SCADs: Social Connection Awareness Devices to Reduce Isolation during Social Distancing

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths University of London

Abstract

This project's impact will be to benefit wellbeing and advice adherence during social distancing by supporting remote social relationships with lightweight communications devices. Teleconferencing systems such as Zoom or Teams relieve social isolation, but demand focused attention and largely fail to recreate the peripheral awareness supporting ongoing social connection in co-present situations. In this R&D project we will develop a series of dedicated Social Connection Awareness Devices (SCADs) that complement teleconferencing by offering undemanding, non-verbal communication to increase awareness of and feelings of social and emotional connection with remote friends and family. To allow immediate and widespread impact, SCADs will be circulated as self-build ICT products: electronic devices that people make at home using off-the-shelf electronic components, software downloaded from our website, and housings made from everyday materials. Highly accessible, illustrated instructions pitched to a similar skill level as online food recipes will guide their construction, and an online forum will support a community to grow around them. This strategy has already supported 1000s of people to build our designs in recent projects. We will release a series of monthly designs starting soon after the project starts; rapid development will be facilitated by developing shared hard- and software infrastructures. Each new design will be improved based on the large-n qualitative research made possible by previous ones into how different features of lightweight communication devices support social and emotional connections. SCADs will thus enhance the knowledge base in HCI and make timely impact with this relatively underdeveloped form of telecommunications.
 
Description Yo-Yo Machines (as we have renamed the SCADs) are simple communication devices that people can build themselves by following online instructions to assemble off-the-shelf electronic components, download software, and construct casings from household materials. They build on 30 years of research on peripheral and emotional awareness devices and are innovative both in their designs and in particular in their accessibility for wide-spread making and use. Over the 6-month project we have released 9 designs in 4 basic categories; in each case devices are meant to be paired so messages can be sent between them. Light Touch allows pairs of connected users to share coloured lights over a distance. Flutter By uses PIR sensors to sense local movement and trigger activity on the paired device. Speed Dial allows users to move a pointer on paired devices to indicate the selection of one of several user-defined messages. Knock Knock uses a piezo microphone on the local device to sense sounds made by knocking on the case, and then recreates the pattern on the paired, remote device using a solenoid. Extensive making instructions have been published on our website yoyomachines.io and to date we estimate that about 100 - 200 people have made the devices in their homes, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that the devices are effective in supporting people to feel socially connected despite the physical separation mandated by COVID19. Findings are various and include: • expressive, realtime communication can be created using an inexpensive microprocessor and electronics; • nonexperienced makers can be supported to build these moderately sophisticated devices with appropriately designed instruction materials and a design that optimises ease of making and of software installation; • simple, expressive communication devices can positively impact peoples' feelings of connection at a distance. One of the findings that is less welcome is that publicity is key to convincing people to make self-build products: despite significant coverage in the Design trade press, the project has not been picked up by mainstream media, limiting the number of people who have encountered and decided to make the Yo-Yo Machines so far.
Exploitation Route The project advances research on simple peripheral and emotional communication devices both by introducing new designs and by setting the stage for long-term, in the wild studies of their use. Significantly, the designs we have released vary on dimensions such as their media (visual, auditory, movement, symbolic), how pervasive their messages are, how purposeful their use is, and the persistence of messages, and as we gather data about their use we will gain a better understanding of the impact of these dimensions on feelings of presence and connection. In addition, the project provides further evidence about the use of self-build research products as a methodology for wide-spread circulation of research outputs, both for large-scale study and as an impact for mechanism. We expect other researchers to build on both these strands and plan to do so ourselves in follow-up projects.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

URL http://yoyomachines.io
 
Description |||||2023 update: Most significantly in the last year, Yo-Yo Machines featured at the Saint-Étienne Biennale Internationale Design, an exhibition attended by some 74,200 visitors. This resulted in renewed interest in the project including requests for information. Studio members also gave a number of international presentations of the project to students, academics and commercial practitioners, leading to further requests for information and, presumably, engagement in the form of building the devices. ||||| 2022 update: Since the Yo-Yo Machines were released, features appeared about the project in a number of design-oriented publications and websites, including Disegno (disegnojournal.com), Wallpaper (wallpaper.com), Icon (iconeye.com), Design Exchange (demagazine.co.uk) and Design Week (designweek.co.uk). Independent makers continue to make the Yo-Yo Machines and online retailer Pimoroni sells Yo-Yo Machines kits since June 2021. As of December 2021, we recorded over 275 active users of the Yo-Yo Machines. ||||| Original entry We have anecdotal evidence of a moderate number (~100) inexperienced makers who have built and used the Yo-Yo Machines (as we call the outputs of the project). The project has impacted these members of the general public by engaging them with digital making and both they and the people they use the devices with will be impacted by the new forms of social connection the devices afford. We expect these impacts to grow and be better evidenced as more people build the devices. The project has also had impact culturally and in the design community as it has been disseminated in the design press and exhibitions.
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Title Yo-Yo Machines software 
Description The Yo-Yo Machines technical architecture is comprised of three elements: device firmware and hardware for controlling simple inputs and outputs, a real-time API for passing messages between users, and a firmware uploader for flashing code to devices. The device hardware is based on the ESP32 microcontroller, a widely accessible, low-cost Wi-Fi enabled board that can read inputs and control outputs. Firmware on the device enables it to create a WiFi hotspot and serve a captive portal website to enable users to input their network credentials and pair devices together. Once the device is given credentials, it will join a home network and register with the server. Triggering the device with a button or a sensor input will send a message to the server, which will relay it across the internet to a paired device. In the case of Light Touch for example, a selected colour will be sent to a remote paired device. The server is programmed in node.js, an asynchronous language used for making dynamic backends based on JavaScript. The server can open WebSocket connections with devices, maintaining an open line to receive events. If a message is sent to the server from a device, the server will forward it on to the right recipient if they happen to be online. It can also warn the sender if the message was not delivered. The firmware uploader enables users to download firmware from our code repository and write it onto the ESP32 boards without the need of installing Arduino or any complex toolchains. Users can choose between different Yo-Yo Machines projects, with the uploader always fetching the latest version of the firmware. This allowed us to deploy code quickly whilst enabling people to build their devices at home easily. Additionally, the uploader also allows users to "debug" their boards, printing out information about what the ESP32 board is doing at a particular time. The software is split over a few repositories on our studio account https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/ https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/ESP32-SOCKETIO Light Touch https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/YoYo-knock Knock Knock https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/YOYO-PIR Flutter By https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/YoYo-2 Speed Dial https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/esptool-python-gui Firmware Uploader https://github.com/interactionresearchstudio/socket-server Server 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2021 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The Yo-Yo Machine enabled the creation of the four Yo-Yo Machines (Light Touch, Speed Dial, Knock Knock and Flutter By) and thus the impact they have created. This includes impact on nonexperienced makers including engagement with digital making and on them and the people they used the devices with including increased social connection at a distance. The software may also make an impact as an example of best practice for software development for self-build products. 
URL http://yoyomachines.io
 
Description Article in Disegno The Quarterly Journal of Design #28 Spring 2021: Observation: Yo-Yo Machines: Long-distance communication, charmingly simplified 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were develooped to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article in Disegno helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.disegnodaily.com/article/disegno-28
 
Description Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle: Student Project inspired by Yo-Yo machines 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Students from Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle used the Yo-Yo Machines as inspiration to make their own versions of the devices to explore physical computing and hardware.
"In teams of two, they developed small (or sometimes large) devices/objects/machines that two physically separated people could use to send small signals or messages to signal presence, convey mood, or communicate in some other way."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.burg-halle.de/design/industriedesign/industriedesign/studienarbeiten/project/yo-yo-machi...
 
Description Creativity in Design Guest Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dean Brown & Mike Vanis introduced the students and staff of City University to Yo-Yo Machines, with a presentation and lively discussion about the project. The Q&A session at the end of the talk included requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description DIY Design article in Slovenian magazine HISE 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An article about DIY design in Slovenian magazine HISE talked about the trend in design that actively involves the user in the process and the final product, and highlighted projects that do this, especially during the pandemic. Yo-Yo machines were included and the article highlights their playful way of communicating and uniting people, and the DIY nature of their construction, which allows the makers to enjoy great creative freedom.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Department of Informatics, University of Oslo lecture: Yo Yo Machines: 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This lecture helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Design Exchange Article: YO-YO Machines: New DIY Electronic Devices From Goldsmiths 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article in Design Exchange helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.demagazine.co.uk/2021/02/24/yo-yo-machines-new-diy-electronic-devices-from-goldsmiths/
 
Description Design Research Seminar Series (IRS) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lunchtime talk at Northumbria University Design Department that introduced the work of the Interaction Research Studio to new design department colleagues. The Talk was followed by an enlivened Q&A where requests for further information were made.


"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Design Week article: Design inspiration: the best projects from December 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article in Design Week helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.designweek.co.uk/design-inspiration-december/
 
Description Division of Media Technology and Interaction Design, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden lecture: Yo Yo Machines 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This lecture helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Icon Article: Tired of Zoom? Yo-Yo Machines enable long-distance communication through light and movement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article in Icon helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.iconeye.com/design/tired-of-zoom-yo-yo-machines-enable-long-distance-communication-throu...
 
Description My Naturewatch Camera and Yo-Yo Machines (City University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture to about 25 postgraduate students, postgraduate research fellows and STFC staff, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description My Naturewatch Camera and Yo-Yo Machines (CoSInE online conference) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture to about 80 postgraduate students, postgraduate research fellows and STFC staff, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Northumbria University Design Research Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Mike Vanis and Dean Brown reflected on their own independent practices in relation to their work for the Interaction Research Studio. Northumbria staff members in the audience were pleasantly surprised by the work shown


"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Rhode Island School of Design: Interaction Research Studio & Yo-Yo Machines 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This lecture helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Saint-Étienne Biennale Internationale Design - At Home 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Yo-Yo machines were part of this international exhibition attended by 74,200 people.
From the exhibition website:
"The Covid-19 pandemic has led to billions of people being locked down, all over the world, for long periods. In this context, on top of their historical role as places of refuge and care, domestic spaces have also been turned into schools, gymnasiums, cinemas, offices and workspaces... Although the current public health crisis is not the subject of the exhibition, At home gives visitors a chance to reflect on the meaning of "having a home" in the past, now and in a post-Covid future, and on the way architects and designers are working on it. This exhibition addresses that scenario from a critical standpoint,through five themes:" Utopian visions, Shelter, Identities, Well-being and the Connected House.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.biennale-design.com/saint-etienne/2022/en/a/at-home-1527
 
Description UKRI article: Playful gadgets can connect with far away friends and family 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article by the UKRI helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.ukri.org/our-work/tackling-the-impact-of-covid-19/addressing-technological-challenges/pl...
 
Description Wallpaper Article: Design initiatives showcasing resilience through creativity during the pandemic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Yo-Yo Machines were developed to support people separated from friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are playful communication devices that people can build at home by following simple instructions to assemble off-the-shelf components. The devices are connected by the internet allowing simple communication at a distance. This article in Wallpaper helped to share and promote the work of the Yo-Yo machines project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.wallpaper.com/design/design-projects-showing-resilience
 
Description Web Seminar on Remote Field Work in the Pandemic: Creative remote research methods 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Interaction Research Studio pursues a research through design methodology in which people and situations are studied using design-led techniques, leading to highly developed research products that are technologically robust and aesthetically finished. The resulting products are deployed to volunteers to live with and use for extended periods- usually a number of months, and sometimes years-with their experiences informing insights both about technologies and people. This lecture provided an overall of the process of creating two of the studio's projects; ProbeTools and Yo-Yo Machines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Yo-Yo Machines (Bristol Interaction Group) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture to 45 postgraduate students, postdoctoral research fellows, academic staff and local designers, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and resulted in several requests for kits to make the Yo-Yo Machines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Yo-Yo Machines website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The team built and run the project website which hosts information about the project, instructions on how to make and use the Yo-Yo Machines. Complete novices to making and technology have made the Yo-Yo Machines and learned new skills and were able to communicate with loved ones using nonverbal, expressive signals like lights, sounds or simple mechanical movements during a global pandemic, when face-to-face contact was not possible for most people.
As of 21/02/23 it has had 8,700 visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022,2023
URL https://www.yoyomachines.io/