Designing smart objects as embodied agents in everyday life

At the beginning of May, Dave Kirk and David Verweij travelled to the Netherlands to take part in a week long invited workshop at the Lorentz Center in Leiden. The aim of the workshop was to develop an interdisciplinary research agenda on smart objects to help frame future work in interaction design. The workshop brought together a number of researchers from across Europe and North America.

Through the workshop we framed ‘smart objects’ as: Physical products and everyday objects with embedded digital technology – things such as domestic appliances, furniture, clothing, and toys, which are being transformed into embodied agents capable of interacting with humans and with other objects in an intentful and intelligent manner.

Over the course of the week we listened to a variety of exciting presentations, had the opportunity to present and discuss Dave K’s Family Rituals project, and to introduce David V’s ‘Domestic Widgets’ work. In groups we variously worked on unpacking the research challenges around human interaction with AI enabled ‘smart objects’ and have begun to articulate a number of positions and potential avenues for further work – which will allow us to humanize (or not, as appropriate) the prevailing AI research agenda. It was a hugely stimulating week and a good opportunity to develop some new collaborative relationships, with a view towards producing some new research papers in this area.