Designing for control: Finding roles for smart homes

Design & Emotion Moves

For many years technology researchers have promised a smart home that, through an awareness of people’s activities and intents, will provide the appropriate assistance to improve human experience. However, before people will accept intelligent technology into their homes and their lives, they must feel they have control over it (Norman 1994). To address this issue, social researchers have been conducting ethnographic research on families, looking for opportunities where technology can best provide assistance. At the same time, technology researchers studying “end user programming” have focused on how people can control devices in their homes. We observe an interesting disconnect between the two approaches–the ethnographic work reveals that families desire to “feel in control of their lives,” more than in control of their devices. Our work attempts to bridge the divide between these two research communities by exploring the role a smart home can play in the life of a dual-income family. If we first understand the roles a smart home can play, we can then more appropriately choose how to provide families with the control they desire, extending the control of devices to incorporate the control of their lives families say they need.