The FutureHAUS testbed provides a unique, holistic SBE where people can interact with the SBE in a multi-modal way. FutureHAUS is an exemplar for the integration of architectural best practices, usability principles and healthy living guidelines in support of user experience. For every function/service/device there are multiple interaction options (touch, gesture, voice, etc.).

Modern SBEs can have a very complex and sophisticated lighting infrastructure with a large number (hundreds) of individual lights. For each light we can set specific color, intensity of temperature. For example, a living room’s ceiling can have a grid of individual color lights (pixels) that create a low-resolution display. Furthermore, SBEs can have a large number of displays with varying form factors, including ultra-high-definition TVs, smart mirrors and individual devices (e.g,. Amazon Echo spot). FutureHAUS emphasizes this concept and provides a unique, rich, sophisticated, fully controllable tapestry of lights and displays, a visual infrastructure providing endless opportunities for exploring visual modalities and providing visual feedback to the users.

We need to explore how to use this visual infrastructure in innovative ways to make the user experience in SBEs pleasant and comfortable. The experience should scale from a single user, a single group of users (e.g., a family) to multiple groups of users (e.g., a large party). We will develop the methodology, techniques and guidelines to design, develop, implement, and test the following innovative capabilities:

Consistent and recognizable visual design across the whole visual infrastructure. That would enable consistent branding and visual feedback as a part of the overall user experience.
Visual feedback for a single user where the feedback is distributed across multiple visual infrastructure components (lights and displays). These findings will serve as a foundation for subsequent innovations.
Support for design space across the several dimensions, including: Grouping: user, a group of users; Cardinality: single, multiple; Dependence: individual, common; Location: co-located, distributed
Support for various scenarios/use cases, such as: Independent visual feedbacks for individual, co-located users; Independent visual feedbacks for individual, distributed users; Common visual feedback for a group of distributed users; Independent visual feedbacks for several distributed groups of users; Visual infrastructure framework and reference implementation (FutureHAUS)

To do so, we will leverage the concepts and results from context awareness, ambient intelligence, differentiated services, and pervasive computing. The contextual information will include longitudinal environmental and usage data provided by the underlying IoT data repository (OSIsoft PI system), user demographic and health status. We will inform our approach using the situated actions theory and the activity theory of aging.

In earlier stages of the project, the team developed prototypes for some of the control systems, but with the support of this grant, we would be able to integrate design best practices and user-research to create the next-level of interface design. Figure 2 shows some of the results.

We started working on the FutureHAUS in 2014. Although the fire in February 2017 destroyed the developed modules, we have accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise that will guide us in this research. We are currently in the process of rebuilding the kitchen module as well as implementing the overall IoT infrastructure and data visualization (OSIsoft PI system).

Our strategy is influenced by the timing of the SDME (November 2018) and the shipping of the FutureHAUS in September 2018 to Dubai. As a consequence, the iterative design strategy has to be adjusted to meet the SDME requirements early on using three distinct stages.

Stage 1 (pre-competition) will officially start on 1 July 2018. However, based on the April 13 award announcement date, the preparatory work on the overall service infrastructure (Figure 3) in support of the visual infrastructure may commence as early as May. In parallel, we will also develop wireframes and low fidelity prototypes as the first step towards the consistent and recognizable visual design across the whole visual infrastructure. Finally, an IRB application will be submitted to the Virginia Tech Institutional Review Board (IRB). Based on the preparatory work, the project will start with designing visual feedback for a single user across multiple visual infrastructure components (first use case). We will use a participatory design to developed ireframe and low-fidelity prototypes (Sandbox, FutureHAUS) followed by a first pilot study of in FutureHAUS. After these preliminary results we will focus on designing common visual feedback for a group of distributed users (second use case) to address the SDME requirements for exhibition and competition events. The high-fidelity design will be implemented and tested in FutureHAUS (second pilot study). By then we will also implement the visual infrastructure services that support these two use cases. When FutureHAUS ships to Dubai (shipping will take 6-8 weeks), we will use Sandbox to refine the high-fidelity prototypes and conduct formative user studies. The updated design will be immediately deployed when FutureHAUS arrive at the completion site. The SDME communication evaluation criteria (creativity, effectiveness, and efficiency) will be used. Cube might be used for simulation.

Stage 2 (competition) is the SDME competition, including several weeks before and after the competition. While most of the efforts will be focused on the deployment and use of the visual infrastructure, we will take the advantage of the competition and exhibition stage to conduct surveys and user studies with the competition audience. The collected data, as well as the experience from the competition will serve as a foundation for a couple of grant proposals.

Stage 3 (post-competition) starts when FutureHAUS returns to the campus. A more elaborate user studies, both formative and summative, will be conducted to explore larger design space. In addition, we will explore the use of visual infrastructure framework to support healthy living and aging in lace. Senior citizens have reduced vision capabilities combined with cognitive and memory decline. The framework will include services to address those challenges.