Roommates unite!

The PicturePal project was the final project of my class on Interface and Interaction Design at Carnegie Mellon University. We (Sushmita Subramanian, Daniel Weiss and I) invented an intelligent picture frame that captures interesting events around the house.

Design Exploration

Our assignment was to explore the idea of an intelligent agent helping the people living in a home. We chose to help roommates live together. We started our exploratory research using directed storytelling. We asked people for their horror-stories concerning roommates and living together. However, it seemed that people did not actually have any concrete troubles living together. Yes, there were issues sometimes, but people always found a way to deal with that. They were doing fine without any help, and they were actually very proud of that!

We therefore decided to explore the positive side of the design space. Our statement was to design something that makes you feel like you are a good roommate. We explored about 70 concepts in this space, and picked the best twelve or so for a validation session. We found that people valued spending time with their roommates, sharing memories together, and being connected to the home at all times. We used these values to iterate on one of the concepts, which resulted in PicturePal.

The Concept

PicturePal is a digital photo frame with a built-in camera. It can be mounted on a wall and take pictures around the room at regular intervals. This relieves you from having to bring your camera to every party and prevents being just to late to capture that crazy moment. The pictures can be shown in the frame itself, on a TV (in which case the frame serves as a remote), or on a cellphone (so you can always check what’s going on at your place).

The concept is tailored to roommates having lots of little ad-hoc parties, but the product would also work for new parents, nursing homes, or clubs and bars (each needing an importantly different marketing strategy). I submitted the project to TNO's "Not Invented Yet" contest and got second place in the first round.