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T4UMATA

Solo | Spring 2019, Royal College of Art & Imperial College

While the smart home is pitched for convenience, there is a larger imperative at play by technology companies to use these devices as new nodes for behavioral data collection. This data is used to give us increasingly accurate targeted advertisements, influencing our consumptive behavior, which affects how we interact with the world around us. It is, in a sense, a method of reducing our autonomy. As we enter the age of the smart home, we must examine and question the connected devices that are entering our spaces and the priorities by which they are designed and engineered.

T4UMATA is an alternate vision for the design & engineering of the the smart home. The vision is guided by principles that place the individual first - isolated computing*, simplicity over complexity*, and individualised understanding*. T4UMATA is made up of two automata & an operator. The automata actuate buttons and knobs found on everyday objects of the home. The operator allows users to control each automata via a customisable gesture and/or voice command. All without the internet.

Together, the automata & the operator allow people to augment their routines in novel, customisable ways that places the individual in rightful control of their home.

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The project began with an interest in the expansion of computing from beyond our handheld devices into everyday objects around us. Part of this is the introduction of the smart home, where we have connected devices coming from major technology companies entering our private space. I focused on the dichotomy between the privacy record of these technology companies and the home, a space we traditionally control and see as private from the outside world.

Two key insights were gained from my smart speaker survey:

  1. Overcomplexity - smart speakers are complex devices that are used for only a few simple actions.

  2. People don’t feel in control over their smart speakers.

Storyboarding routines revealed:

  1. People use simple objects in order to complete routines.

  2. Tasks such as pushing, pulling, and twisting are common in routines.

I became interested in the question:

What if people had programmable actuators that did simple actions such as pushing and twisting in order to augment their routines?

Prototype Creation

Prototype Creation

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I found open-source software for both hot-word and gesture recognition that could be run on the Raspberry Pi.

I found open-source software for both hot-word and gesture recognition that could be run on the Raspberry Pi.

Exhibition display at the Royal College of Art Degree Show, 2019.

Exhibition display at the Royal College of Art Degree Show, 2019.