Company: HP Labs (2016)
Team: Alex Thayer, Hiroshi Horii, Jishang Wei, Jiwon Jun, Kevin Smathers.
My Role: Concept development, design & fabrication of early prototype, visual design, video production.
Innovation Journal | Co-authored |  The HP Immersive Experiences Lab Jetty story    

Jetty is a research project exploring an evocative device to bring dispersed family members together. Combining 3D print and IoT technologies, Jetty offers the potential to create an emotional connection between people over a distance. Jetty displays a 3D printed house of an absent family member and projects real-time weather imagery around it. When the person is home, the house glows to indicate their presence. With an elegantly simple design, Jetty aims to foster a feeling of connectedness between people, encouraging them to get in touch more often.

Building a healthy relationship is one of the essential conditions for happiness, and strong bonds with family members play a particularly significant role in our emotional stability. However, maintaining the quality and frequency of connection is challenging when family members live apart from one another. A variety of technologies exist that families could use to address this issue, such as phone call, instant messenger, and video chat. Those technologies provide people with means to communicate with each other, but do not necessarily support an emotional connection over distance.

The Project Jetty takes a different approach to the challenge by helping people feel connected without actually being connected. The device we propose does not offer a way to interact or communicate through its interface; instead, it aims to create a lightweight and seamless link between two parties based on the real time weather and presence information. The tangible representation of residence and immersive display of information give awareness to a viewer of the other person. People can communicate around their Jetty devices using their preferred means of getting in touch. The weather and presence information compels a user to consider how the other person is doing and also could function as a conversation starter in case of contact.

How Jetty evokes an emotional connection between dispersed family members
The idea of Jetty was developed from Design Thinking workshops our team was attending. While we had discussions, I brought up a question “How can we help people feel connected without being connected?” and another team member responded to it by making a ‘snowglobe’ like object with papers, imagined to show other family member’s house and weather around it. That idea was quickly turned into a tangible device through hands-on prototyping and experiments. 

Development of Prototype This is a low-fi prototype of the ‘snowglobe’ idea, I made with foam boards, plexiglass, and tablet referring to a classic optical illusion technique called  Pepper’s Ghost. The reflection of the tablet screen creates a hologram-like weather effect in the pyramid dome made of plexiglass. A light is installed in the house to represent the presence of the person at home. 

Going through several rounds of design iterations, the model was developed into a working prototype for a field study with families in the Bay Area. In order to provide a personalized experience for each participant, prototypes were customized with 3D-printed house models to represent the participants’ real residence and location. Also, IoT devices were integrated with the prototype to make the presence indicator function accurately during the study. Each Jetty device was connected to a smart home hub at each participant’s house; presence information of paired family members was drawn from the arrival sensors that they carried on their keychains.

Weather App & Motion Design
The Final version of the weather app (left: Partly Cloudy weather, right: claer night sky)
The weather application was designed to display temperature, weather conditions, and location information. Due to the Pepper’s Ghost set up using a plexiglass, it creates a holographic effect around the 3D-printed house model. The app doesn’t offer any interface or controller, but allows users to see what’s happening around the person remotely connected to it. 

Motion graphic designs describing different weather conditions in day and night modes

User Study
In the field study with 10 families in the Bay Area, all participants reported that Jetty led them to feel closer to each other after living with it for a full week. The participants consisted of older parents and their adult children (5 pairs in total), all of whom were living apart from one another. One of the young adult participants said that “I felt very connected and safe when I saw her light on,” and one aging user noted that Jetty kept her “mind organized” by helping her coordinate picking up her grandchildren for babysitting. Also, the participants commonly stated that Jetty prompted them to have more conversations via phone call and text with each other than before. Throughout the study, we confirmed that Jetty successfully achieved our design intent: to enhance an emotional connection between family members in addition to providing useful supports for their mental well-being. 

Video Production
In order to introduce the project externally, I produced this video (Music by Eric Faggin.) It has been featured on HP’s official Youtube account.

The prototype was showcased at Customer Welcome Center at HP’s headquarter office in Palo Alto.