More than Human Centred Design


Roomba+Clips Cam: Exploring Unpredictable Autonomy in Everyday Smart Systems

  • James Pierce, Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and CITRIS and The Banatao Institute, University of California Berkeley, Bekeley, California, United States; School of Art + Art History + Design, University of Washington Seattle, Seattle, Washington, United States
  • Corresponding email(s): pierjam@gmail.com
  • ACM DL Link: Extended Abstract

The idea inspiring the Roomba+Clips Cam is that both consumer products are unpredictably autonomous: The Roomba goes where it wants to clean, while the Clips photographs subjects it decides to capture. The Roomba+Clips Cam adds the two product together with the effect of multiplying the unpredictable autonomy, and emergently suggesting new uses and applications. This project explores future scenarios involving unpredictable autonomy with everyday connected devices. We explore possibilities for smart devices to be used for playful as well as practical reasons, and where imprecision, instability, and incompleteness are embraced, or at the very least tolerated. To explore these themes, we began by studying existing autonomous smart products. We then created a novel operational prototype by combining two autonmous consumer products: the iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and Google’s Clips handsfree smart camera.

Who is the target audience and why design for them? Design and researchers, but also anyone who's ever used a Roomba or thought about acquiring a smart product (i.e., virtually everyone).

What were the challenges or limitations encountered in this project? The details of the configuration! The idea of combining a Roomba and Clips is very simple. But perfecting that precise ways they connect, and the interactions and experiences that unfold, was far from straightforward. Eventually I arrived upon a slender, flexible neck design, which anthropomorphized the product in a satisfying and often humorous way.

What are the opportunities and next steps for this project? Build other combinatorial prototypes using other smart products.