I see you

One of the greatest pains when working in an open office is not knowing if/when someone is coming up behind you to speak to you. Because of how impersonal the giant office space can be, people often wear headphones (particularly noise cancelling headphones) to create a personal sensorial bubble where you are enveloped in your own ambient soundscape.

Often, because of how desks are arranged in long rows, the only way that someone can approach you when wanting to speak to you is from behind or the side, where your peripheral vision does not reach. Given that we can’t see who’s behind us (and now can’t hear) we often get startled, shocked or surprised by incoming people.


By installing a Kinect on top of the monitor, we can tell when someone is approaching and entering your personal space, ostensibly to try to talk to you.

This gives us information on the direction that they’re approaching at (from the left or the right) and how near they are.

To communicate this information, I’m going to use a pair of animatronic eyes that will be installed atop the desk monitor. The reason being that this is close enough to eye level that it won’t be obtrusive, but any movement would be easily registered since I’d be looking in that direction most of the time.

Eyes are an incredibly expressive part of human language, and can convey lots of nuances even with the slightest inflections. This idea is inspired by the eyes on the billboard in The Great Gatsby, where the sense of being watched / seen invokes a different emotional response in the viewer.


If there’s no one within the space, the eyes remain closed.

If someone comes close enough to your left side, the eyes will open and look to the left. Ideally, it’s supposed to mirror the interaction if you were sitting across someone at a diner and they see someone approaching you from behind.

Similarly, when someone approaches from the right, the eyes will open and look to the right.

Make it So reading

As the author of Make it so explains, technology has an unattachable relationship with science fiction. I feel like back in the days, to the general public, high-tech was something that was very unfamiliar, and very few people had access to. Therefore, science fiction had to contain something that appeared to be “high-tech” for a long time, which included the jewel-like buttons and unfriendly user interface. (As a lot of people still say “beep boop” when they explain high-tech in a jokingly way). The interface had to appear very complex and unfriendly because that way the general audience will watch and think that,  “Wow, Captain Kirk is amazing–how does he memorize all the roles of those buttons?”.  The interfaces’ role is very big in any technology; it is like a representative that you speak to at customer services. It has to be as literal, straightforward, and user-friendly. From that perspective, anthropomorphism might seem inevitable in its existence. Because if anything for technology to appear friendly to humans, it would have human-like characteristics. However, the interesting part is that anthropomorphism actually evokes an unfriendly feeling to humans such as an uncanny valley. If people preferred something resembles that of a human being, the camera would look like an eye, or a mouse would be in the shape of a hand. Rather than anthropomorphism, what really appeals to humans that resembles one’s physique would be ergonomics. Its beauty does not come from mimicking one’s physique but rather interacts with it. On the other hand, anthropomorphism may not be an appeal in an interface, but it is in communication. A great example would be emojis. It has ambiguous human-like traits so that anyone can see themselves in those emojis and express themselves. No matter how much people try to make objects look more human, it only intensifies the uncanny valley; for humans, those objects that have direct contacts with humans are better to be ergonomic and those express humans are better to be anthropomorphic.

Assignment 4: Reading and posting about kinetics

Assignment 4: Start investigating kinect input and output

Reading assignment from Make It So

  • Chapter 2 Mechanical Controls
  • Chapter 5 Gesture
  • Chapter 9 anthorpomorphism
  • Chapter 10 communiation

Find some examples of kinetic interaction — not reaction — and post to looking out

Email me with how you feel about crits on Ttu if you can use A10 on Tue