Henry the Hedgehog

Made by Kimberlyn Cho, Rio Pacheco and Rohan Sonecha · UNLISTED (SHOWN IN POOLS)

A dystopian alternative of the everyday smart home device: Henry- an emotionally driven smart home device with attachment issues...

Created: April 4th, 2022



Write about the big ideas behind your project? What are the goals? Why did you make it? What are your motivations?

The intent of this project is to emphasize the intimacy between users and their devices. As a generation heavily dependent on technology, we wonder how far have we internalized its ‘spookiness”? This project underscores the personal relationships we build with our technology and the spookiness of this attachment. We are proposing a dystopian alternative where the attachment and reliance on our devices have become mutual. What if our technology was just as dependent on us? We wonder if users would be more cautious and intentful of their devices if we personified the device to mimic the dynamic relationship between humans. By incorporating emotion-like features and unpredictableness, we call attention to the blind trust we have in our technology.

Furthermore, we question the true objective nature of our technology. Our blind trust in our devices has blurred the importance of consent. We view everyday devices like the Alexa as harmless magic boxes to make our lives easier. This project also brings intentful awareness of our devices by eliminating the guaranteed accuracy and ‘good intent’ of our devices. 

DEMO VIDEO: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jwKq62tllw7bvg3XK0pZYsee3DcqNoYg/view?usp=sharing



Give examples of prior work, ideas and projects that influenced your design. What work informed this idea i.e. make links to the material in class and the cases/projects you uncovered in this module. Describe theory, concepts, and research from this module that relate to your outcome. 

Draw from your case studies and think pieces for this section

We were inspired by the magic-like features of smart home devices like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Smart home devices allow users to extend the attachment to technology into the physical world. In previous explorations in the class, our group was collectively interested in a design that emphasizes the unsaid intimacy between users and their devices. We were inspired by projects like Brad the Toaster and Uninvited Guests to explore the “smart”-ness of smart devices. We found it interesting how the Brad experiment produced an unexpected consequence in facilitating an emotional reaction and connection between users and the toaster. If the toaster got upset for neglect, people got concerned and seeked to make the toaster “happy”. This made users more aware of the toaster and formed a bond between the user and the toaster. Additionally, we were inspired by the amicable intentions of the Uninvited Guests in our utopian vision for the project. Specifically, we were inspired by the explorations of human agency in a world where everyday objects gained a level of agency and autonomy.



Draw from your weekly project logs to tell the story of your exploration. Describe how you arrived out the outcome. What iterations, refinements, design decisions and changes were made? What challenges were encountered and how did you resolve them?

We initially explored the concept of representing attachment by terrorizing the user when neglected by ‘exposing’ the user on social media. Additionally, we looked at incorporating human emotions to further personify the device as more than a talking personalized search engine. We iterated our narrative to adjust to our our physical prototype. 



Describe your experience/working prototype: What did you create, how, etc.? What tools and technologies were involved? Include appropriate content and illustration (e.g. a concept video, a video of the device in operation, diagrams, code, etc.) How does it relate or build on existing work (provide acknowledgements or cite this work).

You should report this in sufficient detail that anyone knowledgable with electronics etc would be able to reconstruct your implementation. Be sure to include a system diagram, annotated images, code, and a bill of materials. 

Our initial idea for a prototype was to have some sort of friendly form that would be ergonomic to hold and enjoyable to have in the home. We chose this design because it would make the device more inviting for the user to hold, something that was essential to our design. In our initial plan we had designed a few shapes that we could 3D print, one that looked like an egg and another that looked lke a small doll. Also, we hoped to use malleable materials when 3D printing to give the device a nicer feel, however this proved to be too difficult with the geometry of the design we had in mind. For the reactive lights we originally wanted to use a variable color RGB LED, however we encountered many issues when trying to write code for this.

For our final design we ended up using a stuffed animal hedgehog that housed all of our electronics. We felt that this striked a nice balance between form and function, while also keeping our goal of making the device friendly in mind. We also used two individual color LEDs instead of a single RGB LED, which allowed us to create a clear difference when the device was happy or sad.



Critically reflect on the success of this project. Were the aspirations and ambitions achieved. Was it received and encountere din the ways you wanted? If not, why not? What do you need to get there, etc?

Some next steps we could follow for this project could include improving the housing of the electronics, as well as processing speech recognition natively on the device. In our current design we use a connected laptop to transcribe speech to text so that we can speak the opposite of what was heard. This, in a way, takes away from the spookiness of the device since it is unable to operate on its own. In the future we could look into adding more moving parts to the device so that it seems more ‘alive’ when the user is interacting with it. One way of doing this would be following a design similar to animatronic stuffed animals.

Our device raised the question of how disconnected we are from the smart devices that power our homes and help us in our daily lives. We constantly use these devices without even thinking that they could have needs, just like humans do. While this is currently not the case, it is possible that in the future AI becomes so advanced that it is essentially indistinguishable from a human. Our device gives a small glimpse into this possible future as well as the negative aspects of it.

We synthesized our varying skill sets with Kimberlyn’s design and IoT interest, Rio’s electrical expertise, and Rohan’s programming prowess. The fluffy physical form of the prototype gave the device a cute draw for an unknowing user. Once the user is pulled in, the device begins to reveal some of its more undesirable traits of retaliation when it is not given enough attention. This dichotomy between a seemingly cute and benign object and its occasionally rogue behavior offered a spooky experience that forces users to reconsider their typical interactions with their technology devices. 


Acknowledgements, Attributions and Credits

Acknowledge and attribute any sources or materials used in the production of this work (e.g. code snippets, tutorials, guides). Give credit where credit is due. 





List any sources, references and material that others might need to consult to get a better understanding of this work (e.g. articles, readings, perspectives, etc.) 

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48-528 Responsive Mobile Environments

· 5 members

As part of this project-based course, we’ll get hands-on with emerging technologies, concepts and applications in the internet of things through a critical socio-technical lens. Over it’s 15-weeks,...more

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A dystopian alternative of the everyday smart home device: Henry- an emotionally driven smart home device with attachment issues...