Haunting Messages

Made by Chen-Yu Chiu

The intention is to evoke the unsettling feeling by re-presencing in the live spaces the messages in the past that people received from their acquaintances and their faces. These messages can be the leftover messages that you haven't reply and can evoke awkward feelings.

Created: March 11th, 2021



The intent of this project was to evoke unsettling feelings by re-presencing in the live spaces the messages in the past people received from their acquaintances and those acquaintances' faces. This is meant to be spooky because some messages that we haven't reply might accompany by some awkward and unsettling memories.



I created three AR artifacts, each of them include the message itself and the photo of the person who sent the message. Users can interact with these AR artifacts. And when users interact with them, they act as if it's like a ghost. It would jump around or spin when users move close to them and vanish when users try to touch them.

Source of the messages:
The source of the messages is Facebook because messages in here are more than other Apps, such as Instagram and SNS. (This decision also affected by my background coming from Taiwan. Most Taiwanese youngsters use Facebook a lot. As a result, there can be more legend message history than other apps.) 
The system would extract the messages sent by others in the past that you never got to reply to. 

How it works:
1. User need to connected this tool with messaging apps, preferably Facebook
2. Users will get a push notification every day
3. Through push notification, they can enter an AR environment, they can see an acquaintance’s face and the message
4. User can interact with the message and the acquaintance’s face in the AR environment.

Tools I used:
I used Figma and Adobe illustrator to create 2D images, then I use Adobe Dimension to create 3D models, finally, I used Adobe Aero to create the interactive AR models.

Haunting messages
Chen-Yu Chiu - https://youtu.be/M0aUWemi_Ok
Haunting messages
Chen-Yu Chiu - https://youtu.be/jQxFF57XXEI
Haunting message
Chen-Yu Chiu - https://youtu.be/MF5EcjBl5DI


I started out being interested in two projects: Our Friends Electric and Objectifier.

For the Our Friends Electric, I enjoy the ideas of

  • Challenge the assumptions for Voice Assistant: you ask a device something and it simply spits out that answer
  • Will more engaging and deeper interactions, such as caring about your feelings and needing you to take care of them, create a more intimate relationship between machine and human?
  • Will this kind of voice assistant help you access self-awareness and provoke conversation with yourself more easily?

For the Objectifier, I enjoy the idea of a decentralized AI training model might meet individual needs more than a centralized one.

As the project rolling forward, I build on the idea of "self-awareness" and geared towards the idea of raising self awareness about their connections with others. I found inspiration in the Invisible Network – A ‘social network’ for the machines about raising awareness by making the invisible visible and Flight Paths by William Lindmeier | Experiments with Google about visual style. 



Describe how you arrived at the outcome. What iterations, refinements, design decisions and changes were made?  What challenges were encountered and how did you resolve them?

There are a few iterations from my projects.

1. A voice assistant plant that asks whys and raises your self-awareness

A plant-like voice assistant that needs you to water them every day. It won’t reply to your command directly. Instead, it would ask you “Why” and your feelings and say thank you when you water them. Just like a good friend or counselor who doesn’t judge you and care about you.

The idea seems to stray from the goal of this project - a critical design that evokes a spooky feeling towards technology. So I follow the connected tissue "raise the awareness of autopilot actions with technology." and made the iteration.

2. Raise awareness about social media

AR experience to make people more vividly aware of who they interact with the most on the social media and evoke some questions within people's heart

  • How do people feel when immersively seeing their abstract online connections?
  • Will this immersive visualization bring any awareness and any change about their identity?
  • Will this experience evoke any behavior change?

After talking to Daragh and Policarpo, I wanted to make it even more spooky and also think more about the logic. Instead of using the existing connections, what about the connections that had been fading away and forgotten? Would it be even more haunting? Also, I can make those profiles in the space depending on their media stats and more interactive.

3. Haunting messages

So here comes the Haunting messages. Users can see a forgotten message and acquaintance every day and interact with the ghost-like flowing profile picture.

Who have you been interacted with on social media?
Chen-Yu Chiu - https://youtu.be/s_EM0pC-ans

Open Questions and Next Steps

In the future, I'd like to explore more spookiness such as using different senses as well as make it dynamic

  • Haunted calls. What can the tone be?
  • When should this message appear to make the spookiness even more? Such as hearing this in the middle of your sleep? Randomly popped up when you in your hectic working time...
  • To make the AR environment dynamic with the database, the future steps include
             1. Processing data
                 - Download all the data from Facebook messenger
                 - Establish the rule such as setting keywords or time(those who haven't talked for a while)
             2. Use Adobe software to connect things together (Illustrator components > Dimension > Aero)

Personal Reflection

Critical design, the mindset, is really new to me. As a result, I was a little bit missing the goal for the project at first. Critical design is about evoking emotions, reflection, and discussion. While the typical design I did is really about identify the problem and solve it. 

"instead of trying to understand the feeling, try and deliberately evoke one" the suggestion Daragh provided me really helps me move forward towards a more critical perspective.

Another thing I learned a lot is thinking on the opposite side can help trigger new ideas. In this project, I was thinking about the existing messages at first. However, it inspired me a lot when I start thinking about the forgotten messages.

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The intention is to evoke the unsettling feeling by re-presencing in the live spaces the messages in the past that people received from their acquaintances and their faces. These messages can be the leftover messages that you haven't reply and can evoke awkward feelings.