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Designing Smart Home Technology

When families live in the same home, they feel a sense of connection through the subtle, passive aspects of family life. Over distance, these passive aspects are hard to experience as most communication technologies support sharing conversations or activities. Through a research-through-design methodology, we explored the design of smart home technologies for passive co-presence over distance. Based on our design explorations, we arrived at an interaction space which includes the dimensions of Activity, Solitude, Synchronicity, and Spontaneity.  Our research-through-design process additionally resulted in the design of two smart home systems. The There Chair employs the senses of touch and sight to passively display when a remote family member is sitting at the dining room table. The Fragrance Frame is a paired picture frame that detects when a remote family member is passing by their frame, and emits a scent reminiscent of togetherness. We reflect on our design decisions and propose considerations for future design.

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