The Soft Stone

UX Design, Speculative Design, Data

In our fall 2018 studio, teams of students led seven workshops that explored a topic of AIGA's Designer 2025. Each workshop resulted in a visual product and as a whole culminated in a group exhibition (see AEIOU). We then took a deep dive into individual areas of interest. I focused on the aggregation, curation, and visualization of data and developed the concept for a mutable hand held device, the soft stone.

What is it?

The Soft Stone is a soft robotic device that can deliver haptic feedback to a user for the purpose of human assistance and mental health.

How does it work?

The stone aggregates the users data through touch and voice. The types of touch are kinesthetic and tactile. Kinesthetic touch requires the user to consciously activate the device by squeezing or tapping. Tactile devices records ambient information from touch with the skin (such as wearables like the fitbit). In addition to touch, the device has a sensor that records the users voice upon activation.

As the stone activates, it changes color and form

In its deactivated state the device is a solid with a smooth texture and resembles a crystal, rock, or palmstone. Once activated by touch or voice, the the topography of the stone shifts and morphs as a whole: the stone retains its relative shape but is altered through a material means, as it now has organic bumps with smooth soft surfaces. The stone also changes color through an ambient glow. These changes in form and color indicate changes in data that are representative of the user’s mental health indicated by their touch and voice. The stone is to serve as a physical representation of such data as well as a auditory journal.

What kind of Data?

The database which collectes the user’s information is connected to the stone as well as an online interface (iphone, ipad app and website). The user is able to go into the app and view archived transcribed journal entries and information on the amount of time they squeeze, tap, or rub the rock. Data shows the level of their anxiety (determined by how much they physically interact with the rock) and words to go along with it (through their journal entries). The possibilities of information deconstruction and representation is endless. The important thing is that there is a physical and digital representation of the user’s data. Multiple modalities allow for multiple layers of understanding and reflection.

Who would use it? User Journey

Jake and Marie are having serious relationship issues. Though they have been able to in the past, they cannot communicate with eachother. Especially face to face. They started seeing a therapist who suggested that they use the soft stone to record their thoughts and mental health status. Each of them have their own stone but also share an account so they can visualize information together.

Because of her daily commute, Marie prefers to use the stone on the go. She keeps it in her pocket and rubs it often. She usually talks while in transit. Jake prefers to use the stone during his morning meditation sessions. He makes sure to speak into the stone for at least 30 minutes each day.

Every two weeks Jake and Marie meet together at their therapists office to exchange data, empathize, and try to find movements of friction in their relationship through syncing the stones up. They make sure to exchange stones so they can physically feel the other person’s thoughts and feelings in attempt to generate empathy and a haptic understanding of each-other.

They also visualize their stones next to each other and overlaid on top of each other through a shared account. This brings up moments of friction and and ease they can reflect on for help in the relationship.

After 6 months of therapy, Jake and Marie have developed a deeper understanding of each other and have gotten past their communication block, triggers, and problems. They will continue to use the stone for personal reflection and as a tool to help their relationship.

Click through the user journey with the stone

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