Aibo

A lamp that helps those living alone communicate their needs to neighbours.

 

Bridging social distances through light.

University Project

Individual Project

Professor

Gionata Gatto

Year

2020

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What is Aibo?

Aibo is a light that helps you stay connected and reach out for help from those around you in times of crisis. Aibo is activated through gesture and movement: tilting it in different ways it can communicate different things. It can be used for a variety of reasons, such as to signal the need for medication or simply the desire to have someone to talk to. Light with Aibo is used as a signifier and communication device through our balconies to foster new interactions and help us develop deeper relationships with our neighbours.

Aibo is designed to help the elderly (who live alone) and people with low mobility reach out for help from their neighbours, in a trouble-free manner. These people may need medication, food, someone to talk to, etc. Using Aibo they can communicate their needs to their neighbours and seek help with ease. Aibo was designed to make society’s most vulnerable people feel more connected and have their essential needs met during a lockdown and prolonged periods of social distancing.

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Research Insights + Inspiration

Throughout historical virus outbreaks, objects were designed to limit virus transmission, promote social distancing, and warn people of the presence of an ill or infected person. This trend has lead people to feel disconnected, lonely, and anxious in times of crisis. Although this design trend has successfully reduced the number of people affected by a particular illness, it has caused severe mental repercussions. Instead of ignoring these consequences of one’s mental health, and ability to access essentials (food, medication, emotional support, etc...) I was inclined to address these issues in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Many of us have been able to interact with our neighbours during lockdown periods using our windows and balconies. Can light be used as a signifier/communication device in our balconies to foster new interactions and help us develop deeper relationships with our neighbours, if so how? While pondering over this question I thought of using gestures and the movement of a lamp in different directions to inform the message that the lamp communicates through its lighting effect. This led me to explore different forms of lamps/light with a distinct handle that could be grabbed by a person but also hanged by a window or balcony where it would be visible to one’s neighbours.

Ideation + Form Finding

I began exploring different forms of light with a distinct handle that could be grabbed by a person but also hanged by a window or balcony. 

 

While ideating I started to research umbrellas and their handles. Umbrellas are an object that many people are familiar with, they are used to (point and) give directions, wave, support one’s self while walking and of course, protect oneself from the rain. Given that umbrella, handles enable them to be used in a variety of ways (that they were probably not designed for) I began to study their form and try to incorporate an umbrella handle into my light.

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Mockups

After sketching I quickly moved on to the tangible world. I used 3D prints from previous projects and paper/cardboard mockups to gain a sense of form, feel, and overall function.

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How does Aibo work?

Aibo is activated through gesture and movement. It needs to be tilted in different ways to communicate different things. For example, tilting down says “I need food/ groceries,” whereas tilting left says “I need someone to talk to,” etc. Aibo can signal 5 different messages to your neighbours, depending on how it is moved Aibo changes the colour of its light and each colour has a different meaning.

Once the desired message and colour have been selected, Aibo is meant to be placed somewhere where your neighbours can see it, windows, and balconies work best.

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How is it built?

To simplify the overall construction of Aibo, I chose to limit the lamp to two main parts, the handle, and the diffuser.

 

All combined, the assembly is composed of 4 components, handle, diffuser, circuit playground express (accelorometer, speaker, and LEDs), and a lithium-polymer battery.

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Project Motivations + Goals

Lighting objects have been around for a very long time, from candles and lanterns to modern-day chandeliers and torches. Despite the longevity of the lights as a technological object, their functionality has often been limited to simply providing light or decoration. These lights are also stationary and require minimal human input to be turned on and used. Aibo challenges this notion by creating a light that allows people to communicate, express themselves, ask for help, and consequently come closer to each other. Moreover, Aibo requires a lot more care and effort from its user, it needs to be moved in very specific ways to be used. This enables Aibo to bridge social distances and become more than just an ordinary light. Aibo is designed to make you feel more connected, whilst still keeping us apart and safe.

 

I would love to see Aibo being used by society’s most vulnerable members, especially those who are not tech-savvy. Aibo can provide them with a low-tech and easy-to-use means of communication, to ensure their overall wellbeing. I see Aibo as being a voice for such people and a companion too. 

In times where we live in fear of the outside world, we can still come together and support each other using Aibo and some compassion.

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