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Paper: Casablanca home communication devices

Casablanca: Designing Social Communication Devices for the Home
Debby Hindus, Scott Mainwaring, Nicole Leduc, Anna Elizabeth Hagstrom and Oliver Bayley
Interval Research Corporation
CHI 2001

Summary reaction: The Message/ScanBoard is the most interesting prototype IMHO. In fact, I'm debating going to Fry's and buying a cheap scanner to try and turn into one. The ScanBoard I think represents an interesting category of devices that bridge the physical world into the digital world. This category of devices allows us to convert physical artifacts into digital ones (scanner), and vice versa (printer). The combination of this bridge into the digital world along with the notion of the digital space being a share space seems compelling. Also, built correctly, the UI would be understandable to almost anyone. One prototype I would like to play with would be a wall-mounted scanner (cover removed) with a pressure or light sensor on the glass. Whenever an object was pressed against the surface the scanner would automatically run (no buttons required). I would also modify the shared space to have a time axis, and I would also add context menus to the scanned objects to allow them to be e-mailed or otherwise manipulated (e.g. resized, deleted, annotated, printed, moved). If I was really going for broke, I would include a photo printer in the prototype. However, this couldn't interfere with the ability of this to be a refrigerator-mounted device, which is where I would see such a device belonging.

I could also see the Message/ScanBoard becoming a good task management system. As noted below, some participants suggested that this device be available in cars. With this added reach, I could forsee this device used as:

- (a) a way of creating reminders, e.g. scanning in an invitation (scanned), posting e-vite information (not scanned), and posting flight itinerary information (also interesting if message board is shared with remote family)

- (b) a way of accessing the information when it is needed, e.g. driving directions to the party, flight information (airport/airline)


Motivations: According to two studies they performed, the authors identified these themes, which also became their motivations:
- Households are displays: people spend a significant amount of time personalizing and decorating
- Households are sanctuaries: homes are where people go to take refuge
- Family life is the household priority: schedules/activities are first and foremost oriented towards other house members
- Women are the household communicators
- The telephone is not good enough: personal interactions and spending time together preferred


Prototypes:

- In-touch (presence): small, paired key-chain devices that glow/warm/vibrate when the other is triggered. This device had mixed reactions: some found it a fun way to keep in touch with a low-bandwidth communication, others found it a useless gadget. There was also an implicit obligation felt by some to respond.

- Presence light: pair of linked lights that show activity at the other light (based on sound and movement). The original prototype was the least preferred - it communicated very little (and imprecise) information, and the lack of control elicited privacy concerns.

- Intentional Presence Light: after the initial failure of the presence light, the IPL was created with control being the focus. Rather than sensing, the light is explicity turned on or off. They also modified the design so that it would display the user's logo on the lampshade, so it could potentially be used for linking multiple people. An alternate implmenation used a curtain metaphor. The IPLs were much better received than the presence lights.

- RoomLink: always on high-quality audio connection between two rooms (hands free). Participants had good reactions to the system and made requests for new functions such as video, being able to move the system from room to room, and privacy enhancements.

- MessageBoard/Scanboard: flat screen for writing shared notes or scanning in snapshots/drawings/etc... The photo and clipping sharing feature was highly used. Some participants also suggested that it be available in the car. The Scanboard is was second generation version of MessageBoard with slightly increased functionality. I personally did not like certain features of the Scanboard (multiple message boards, uncovering/hiding messages) as I think they distracted from the potential simplicity of the device.

Reaction themes:
- Three important factors: fun to use, low in cost, simple to operate

- Some people did not like devices that created new obligations for social communication. This seems to be an inherent danger is something that is perceived to be always on. This can be related to concerns to privacy concerns as described by "As we may live" (e.g. Brandeis "the right to be left alone.").
Similar themes were also noticed in the ActiveBadge system.

- communication with loved ones (elderly parents, kids) important

- multiple communication modes important, large bandwidth-style communication important (e.g. photos rather than simple on/off states)

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