What if you could see what your devices were actually getting up to?
Built by — Nicole He + Eran Hilleli
Nicole He is an independent game developer and creative technologist based in Brooklyn, New York, who previously worked at Google Creative Lab, and as an outreach lead at Kickstarter. She’s also an adjunct faculty member at ITP at NYU. Eran Hilleli is an artist and animation director at Hornet, art director at Klang Games, Lecturer at Bezalel academy of art and design and co-founder of Iorama Studio.
Invisible Roommates is an augmented reality (AR) application that would make visible how the devices in your home interact with one another. The application would make use of existing technology to portray the different devices connected to your network as little living characters, playfully illustrating how these pieces of technology communicate while making it easier for you to understand what is happening in your home.
The application would first detect all of the different devices connected to your network; this would include the more obvious ones like computers or phones, as well as other things, like TVs, speakers, game consoles, vacuums or washing machines. It would then locate their manufacturing data and use it to recast your devices as charming characters, spawning on nearby surfaces in augmented reality. Each character's design would hint at the device it represents while remaining playful and open to interpretation (e.g. a character that resembles a TV portraying your TV).
Initial sketches of the Invisible Roommates.
'As we bring more and more connected devices into our home, it's important there is transparency about what they're doing and what data they're sharing – particularly around our personal information.'
By gathering real-time information about your devices and which other devices they are communicating with, the movements and behaviours of your Invisible Roommates would correspond to the level of activity of the devices they represent. For example, if your printer was turned off, its avatar would be lying down resting, but if it were switched on, it would jump up and come to life. While, whenever two devices interact, their respective characters would turn to face each other in AR and begin to speak amongst themselves.
'We wanted to reflect the ambiguity around data by presenting the devices in a way that mirrors the joy we can get from them, but also reveals some of the invisible things that go on with and between them in real-time.'
To create a more conversational experience, the complex data which the devices share with one another would be simplified and slowed down to a more understandable pace. To represent the packets of data (the information) that the characters exchange, the avatars would shoot paper aeroplanes back and forth, bringing the unseen activity around you to the surface in an accessible way. By anthropomorphising our devices and making their autonomous interactions visible, the experiment offers an opportunity to be more conscious of the amount of data that swirls about our homes.
'The effect is that these machines really feel alive, as part of the household, always doing things. Especially in my tech-heavy household with more than a dozen characters around me.'