Introduction to Physical Computing Final with Rob Faludi. In collaboration with Kristen Brevrick, Allison Shaw, and Adjoa Opoku.

This project arose from a personal place. As graduate students we find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time sitting. This causes a general sense of angst among many of the students. Furthermore, secondary research reveals that sitting time alone is correlated with higher mortality from all causes. Naturally, we wanted to find a way to get people off their butts. At the same time we were intrigued by projects such as Blondie which imbue innanite objects with humanlike behavior.

We understood first-hand from previous design experiments that behavior change is a particularly sticky problem. At best, most design solutions enable people to behave in ways in which they are already inherently motivated to do so. Some of this research has become popularized by such books as Nudge and The Upside of Irrationality. We shared ideas on the innumerable ways one could intervene. For example, we could provide encouragement through enticing people to participate in activities outside of their work environment using real-time updates on local happenings. Many ideas in this vein seemed, frankly, stale. Furthermore, an insight from our instructor kept resurfacing: “In physical computing, the most interesting thing to people is other people.” With this in mind we decided to just dive in and begin building and testing. The first challenge was to simulate a chair that could communicate independently. To do this we fixed a phone to a chair, called in, and set it to speaker mode, then used ichat video to observe our participants. Half using a script and half improvising we began testing different hypotheses about what would motivate people to move.

An inflection point came when we framed our thinking around analog real-world social situations when people are motivated to move on their own. The creepy stranger was an immediate winner. The creep doesn’t tell you to go away. Nope, just the opposite. From this inspiration was born Rufus. The key to Rufus is that he doesn’t start out as a creep. Based on a user’s sitting time, Rufus will become more or less attached. One use-case, of a interaction design student is described in the video below:

Making of Rufus


back to work