Smart Objects

1.5 Credits 
Course Description

The ubiquity of embedded computing has redefined the role of form in material culture, leading to the creation of artifacts that communicate well beyond their static physical presence to create ongoing dialogs with both people and each other. This course will explore the rich relationship among people, objects, and information through a combination of physical and digital design methods. Beginning with an examination of case studies, students will gain a sense of the breadth of product design practice as it applies to smart objects. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on studio exercises, students will investigate all aspects of smart object design including expressive behaviors (light, sound and movement), interaction systems, ergonomics, data networks and contexts of use. The course will culminate in a final project that considers all aspects of smart object design within the context of a larger theme.

Course Objectives

In this course, students will explore theories of product design as they apply to both physical and virtual systems. They will learn techniques for crafting product behaviors and develop strategies for using experience prototypes as part of the design process. Students will gain an understanding of physical interaction, networked objects, product personality, information displays, ergonomics, haptics and the role of smart objectsin contemporary design practice, while learning methods for testing and communicating new ideas in physical/digital design.

Class Outcomes

In this course students will learn:

  • How to develop design-actionable insights though dialogue with users and observation of human behavior
  • Techniques for exploring context in time and place through scenario development and bodystorming
  • A sensitivity for the relationship between products and the human body by defining levels of experience based on distance and use models
  • Ways of defining and documenting information structures through experience flow diagrams systems mapping, and overall information architecture
  • Methods for crafting product personality by identifying and analyzing key moments of expression
  • How to define and apply dynamic product behaviors using rapid hardware-software sketching techniques
Class Deliverables

The main deliverable will be a physical interaction design project communicated through a final presentation using prototyped artifacts and presented to a panel of designers and relevant industry experts. Students will work in groups in order to identify user needs, develop scenarios and build user experience frameworks around a given topic.

Required Texts
  • Kuniavsky, Mike. Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design. Morgan Kaufmann, 2010. ISBN-10: 0123748992, ISBN-13: 978-0123748997
  • Sterling, Bruce. Shaping Things. The MIT Press, 2005. ISBN-10: 0262693267, ISBN-13: 978-0262693264
  • Greenfield, Adam. Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing. New Riders Publishing, 2006. ISBN-10: 0321384016, ISBN-13: 978-0321384016
  • Radiolab, “Talking to Machines”, WNYC, Season 10, Episode 1.
  • Moggridge, Bill. Designing Interactions. Online: Print: The MIT Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 0262134748, ISBN-13: 978-0262134743
  • Buxton, Bill. Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Morgan Kaufmann, 2007. ISBN-10: 0123740371, ISBN-13: 978-0123740373
  • Norman, Donald. The Design of Future Things, pp. 17-40.
  • Norman, Donald. Emotional Design, “Emotional Machines” pp 161-194
  • Kelly, Kevin. Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, “Industrial Ecology”, pp. 166-183.
  • Kelly, Kevin. Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, “Emergence of Control”, pp.111-127.
  • Hara, Kenya, Designing Design, “Senseware, Medium That Intrigues Man”, pp. 152 – 209.
  • Thackera, John. In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, “Smartness”, pp. 185-209.