This project was designed in collaboration with Eden Lew, Somin Heo and Sun Young Na. My team contributions included product ideation and form ideation; my solo contributions included development and execution of the functional prototype; storyboarding, directing and editing the final video.
What: A secret sharing smart locket
Who: Adolescent youth
Where: Products of Design class "Smart Objects", under the guidance of Ted Ulrich and Pepin Gelardi, both of Tomorrowlab
When: Products of Design, Semester 2
Why: To design a smart object that helps combat social anxiety in teenagers
How: Beginning with a brief to design a smart object to combat social anxiety, our team thoroughly researched social anxiety in the context of technology. We found that social anxiety typically sets in during the adolescent years, dramatically reducing quality of social life thereafter. Hoping to specifically combat the practice of telecocooning, archetypically exemplified by friends out to dinner, all on their phones and ignoring one another, our team set out to design a technological product whose use-case was inherently social. After ideating and prototyping clothing - a hoodie and a locket - that began to glow when the user/wearer did not use their cellphone and a desk that would glow when the user lifted their cellphone off the surface [intended for use in classrooms, to alert the teacher], our team decided to pursue a less intrusive and punitive design solution to social anxiety.
Alo is a smart locket that allows users to record and share secrets with up to three friends. The Alo locket splits into a Lock and Key portion, and the color of each locket is idiosyncratic to the user. Locks stay with the user and are directly attached to the necklace chain; Keys can be swapped between friends. By lifting the Alo locket to their mouth, users activate recording mode and the light of their locket begins to blink; by lowering the locket, they exit recording mode and save their secret.
By twisting their locket counter clockwise and back after recording, they can load the secret into their Key. They can share Keys containing secrets with a select group of 3 friends, each of whom must mutually register the secret sharer as a trusted friend in the Alo database.By making the circle of friends exclusive to three other users, the Alo social structure ensures that users build tight bonds with one another, and form lasting, trusting friendships within their social circles.
When users load a friend's secret onto their Lock, the color of the friend's Key combines with the color of their Lock as a visual representation of the trust that the friend is placing in them. When the user finally listens to the secret, the color of the locket "drains" back to the color of the original owner, and the secret is deleted from the device forever. Audio playback occurs from within the device itself; the locket's lack of large speakers forces users to listen to the secret in a quiet place, necessitating an aura of intimacy around the use of Alo.
If the user does not twist the locket after recording a secret, the secret is saved to their online cloud account and is deleted from the device. Alo users can access saved secrets via the Alo app and website, where they can also view a calendar that shows when they've saved secrets and shared them with friends. Users can also playback previously saved secrets using the app and website.
For the final class presentation, our group was asked to have a works-like and a looks-like model to present. The former was fashioned out of laser cut acrylic and demonstrated the light interactions, which were coded into an Arduino that regulated a circuit that manipulated Neopixels for the light effects. The latter was fashioned out of mahogany, laser cut acrylic and brass. Packaging was conceived of by Eden Lew. At the conclusion of the final class, the instructors noted that Alo was the class project that was closest to being ready to market.
The copper leads of each lasercut case function as switches to trigger the light interactions. Voltage is sent from the board to the lock, and passes through to the key and back to the board to trigger a programmatic counter. Based on the counter, the light color of the lock and key and the orientation of the lock and key, lights fade to dark, pulse, or combine into a completely different colors. The functional prototype could distinguish listening mode from recording mode based on the position and relative orientation of the lock and key. An acrylic lock mechanism prevents the two pieces from rotating too much relative to one another.