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Thoughts, observations and experimentation on interaction by: Smart Design

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Image 1: One of our experiments: using LUMI as a desktop device to display a person’s mood. A series of discs representing emotional states can be selected to change the light patterns.

Smart Interaction Lab is in the midst of exploring how our everyday products become expressive through dynamic electronic behaviors. For example, the color of LED lighting on a robotic vacuum cleaner has the potential to alert people of its status: green, slow pulsing indicates “All systems go.”; rapid red flashing pleads, “Help! Something is amiss here.” Sound and movement can enhance and reinforce these messages. A jubilant melody at the end of a washing machine cycle says, “Everything went well and your clothes are ready!” A video conference camera repositioning its head expresses “Bye! Going to sleep now.”

Image 2: A great example of communicative design: Aerohive wirelss LAN router designed by Smart Design. The corner is “cut away” to offer a peek at what’s inside. The LED-light strips inform an IT specialist about the status of each line or when there is an error.

As part of this exploration, we’ve created an easy way for our designers to create and examine light behaviors in products. With more affordable options for LED lights, we can give our products a beautiful glow that can change color and show animated lights based on what’s happening between the product and the user.

Image 3: The LUMI system for creating expressive light behaviors in objects. No coding needed.

The LUMI platform contains a round box with a ring of 8 LED lights embedded just below a translucent surface. We’ve programmed it in a few experiments to try to show how we can express people’s emotions through light and will be posting our videos shortly.

In order to make it quick and easy for designers to make changes and create new patterns, the lights  in the LUMI system can be programmed just by changing a few colors in a simple animation in Adobe Flash. Changing the colors on the screen will change the color, intensity and movement of the light. No coding needed! We can make behaviors that show all the lights glowing, turn some lights on or off, or coordinate dimming and glowing to create animations like “chase” sequences where the light appears to be moving around the object surface.

Images 4 and 5: An example scenario: Using LUMI to express the “mood” of a room. Different light behaviors let passers-by know if they should be quiet and serious or if they can be friendly and join in.

If you’re a designer and would like to try this out for yourself, check out our “From Flash to BlinkM” post and download the source files. We’re using BlinkM, the Smart LED, created by Mike Kuniavsky and the fine folks at ThingM.

Stay tuned for the videos!

Posted by: Carla Diana

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