Project Proposal: An assistant for a healthy mind

Title: An assistant to promote a healthy mind.

Existing home assistants improve interaction in the home by using speech recognition and intelligent natural language processing. However, they lack the emotional intelligence needed to listen, motivate and support the user and provide support towards a healthy mind. My project proposes the use of a custom google assistant through AIY voice kit to detect emotion, provide social support and generate empathy in the user.

Proposed plan

  • Build custom Google home
  • Provide an avatar to assistant through the hologram
  • Build custom intents to listen to music, contact social circles actively and passively.
  • Detect emotion from voice or NLP
  • Detect user and location (optional)
  • A private dashboard for others to monitor the mental health of the user. (optional)


  • Old phone/display for assistant
  • Laser-cut transparent plastic
  • AIY Voice kit
  • Hardware neopixels to display assistant mood. (optional)


  • Half a table.


Slideshow on a laptop


Title: Smart Desk

An interactive experience for office workers.


The goal of this project is to add interactive functionality to an adjustable standing desk. Countless times my workflow gets interrupted by my environment, whether it be the room being too dark or too stuffy. I use my room as a home office, and it is important that my housemates and friends know when I am on an important call and cannot be interrupted. In the age of social media and technology, it is also increasingly difficult for people to focus on the task at hand without getting side tracked by notifications.

I am going to resolve this with interaction design by building solutions for these individual issues and integrating it into a seamless working experience for the user. It will detect when the user approaches the desk and begins to work and activate the other functions. There will be a light system that automatically turns on when the room starts to get too dark to do work. There will be a simple visual system placed directly outside the room to determine if the user can be interrupted or not. There will be a fan that turns on if the room temperature surpasses a certain number. There will be a task organization system to help increase productivity. It will use RFID cards and a timer to alert the user when they have been working on a task too long. There will also be an alert system for when users need to get up and take a break.

A success would be creating a visually appealing and functional desk that could be used as a polished product prototype. I assume that some of these planned functions may change or be altered according to my research on best practices for productivity. Ideally, the desk would not require a computer to be connected to the system and they would all run on their own battery powered arduinos.



  1. Find sensor materials needed (proximity sensor, switches, photoresistor, RFID reader and cards, adafruit LEDs, arduino(s), potentially a LED display for timer functionality)
  2. Make the proximity sensor accurate enough to distinguish between someone walking by versus someone sitting/standing at the station to work
  3. Create the light system for the desk itself
  4. Create the out-of-room light alert system for housemates
  5. Build the fan functionality
  6. Build the RFID productivity organizer
  7. Build the “stand up and take a break” alert system


Sensor materials listed above and a pre-built standing desk.


I’ll need space for the standing desk.


I’d like to have a video showing all the functionality of the desk. It may be impossible for me to physically alter the entire room to be so hot the fan turns on etc…


Final Proposals

We’ll review these next Tuesday.

Here’s a suggested format, I’ll use my cello project as an example.  Include images, sketches, circuits, or “I’m not sure what to do about this bit?” footnotes.

Title: An Interactive Cello Partner

Summary (if needed): An Arduino Responds to a Cellist’s Performance with Dynamically Generated Music

Descriptive paragraph

Describe the goal of your project in a paragraph or two.  Include your purpose (“why does it exist”), how you’ll resolve this with interaction design (“how it works”), and what you consider success.


How are you going to complete this project?  It can be an outline.

  1. find accelerometer
  2. make glove mount
  3. attach to Arduino, test software
  4. use glove to perform cello music and see if this actually possible
  5. repeat as needed
  6. manufacturing: how will I make the final version for the show that will survive hours of performance?

Materials Needed

Looking at everything you’ve written so far, what parts do you need?  How much time do you need on laser cutters or 3d printers?  Do you need to order parts?   If you’re using parts from A10, do you already have working parts?  The final few weeks of class students tend to horde things they don’t need — I found a 30m spool of NeoPixels in someone’s storage container.  One of my phys comp students had their parts “borrowed” 2 weeks before the final show.

Deliverables for Show

It’s the day of the show, what do you need?  How much space?  Power?  Place for your laptop?  Speakers?  Projector?

For my cello project I’d need a chair, a music stand, space for a synthesizer, speakers, power for the speakers and synt.

MEDIA for Show

What do you need to document your  project at the show?  Space for a poster?  Fliers?

I would have a poster behind me so people could read about why/what/how my cello/synth works.



Course Notes, 5 Apr 2018

The assignment is here.  If you have anything to contribute for final projects please post them in the “Looking Out” category.


The Chair: Rethinking Body, Culture, and Design, by Galen Cranz

Nomadic Furniture: D-I-Y Projects that are Lightweight and Light on the Environment , by Papanek and Hennesey


Adafruit guide.

Sparkfun guide.



Crowd-supported choose-your-own-story




It’s a legitimate story, because I wasn’t sure how we were supposed to do these:


It was 00:07. That’s when I usually go for my run, because I don’t really like it when all of my neighbors can watch me try to exercise. That, and I never run into anyone cars or anything, which is always a bonus. I heard a huge screech at exactly 00:07.23, and I turned around really sharply, like how my karate instructor taught me. That’s when I saw you. You saw me, and you started laughing maniacally before sprinting past me. Your were all sweaty and your hair was a stringy mess, and I remember asking myself what you were doing, and then asking you. “Hey, you, what are  you doing?” You looked harmless enough, but just in case, I took my fighting stance, one fist to guard, one ready to punch, knees apart. You pulled your earbuds out. “I’m running with Marie Antoinette.” Your voice sounded sweet. But then you put your earbuds back in and started screaming again. At 00:09 I lost sight of you. You had just ducked into the bushes off of the Main Street, nervously looking back over your shoulder a few times before doing that.


You don’t have to explain yourself. I saw your watch-gadget. My friend Marc has one of them, he says it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him, which is saying something. He definitely put on some more muscle since he got it, he says it’s better than playing a video game. He’s totally obsessed. He tried to suck me in, too, he thinks I’d be a natural, because I like history and stuff. I don’t know, the whole ghost thing sort of freaks me out. I’d rather just learn history from books. And I don’t really want the ghost of Benjamin Franklin telling me I need to be going at a faster pace. Plus, I don’t know, I feel like you’d get less checkpoints in the country. There are more creepy things, but they’re sort of spread out, you know? It would be good for sprinters, but not for people who actually want to run long distance. If you’re in the city, and you just walk by a skyscraper you could get, like, five different ghosts right there. They’d all be some plain old minor building celebrity or whatever, not very interesting, but at least it’d be something. And they’d just talk to you instead of chasing you. City folk are lazier than you might think. Marc was saying he wanted to add one. Apparently there was this guy, Keith, who lived in his building who loved birds, like 50 years ago. Local legend says he would squawk at the other residents in the halls, and I think Marc thinks it would be a funny joke for other runners. Like, if they run past his building, they run into Keith who squawks at them if they’re not running fast enough. But he’s too lazy to actually go ahead and get all the community votes to add him in.


You stopped right in front of my house and screamed before running diagonally across the road, really fast. I think you said something like “I’ve got to escape the Leatherman ghost.” I almost called the police, when I saw you suddenly stop and look at your wrist. It looked like you were dialing a watch, which sounds a little weird but I don’t think much could’ve been weirder than that screaming bit you just did I saw. You kind of stopped making noise after you’d played around on your wrist. Anyways, you seemed to enjoy it, because you smiled before leaving my neighbor’s yard, like you were content about something. And you were talking to yourself in low tones. I don’t know, I felt kind of bad. I figured so what if you’re a little crazy, no reason to put you in jail or anything. I don’t know, I haven’t seen many crazy people in my life, maybe you weren’t actually crazy. Everyone has weird days, right? And some people do believe in ghosts. I don’t know, they’re pretty scary, I’d scream if I thought one was following me.

Story – Music Box

I listen to a lot of musicals, and that is my background music when I work. Listen to the same thing over and over again is nice to some extent, however, stories might be told differently from different character’s perspective. What if the version of the story is from Elisa Schulyer instead of Alexander Hamilton? What if Cosette is the major character? Not that the music need to change (for a new show, probably).

It would be really interesting to make a interactive music box that have the same song but tells the same story from a different sequence based on the main character that you can choose. It should be mobile, with a rechargable battery, like a real music box (it would be a interesting gift). It doesn’t have to be just musical, it can get connected to wifi and search for certain artist that you wanna listen to. All you need to do is to put a figurine on top and click the play button.

What would be the advantage of having a music box than just use your phone or your computer? Well, say that you are using some music software like spotify. When you want to change a song, you have to go to that interface and click the music you want to listen to. Opening up another page could be really distracting, spotify might also recommend you this and that which doesn’t help. Having a physical interaction can potentially make you less distracted cause there is no “recommend based on history” at least.



Patch UI – Story

The year, is now. The default interface is screen. But let’s disrupt that. Patches have made a resurgence in fashion, from iconic branding elements to pineapples and pizzas, patches provide great flexibility in the statement you want to make. Using safety pins, conductive ink/fabric, and fabric, Patch UIs allow users to interact with others by interacting with the patches on their cloths.

Each patch can be reprogrammed or updated through the web portal, this is the only screen time you’ll need. Different patterns and levels of complexity are available. Different modes offer different options. You can use the patch as human to human interaction or human to computer interaction. Perhaps you want to send a gentle notification, or get someone’s attention at a loud event, or send emojis to a friend without even touching a screen? Record music or create an animations based on the patterns of touch.

Smart desk

Computers and technology are an integral part of most people’s everyday lives. Individuals push themselves to have maximum productivity every day. In many cases, this drive to work has caused many people to disregard their own health and self-care. A pattern I’ve noticed in the tech industry is workers changing their work station set-up to be more ergonomic. Standing desks and unconventional desks are increasingly popular. Yet, it seems these changes help workers spend even more time in front of the screen. My vision is to create a work station that not only helps increase productivity, but also reminds the user to be human. From the minute the user approaches the desk, they will have a intuitive and seamless work session experience. Using light, timers, motors, and various sensors, the user will be able to organize their tasks while remembering to follow best practices for physical health. Many of us get in a “zone” while we work, which causes us to focus for hours on end without moving an inch. This desk will remind users to walk around and take a break on timed intervals. It will monitor the environment to ensure users are comfortable. It will have small “helpers” that will make working feel less tedious so users can really focus on their work. The desk will also try to accommodate people with vision and hearing problems by implementing different methods of user alert systems.

Project Storytelling – Immersive Contextual Table for a Living Room

The living room tables have rich stories behind it – conversation with family, studying for a homework, eating dinner, kids playing with LEGO, and so on. What if these tables in a living room could provide us interactive and engaging contents such as weather forecasting and entertainment for kids? What would it be like to feel realistic vibrations and temperature changes about digital information from these tables? This project allows the user to engage with the AR information and artifacts that are coupled to a physical desk through a haptic interface that consists of an array of small vibrators and a heat pad. The goal is to design text-less and immersive AR interaction techniques that enrich everyday living room table experience.

The first stage of experience is the selection of a content. This experience uniquely occurs on a living room table, so it triggers when the table is recognized through a mobile device. There are 2 categories of content – a weather forecasting and an interactive animation for kids. In weather forecasting mode, imagine the animated 3D sun and cloud appearing on the table and the user feels the vibration of rain or the warmness through the haptic device. This allows text-less and intuitive form of transmitting information. The second scenario is an interactive animation for kids which the user can interact with a simulated dinosaur or a character on the table and being able to interact with it. As the user approaches the device closer to the character, it makes larger vibrations of a walking dinosaur, and when it is very close, the character starts acting toward the device. This would be a perfect interaction to play Pokemon on a table.