you will be personally responsible for acquiring materials for constructing the information appliance form factor


Your grade will be based on your sketches, your design creativity, your implementation, documentation and packaging, and your portfolio summaries. However, great successes or failures, or incompleteness in one exercise criteria will likely affect your total grade. Note that a successful implementation is required: if you cannot demonstrate your system, you will automatically receive a zero. Similarly, missing, late or incomplete work will result in a large grade penalty.

Resources that may help you get inspired / think about issues


10/16* Introduction to P2
* Tutorial: Phidgets
* Homework: Sketch 10
10/21* P2 sketch critiques
* Personas
* Tutorial: iNetwork
* Homework: Create three personas: one for each member of relationship, and one for relationship
10/23* Persona presetations
* Templates and sketching
* Tutorial: Phone fun
* Homework: Sketch 10 refinements
10/28* P2 refinment presentations
* Tutorial: Video prototyping
* Homework: Storyboard for P2 video; narration; still shots of each frame; raw video
10/30* Video editing
* Tutorial: Phidget LEDs
11/4* Branching storyboards
* Tutorial: TBA
11/6* Introduce P3
11/13* P2 Demos, video and portfolio critique