Hybrid Gifts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Computer Science

Abstract

The exchange of gifts has a long tradition and has been widely recognised as socially important, building bonds and promoting wellbeing. It also brings economic benefits to manufacturers and retailers by driving the sales of products, with the global gifting market predicted to exceed £30 billion by 2021. Digital gifting, giving media (such as music, video, images, games and subscription accounts) as a gift in a digital format online is still in its infancy, but is a rapidly growing sector of the market. Digital gifts, however, fail to be appreciated as gifts as much as their physical counterparts by their recipients, and as such are easily forgotten, and rarely reflected on or reciprocated.

Companies are embracing opportunities to provide additional value to tangible products through supporting services, in particular by connecting physical goods to digital services to support customisation or personalisation. For example, physical products are enhanced by augmented reality content overlaid onto them when they are scanned using mobile phones. Researchers have explored how the value of these products has been enhanced through the digital, for example giving second hand goods or musical instruments the ability to tell stories about their past usage.

In this project, rather than treating physical and digital gifting separately, we will explore how these new kinds of hybrid products can flexibly support powerful and engaging new gifting experiences. To achieve this, we will engage in two phases of work. Firstly, we will explore different mechanism for combining the physical and digital into hybrid artefacts, and chart the opportunities for customisation to create meaningful personalised gifts. This spans immersive augmented reality applications to run on a mobile phone to Internet-of-Things technologies embedded in new physical objects. By working 'in the wild' with real users, we will refine our designs to derive principles and guidelines to understand how the physical and digital facets of a thing can be combined and customised to add value to one another. Secondly, we will explore how to facilitate the creation and sharing of hybrid gifts with various stakeholders over their lifetime. To do this we will scaffold: producers to make hybrid artefacts; retailers to initially configure them; givers to make and personalise these as gifts for others, give them and follow them afterwards; and for their recipients to unwrap them, enjoy them, reciprocate and ultimately pull them from obsolescence by re-gifting, recycling or repurposing.

This project brings together expertise in Human Computer Interaction and Pervasive Computing from researchers at Nottingham's Mixed Reality Laboratory with design researchers at the Loughborough Design School. Our work aims to create opportunities for UK companies to innovate new products and services in the global marketplace. Through collaboration with our industrial partners we will explore how a range of different types of product might become hybrid gifts: fast-moving-consumer-goods such as bath product gift sets that could be coupled to a music track to create a multisensory experience; hand-crafted high-value artisan products such as jewellery that are enriched with stories about how a piece was made, reflections on why it was chosen by the giver and images of it in use by the receiver; and luxury food gifts such as chocolate that include information about the ingredients but also a personal message from the giver to create an enhanced unwrapping experience. We will create, give, enable, sell and study these new products to understand their use and value, and generate a gifting toolkit to support this process for use by the community.

Planned Impact

We envisage impact on various markets for future hybrid gift products that could apply our techniques to deliver added value products and experiences to consumers. We will engage in discussions (co-design sessions) with our partner Unilever to explore how fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) (from different brands owned by Unilever) could be coupled with digital layers to create personalized gifts. We will also seek to impact on the hand crafted and artisan product sector (represented by our partners Debbie Bryan and Studio Chocolate), which is typified by SMEs and micro-companies. As well as engaging in co-design sessions with these partners, we will grow a community of early adopters of our app and tools, supporting them with advice and a community website that showcases examples of prototype products to illustrate what can be achieved with our techniques. We will drive the formation of this community by a social media campaign as well as by attendance at key events such as London Design Week and, where possible, by providing ongoing support for any creative who whishes to deliver exemplar projects.

We also foresee long-term impact on companies, who are developing IoT and AR technologies, by opening up a novel application domain. We will deliver this impact through (i) demonstrating various ways in which associating physical products with digital layers can enhance their value (including supporting claims to provenance; extending utility through embedded instructions and guidelines that can be accessed in context; and enriching personal meaning by associating products with personal memories and stories) and (ii) establishing a general framework (with a reference implementation) to help design how products are mapped to digital layers and how such mappings evolve and are managed as these products pass among different stakeholders, from their original manufacturers, through retailers, to gift givers and receivers.

We will engage the wider public as potential consumers through direct engagement with prototype hybrid gift products. Initially these will be available through workshops at our partner venues (Debbie Bryan and Studio Chocolate), but in later stages of the project they will become directly available as products that can be purchased and taken away by consumers.

Finally, we will engage all partners and other potential commercial beneficiaries in an impact workshop to explore future routes to impact beyond the lifetime of the project.

Publications

10 25 50
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Koleva B (2020) Designing Hybrid Gifts in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction

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Kwon H (2022) Ritual of Everyday Digital Life: Towards Human-Centred Smart Living in Archives of Design Research

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Kwon H (2022) Exploring Digital Gifting Rituals in Archives of Design Research

 
Title Hybrid Chocolate Gift 
Description A hybrid gift consisting of a digital augmentation of one of Studio Chocolate chocolate boxes that may be purchased as a gift. We have developed a Hybrid Gift Maker, through which customers can quickly add photos, audio, video, and internet content to their present. The person receiving the hybrid chocolate gift finds a card within the parcel, and they just need a smartphone to scan the unique QR code to take them straight to their digital gift. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Purchased by over 50 customers 
URL https://www.studio-chocolate.co.uk/product-page/hybrid-chocolate-gift
 
Description An 'in the wild' study of a hybrid chocolate gift deployed as a commercial product reveals the experiences of receivers and givers, as well as the producer's friction points and tangible benefits. The findings reveal how in hybrid gifts the digital elevates the physical while the physical grounds the digital. Further, we show how the combination of physical and digital bridges the tension between receiver-preference and relationship-signalling motivations. We also highlight the need to further strengthen the exchange and reveal stages of hybrid gifting, especially for remote pairs, and to manage the privacy of sensitive personal messages.

Our findings also highlight three further concepts: hybrid wrapping where physical gifts become wrapped in digital media and vice versa; the importance of effortful interactions that are visible and pleasurable; and the need to consider social obligation, including opportunities for acknowledgement and reciprocation, dealing with embarrassment, and recognising the distinction between giving and sharing. We distil our findings into the following key considerations -
1. Combine physical and digital gift items and wrapping materials to create hybrid gift experiences that are both experiential and memorable and that can be delivered face to face but potentially also via online services.
2. Consider gifting experiences to be trajectories that pass through the five stages of preparation, exchange, reveal, use and reflection and then design these trajectories to make temporary associations between gift items and their wrappings, paying particular attention to the two key moments of wrapping and unwrapping.
3. Consider how the wrappings may leave a residue and how this may provide opportunities to support reflection and acknowledgement, or might be reused in future gift exchanges.
4. Enable people to visibly expend effort in both the giving and receiving of gifts and strive to ensure that this is pleasurable, including inthe giving of hybrid gifts.
5. Consider the possibilities of reciprocal gifting structures, but also recognize that reciprocation is not the same as acknowledgement and that not all gifts need be reciprocated with the same kind of gift, or indeed at all.
6. Consider how to enhance co-presence when givers and receivers are remote from each other, but also anticipate and mitigate the consequent risk of social awkwardness by maintaining space for face saving.
7. Provide opportunities to engage friends, family and others as spectators, but remember that giving is not the same as sharing and bear in mind that wrappings as well as gift items might be saved and shared.
Exploitation Route Our work has implications for both practitioners - those who wish to deliver new gifting experiences - and academic researchers - both within HCI and beyond. Our findings might be applied to a wide variety of types of gift, from traditional physical goods that can be digitally wrapped to enhance their social connectivity; to new kinds of digital goods that can be physically wrapped, so as to enhance the experiential value of the gift exchange; to gift items that are themselves experiences such as museum visits. We anticipate that these could enhance a variety of everyday gifting practices such as gifting an iTunes gift card, a music playlist or buying a gift on Amazon, but might also inspire new kinds of gifting experience that combine the physical and digital in deeper ways.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description So far, findings have been used to develop a Hybrid Chocolate Gift with our parter Studio Chocolate. This was released to customers for Christmas 2020, allowing them to personalise their chocolate gifts by augmenting them with digital media (photos, audio, video, and internet content). Over 50 hybrid chocolate boxes were purchased. Our collaboration with Nottingham Castle led to the release of the Christmas Countdown Clock. The clock existed in two forms: online, where content is automatically updated every day, and in the real world, where images from the day's content were projected on the Gatehouse between 4 and 8pm. This enabled us to explore the concept of "hybrid gifting" from organisations to consumers/customers, namely how arts venues such as Nottingham Castle can create something special both in the physical and digital realm for visitors to enjoy. The Nottingham city public engaged with the Countdown clock with 886 impressions (views) recorded.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Nottingham Castle countdown clock 
Organisation Nottingham Castle, Museum & Art Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have been working with Nottingham Castle while they have been closed for major structural repairs, a complete redesign of the interior, and building new outdoor areas. We explored a number of options, of which they opted for an online Countdown Clock showing a new piece of content every day for 28 days until their opening in Spring 2021. Due to covid-19 this was pushed back to instead countdown to Christmas 2021 (1-24 December). A postcard advertising the countdown clock and leading to bonus content linked though an Artcode was distributed to households within 1.5 miles of the castle. People who viewed all of the pieces of content were entered into a prize draw. A still image or snippet of each day's digital content was also projected onto the Castle gatehouse as part of a larger interactive display. We have developed the website for the countdown clock and collaboratively designed the postcard. Through an online survey and interviews we are studying how people perceive the museum's offer and business-to-consumer gifting.
Collaborator Contribution Co-designing the Countdown clock functionality and hosting it on the Nottingham Castle's website, selecting and creating content for each day of the countdown clock.
Impact Nottingham Castle Countdown Clock
Start Year 2020
 
Description Studio Chocolate 
Organisation Studio Chocolate Nottingham Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaboratively designing a hybrid gift consisting of a digital augmentation of one of Studio Chocolate chocolate boxes that may be purchased as a gift. We have developed a Hybrid Gift Maker, through which customers can quickly add photos, audio, video, and internet content to their present. The person receiving the hybrid chocolate gift finds a card within the parcel, and they just need a smartphone to scan the unique QR code that to take them straight to their digital gift. Through an interview study with customers who purchased the Hybrid gift chocolate box, we have been able to explore how we can customize and combine physical things with digital content to create an enhanced personalized gift.
Collaborator Contribution Studio Chocolate owner and staff have participated in workshops to design the Hybrid Chocolate Gift and have integrated it in their workflow, making it available to customers to purchase and delivering it. They have also advertised the products and contacted customers inviting them to participate in our interview study.
Impact Chocolate Hybrid Gift product
Start Year 2020
 
Title Hybrid Gift Maker 
Description Allows customers to create the digital part of their gift by quickly adding photos, audio, video, and internet content to their present. The person receiving the chocolates gift finds a card within the parcel, and they just need a smartphone to scan the unique QR code to take them straight to their digital gift. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Underpins the Hybrid Chocolate Gift sold by Studio Chocolate 
URL https://hybridgifting.com/
 
Title Nottingham Castle Countdown Clock web app 
Description An online Countdown Clock showing a new piece of content for the 24 days of advent for Christmas 2021 (and celebrating the reopening of Nottingham Castle). A postcard advertising the countdown clock linked to bonus content on the website when an artcode on it was scanned (this was distributed to households within 1.5 miles of the castle). People who view all of the pieces of content were entered into a prize draw. An image or snippet of each day's digital content was also projected onto the Castle gatehouse as part of a larger interactive display. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Engagement with the Nottingham city public with 886 Impressions (views) of the Countdown clock. 22 registrations and 15 interviews at the Gatehouse. 
URL https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk/christmascountdown/
 
Description BBC East Midlands Facebook post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Facebook post by BBC East Midlands about the Nottingham Castle Countdown Clock encouraging participation by members of the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=444598423854754
 
Description Countdown Clock Nottingham Castle Facebook Post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nottingham Castle Facebook post about the launch of the Countdown Clock encouraging participation from the public. The aim of the project is to explore the concept of "hybrid gifting", namely how arts venues such as Nottingham Castle can create something special both in the physical and digital realm for visitors to enjoy. The clock existed in two forms: online, where content automatically updated every day, and in the real world, where images from the day's content were projected on the Gatehouse between 4 and 8pm.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=610873213458770
 
Description Countdown Clock Nottingham Castle Twitter feed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nottingham Castle Twitter feed about the launch of the Countdown Clock encouraging participation from the public. The aim of the project is to explore the concept of "hybrid gifting", namely how arts venues such as Nottingham Castle can create something special both in the physical and digital realm for visitors to enjoy. The clock existed in two forms: online, where content automatically updated every day, and in the real world, where images from the day's content were projected on the Gatehouse between 4 and 8pm.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://twitter.com/NottmCastle/status/1466434676856348679
 
Description Countdown Clock blog post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post about the launch of the Countdown Clock encouraging participation from the public and students. The aim of the project is to explore the concept of "hybrid gifting", namely how arts venues such as Nottingham Castle can create something special both in the physical and digital realm for visitors to enjoy. The clock existed in two forms: online, where content automatically updated every day, and in the real world, where images from the day's content were projected on the Gatehouse between 4 and 8pm.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.horizon.ac.uk/hybrid-gifting-join-the-christmas-countdown-clock/
 
Description Hybrid Chocolate Gift blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog about the hybrid chocolate gift, developed as a collaboration with Studio Chocolate, advertising the products and research to the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.horizon.ac.uk/hybrid-chocolate-gift/
 
Description Keynote at 7th International Visual Informatics Conference 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote on "Combining digital layers and physical materials to create personalised gifting experiences" to the Visual Informatics international community sparking interest in this new topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ivic2021.uniten.edu.my/Prof_Boriana_keynote.html
 
Description press release on hybrid chocolate gift 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article published by University of Nottingham to publicise and advertise the Hybrid Chocolate Gift in the run up to Valentines Day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/digital-ingredient-gives-valentines-chocolates-personal-flavour