Bair

Bair is a physical networked product that helps siblings affected by COVID-19's social distancing measures feel more connected with each other. This is the outcome of our Prototyping Studio course, whose main objective was to teach us about physical prototyping as an investigative tool in design.

Duration

10 Weeks

Contribution

UX Researcher
UX Designer
Prototype lead

Team

Mary Li
Danielle Tuchman
Nathan Keyes
Alexis Nicholson

The Problem Space

As COVID-19 wears on, families all over the world continue to endure the pain of separation.

How can we use physical computing to help these families feel closer despite the physical distance?

Our Mission for Bair

Most forms of communication require active input, however we aim to foster a sense of passive dialogue that exists in comfortable silences.

Bair recreates that comfortable silence of sitting near a loved one

Most products out there are about active communication, but sometimes the thing you miss is just knowing that your loved one is nearby.

By translating sound and movement into gentle light patterns

This lets your loved one on the other side know that you're there without compromising your privacy or forcing conversation.

While still keeping you in control of when to share that information

Using the connected website, mute your Bair for some extra privacy and let it melt into your home as a piece of light art.

Research

Market research + design workshop with kids and adults

Our secondary research consisted of reading articles about physical computing and relationship mediation, as well as existing products on the market.

We also conducted some design workshop sessions with kids via UW's KidsTeam group to help us better understand how families experienced separation during COVID and how they navigated the challenge.

At this stage, we just wanted to better understand how distance impacted familial relationships, especially those who did not anticipate a separation for this long.

Artifacts from our design workshops with KidsTeam

Collaborative Design

Design workshop and prototype review

Having gained a better understanding of the underlaying relationship dynamics during COVID, my team decided to target young adults who have been separated by COVID restrictions because of school. As students living in Seattle, we had ample access to that demographic.

At this stage, we've learned that people who are separated from their loved ones miss sharing small moments the most. Many of the products available on market aim to let loved ones know that you're thinking of them, either by sending messages or tallying up some sort of value.

We decided to follow that thread and designed a device that is used to send messages to a single loved one to highlight the commitment the user has put into maintaining that relationship. We chose to make the interface to this device completely tactile with the assumption that the physical interaction would encourage back and forth message sending.

As we were in the early stages of ideation, we decided to set up a Wizard of Oz test to see how desirable a squishy message sender was. Our goal was to find out the following:

➕ How does a physical device that is dedicated to sending messages to a single person affect a person's relationship with that person?

➕ Does the physical device encourage or discourage communication?

➕ Do the physical input methods we've defined (squishing and tapping to signal intent) feel intuitive or uncomfortable?

Our WOZ setup to test our prototype

Our WOZ was a huge success because we were able to trick our users into thinking we had a working product and got very honest feedback. We found that all of our participants responded extremely positively to a physical device that is dedicated to relationship building but did not like the voice message and light notifications because it felt like another obligation to be online.

Design Values

Translating feedback into roadmaps

Based on all the information we gathered from our research and ideation activities, we gave ourselves the following design values.

Not another messenger app

Our adult participants expressed a disinterest in (and even worry about) "another way to chat". There is already too much on the market to bother with one more.

Personalization of physical objects

One of the top questions we were asked is if the design we showed them were customizable. There is a clear desire to personalize physical objects, especially when it is meant to live in one's home.

Calm, non-demanding presence

As work and school shifted online, the constant digital demand for attention is overwhelming, especially for our adult participants.

Proposed Solution

Bair

A light that lets you share a space with a loved one without the demanding obligations of needing to reply.

Design

Our vision for Bair

Bair is a two device system that takes motion and sound data from one device and sends it to the other device to output as light brightness and pattern speed.

This helps the siblings know when someone is on the other side without being distracting or compromising their privacy.

Design

How it works

Bair is a two device system that takes motion and sound data from one device and sends it to the other device to output as light brightness and pattern speed.

This helps the siblings know when someone is on the other side without being distracting or compromising their privacy.

User Flow: Purchaser

User Flow: Recipient

User Flow: Daily Usage

Design

How it's built

Bair is a two device system that takes motion and sound data from one device and sends it to the other device to output as light brightness and pattern speed.

This helps the siblings know when someone is on the other side without being distracting or compromising their privacy.

My Role

In addition to user research and design, I had the most experience with programming and fabrication on the team, so I took the lead on this portion of the project. I researched the hardware/programming side of the project and built the electronic component of the hardware

Based on what my teammates were comfortable/interested in doing, I assigned them to learn skills like 3D modeling with Fusion 360 and laser cutting so that they can take charge of the fabrication.

Conclusion

Reflection

It's so hard to take a good photo of a light installation.