Investigation 1- Spooky Google Home

Made by Chengzhi Zhang

Created: February 1st, 2022

RME- Investigation 1- Spooky Google Home
Chengzhi Zhang -


I proposed a app that can control Google Home's level of intelligence, with higher level means you giving off all your privacy since it constantly listens to you and even making personal suggestions based on your schedule that it sychronized. If you turn down the level of intelligence, the google home can only start listening to you when you said exactly"hey google, here is my command" and told exactly what to do. The varied levels of smartness also comes with the matched level of privacy and agency you give away.


Top: smartness level 6 demonstration

Down: smartness level 1 demonstration



As I found that google home can only be turned on and off, and people actually have no choice over how much privacy they want to give away, it appears to be a flipping two sided coin issue. We either choose to get the service it provides and abandon all our privacy, as google home is constantly listening, or choosing to turn it off and at the same time, turning down all its service, which would be meaningless to having a google home. I tried to bring this problem to the surface, since many people don't realize that they do not have much agency of the smart products they own, and google home is not the only one. 



I looked at some articles about speculative design and how we can design products to negate the current circumstances and find alternatives, like the Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, James Pierce's undesigning technologies[1], Audrey's work revisiting agency issues in home[2], which makes me think how I can design things to help surface these problems and visit those alternatives. I also find the levels of Autonomous Vehicles [3] a strong evidence that we should retrive those power of control back, just like how we control the level of smartness with autonomous vehicles.

I took the video of my own google home and made the video and mock-up UI based on google home app. Instead of having virtual interfaces, I would turn it into physical knobs like the control knob to replace the on/off button. My research explores the retrival of agency and privacy of those smart products we own, how we should design those smart products and leave the users more freedom and control. Due to the short amount of time, I chose designing UI instead of doing a 3D prototype. The latter with physical control would be more ideal. 


1. James Pierce. 2012. Undesigning technology: considering the negation of design by design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '12). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 957–966. DOI:

2. Audrey Desjardins, Jeremy E. Viny, Cayla Key, and Nouela Johnston. 2019. Alternative Avenues for IoT: Designing with Non-Stereotypical Homes. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Paper 351, 1–13. DOI:

3. The 6 Levels of Vehicle Autonomy Explained



I would improve in two ways: 

1. Work the physical prototypes out, weather through CAD 3d design like rhino or other mock-ups. 
2. Expand the physical knob control feature to more intelligent devices like Philips Hue light bulb, etc, as the same principle applies to a lot of devices.

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48-528 Responsive Mobile Environments - Spooky Technology

· 12 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 14-weeks,...more