Augmented Objects

tl;dr; Brief: Identify an opportunity to augment an analog object and transform it into an ‘internet appliance’. Develop a working prototype (a form is not required) to demonstrate your concept. It must:

  • Employ at least three components (resistors and capacitors do not count!), and at least one is a sensor;
  • Connects meaningfully to the internet (or have the potential to);
  • Create value for a target user; and
  • Incorporate an aspect of enchantment you have encountered in Rose's text.


But what does it mean to “connect an object to the Internet”? Clearly, sticking an Ethernet socket into a chair or a 3G modem into a sewing machine doesn’t suddenly imbue the object with mysterious properties. Rather, there has to be some flow of information which connects the defining characteristics of the Thing with the world of data and processing represented by the Internet.
From: Designing the Internet of Things by Adrian McEwen & Hakim Cassimally

As part of this first project, you’re going to get in deep with this heuristic of what it takes to design a good IoT product: the idea that the characteristics of the Thing in the world - be it the material, functional or relational affordances - is sensibly related to what it connects with.

This project builds on your fieldwork assignment and asks you to you speculate about the meaningful relationships between physical objects and connectivity by prototyping a new smart and enhanced object.

In addtion, you are encouraged to design a hyper-personalized (rather than a general purpose or mass-market product). You’ve seen how development platforms like Particle are empowering maker, hacker and hobbyist enthusiasts. Using these platforms they can quickly create solutions to problems in their lives: to remotely turn on their sprinklers, to hack their coffee pot to brew at the right time in the morning, or get their dishwashers or washing machines text them when the cycle is finished, or track the number of times their fridge is opened each day.

Learning Objectives

As part of this assignment you’ll be asked to:

  • Explore opportunities for connection and personalization that IoT prototyping platforms, like Particle, bring.
  • Develop your working knowledge of sensors, input and output components
  • Work individually to explore, design, develop and program circuits and electronics with the Particle platform;
  • Embrace tinkering and hacking and develop a prototype connected solution;
  • Explore key concepts of value-creation and strategies like ‘enchantment’ for IoT product design through hands-on exploration

Primary Precedent: Homesense

Homesense is a cross-European research project that explores the Internet of Things through human centered methods and technology probes.



The project is described as follows:

Initiated in 2009 by Tinker London, Homesense project is an open research project on the topic of smart homes.

Smart homes have generally been more successful in concept than in execution or in-home use. This problem is usually not one of technology, but of interaction and interface design–we can build a Smart Home, but who wants to use it? And how do they use it? Smart home concepts have so far been designed in-house in r&d departments of large companies with very rigid use scenarios or pre-designed environments and technology infrastructures.

Homesense brought the open collaboration methods of online communities to physical infrastructures in the home. Over the course of several months, selected households across Europe had access to the latest in open source hardware and software tools, decided what they want to do with them in the context of their home and shared the results with the world. Local technology experts were selected to support them in the development of their ideas and the whole process from start to finish. The process was documented by users themselves in the form of blogs, videos and images taken throughout a long process that started in the autumn of 2010.

Tinker believed that better scenarios and solutions will emerge when design and research in this area can be conducted in an open way. This breaks from tradition as users, rather than seeing products forced on them by a top-down design process, will create their own smart home and live with those technologies they have themselves developed without prior technical expertise.

Homesense Kit. Credit: Designswarm, Tinker London, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Homesense Kit. Credit: Designswarm, Tinker London, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

In this experiment, the team interviewed home users to help uncover design opportunities to augment their homes and their objects, provided them with a Kit to hack and build highly customized interventions that suited their own personal habits, routines and needs. Finally, they documented the results, reflected on how this informs design for IoT devices, and were later exhibited as part of MOMA’s Talk to Me exhibit

You’re going to emulate this approach …

Process and Requirements

Building on your discovery exercise, use the field work in the home to generate a proposal for a tailor-made solution for you chosen subject. You should work from an existing analog object in their home and connect it to the internet in a meaningful way. You’re encouraged to find opportunities for surprising, delightful, magical augmentations of these objects i.e. you are not required to be practical and you should not design a product for the mass market.

Using the tutorials and guides provided you are going to create a working prototype for an augmented object that:

  • Employs at least three components, and at least one is a sensor (resistors and capacitors do not count!);
  • Shares sensor information on the internet through the Cloud API and/or allows it to be controlled via the internet
  • Provides simple status feedback locally; and
  • Connects meaningfully to the internet.

The focus here is on a working implementation rather than aesthetics or presentation. You do not have to build a form or exterior for the object - although you are encouraged to hack/repuropse the analog object (if appliable) or create a low-fi enclosure (cardboard, foamcore), to illustrate the outcome.

You should make sure you have smart use of components and well implemented code that lands at some well thought out functionality.

This creative assignment is to be completed individually.


Grading standards are as per the outlined guide for Creative Projects with the following exceptions:

  • Rubric for ‘Context’ does not apply.
  • Rubric for ‘Form (Execution III)’ does not apply.

Additional Predents

Below are some projects that illustrate the kind of augmented object you might produce as part of this project. You can also take a look at the MoMa’ Talk to Me exhibit for lots of inspiration

Sean Carney’s DIY weather clock

This DIY device hacks the face of an old antique clock to tell the weather. It connects to online weather information to find out the temperature and conditions for the day ahead; and then presents this using the hands of the original clock. A unique aspect of this is that it gives cherished - but maybe unused - objects in the home new purpose and may fit in better with the texture and decor of you home!

Vitality’s  Sean Carney’s DIY [weather clock]

Vitality’s Sean Carney’s DIY [weather clock]

NetFlix Socks

Netflix Socks By DeepLocal

Netflix Socks By DeepLocal

We released DIY instructions for Netflix socks on the Make It website and announced the launch through a partnership with Make Magazine. The socks use an accelerometer to detect when a viewer has dozed off and sends a signal to their TV, automatically pausing the show. The socks themselves could be customized with show-inspired patterns making them both knitting and programming savvy. Even those outside the maker community fell in love with the idea. Netflix socks spread like wildfire across social media and press outlets.

Adafruit’s Neopixel Trampoline

Adafruit's [Neopixel Trampoline](

Adafruit’s Neopixel Trampoline

What do you get when you mix an accelerometer, led strip lighting and a trampoline? This. While not internet connected, it’s a great example of how some simple sensing and output components can augment objects in compelling ways. Of course you could easily extend this to count, log and give feedback on how much exercise someone is getting with each bounce!

Hint: Adafruit’s Learning Guides have LOTS of great examples of augmented objects. Take a look here for more inspiration

Vitality’s [Glow Caps](

Vitality’s Glow Caps

Vitality’s Glow Caps

Vitality’s Glow Caps connect a pill bottle to online calendars and provide a visual cue to if you have taken your medication or if you need to. They light up when it nears the time to take your medication and a home hub, typically left in the kitchen also signals it’s time to take your medicine.

No Place Like Home, GPS shoes

Dominic Wilcox creates a whimsical internet appliance - a pair of shoes to help you find your way home:

Dominic Wilcox's [No Place Like Home, GPS shoes](

Dominic Wilcox’s No Place Like Home, GPS shoes

After uploading your required destination to the shoes via a piece of custom made mapping software and a USB cable, the GPS, which is embedded in the heel, is activated by a heel click. It then communicates to the wearer via a ring of LED lights to point in the required direction.

Objects of Escape - Rocking Chair Prototype

This research group hacked a rocking chair to trigger the playback of sounds when there is movement:

We are exploring how virtual reality technology and interactive furniture can be used as a way for older people to access memories. In the comfort of a rocking chair, using virtual reality goggles or audio speakers, it is possible to experience favourite places and the great outdoors in 3D or in stereo, through 360º images or evocative soundscapes. These journeys of the imagination can rekindle past memories and help to assist reminiscence and storytelling.

The Memory Device

Ishac Bertran’s Memory Device augments the ‘string on the finger’ to help you remember:

Memory Device

“The Memory device reminisces back to a time when people used to tie a string around their fingers, or pin a piece of paper on their clothes, to help them remember something. As opposed to what happens with our phones, the knot or the piece of paper don’t store any information, they are just triggers. Recording is a deliberate action, giving full control over what needs to be remembered and what doesn’t. Inspired by these artifacts I built my own Memory Device.”

Considerations (read before you begin)

  1. Before you start this project you’ll need to figure out what kind of IoT solution are you trying to create. To do this, you’ll need to find a simple problem that you want to solve. You don’t need to do anything radically innovative, just solve a simple everyday problem in a fun and creative way.

  2. The tutorials and guides are an excellent starting point for this project. Most of what you need to create this project is already given to you; you just need to recombine and tweak it to make it work. You are encouraged to use these materials by extending them creatively.

  3. At a minimum you must complete the Core requirements for this project. The project builds a series of progressively more advanced features. Students with prior experience with microcontrollers are strongly encouraged to complete all parts.

  4. All students should be able to complete at minimum the Basic requirements.

Project Requirements

At a minimum you must complete the core requirements for this project. The project builds a series of progressively more advanced features. Students with prior experience with microcontrollers are strongly encouraged to complete all parts.

Core Requirement: Working Prototype

You must build a programmed circuit that illustrates your augmented object. This doesn’t have to be a functionally replete prototype or an perfect implementation, just something that illustrates the experience you would like to create. To do this:

  • You must identify a scenario

  • Your hack must contain a minimum of three components: Choose any combination of input (button, switch, pot), output (light, sound, motion) and sensing (temperature, pressure, noise, etc.). At least one sensor must be used.

  • You must create a circuit using those inputs, outputs and sensors

  • You must read from your sensor(s) and make that data available on the Particle cloud.

Basic Requirement: Status Indicator

It’s often helpful to know if a sensor platform is working. Next, you should add an LED provide some feedback on the devices operation i.e. so we can see what’s happening at a glance?

For the Basic requirement, you will add a simple indication of status of the augmented object. For example, add a single LED to indicate when cloud activities are taking place e.g. blink when data is being sampled from the sensor, updated on the Particle cloud, requested from a webhook; dim when a webhook responds, etc.

Advanced: Making the Data Useful

Great. We have something that gives us a lot of information when we’re nearby, but what about when we’re not?

Option 1: Log the Data

  • Run the sensor for a day and collect the data from it (write a program to collect the data periodically from the device.)

  • Make use of the data by graphing it or visualizing it in some way.

  • Report your findings and anything you found interesting about the sensor data.

Option 2: Connect to Live Cloud information by either:

  • Send relevant notifications by email, twitter, push notification, etc. This should present meaningful and timely information for your usecase, and so that they are notified to take action even when they mightn’t be nearby. Hint: IFTTT integrations for Particle are really useful here.

  • Connect to third party services to pull in live information like Weather, Transit, or Stock Market performance. Use this live data to enhance the experience of your prototype

  • Creating a web-page, mobile app or dashboard which displays live data and/or provides access and control when they’re not near the device.

Expert: Polished Prototype

Integrate the circuit into an enclosure/form (even if low fidelity - cardboard, foamcore) to more richly illustrate the intended experience.

Extra Credit: Present your Prototype Back

Get feedback on your design by demonstrating your prototype to your ‘client’. As part of this session you should allow them to experience what you’ve created and interact with the device. Ask them about the prototype and if it matches their expectations. Reflect and report on what you learn from debriefing with them.

Outcome and Process Documentation

  • Problem Statement: Introduce who you are designing for, how they could benefit from an IoT appliance. Why you chose this person, and why did you choose this object to augment

  • Goal: You should be able to clearly what kind of solution are you trying to create and why? How does it address the problem. Explain in as few words as possible.

  • Process: You should maintain a record of your work as it progresses. This should include: components used, photos and videos of the circuits assembled, code (and versions of your code), reflections and challenges encountered, how you solved problems, iterated etc. Be able to tell the story of your work.

  • Outcome: Be able to illustrate the final outcome. Explain how complete the prototypes is and how it works. Your documentation for this section must include:

    • Completed code
    • A circuit diagram (use Fritzing or similar)
    • A list of parts
    • A video of your completed project (use in context, operation, etc.)

    You are welcome to include illustrative diagrams (workflow, etc.), additional photos, or a concept video.

  • Next Steps: What would you do if you took this project forward and why?

  • Reflection: Reflect on the challenges you encountered and the process as a whole. Did you get where you wanted to? If so, great. If not, why not? What do you need to get there, etc?

Each section should be 200 words max. and well illustrated (images, videos, etc.)

For the Project’s summary description: it must be tweetable - summarise your outcome in no more than 140 characters

Using Online Material:

It is perfectly fine to use examples, code, tutorials, and things you find on the web to help you realize your project. That’s part of the open-source mentality that surrounds much of Making, Arduino and microcontrollers. However, you cannot just copy and paste these solutions. In your documentation you must acknowledge where you got this content from. Include a link to any tutorials, guides, or code that are part of your final solution.

Final Documentation:

You should upload your work to the Gallery. You can sign up at the following link:

Projects should be added to the pool linked above.

To add your project to the pool,

  1. first sign up and be logged in

  2. Click the ‘Join’ button on the top right

  3. You are a member of the pool

  4. You will now see an option to: ‘Add a new project to this pool’. Click this to begin adding your project information.

You should provide a clear and concise description of your project, your process, and the outcomes. It should be quick to get an overview of the project. Ideally, your description of the outcomes should be repeatable too i.e. anyone in the class can replicate it easily from the information provided.