I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Claire Rowland who is a user experience designer for smart device company AlertMe. She’d been taking part in a panel discussion at the TH_NKTANK event focused around (for want of a better term) the Internet of Things.

A thread of conversation emerged around the idea that if we increasingly enable otherwise dumb devices to “talk” to us through being connected to the Internet, what sorts of conversations will they have, and what personality traits will they demonstrate? It’s possible to stereotype some device personae already – Korean devices seem to have a predilection for cheeky little tunes (my Samsung TV turns on and off with a little musical flourish); German devices tend to provide very matter of fact announcements (my AEG washing machine bleeps repeatedly on completing its cycle); presumably American devices would give themselves a round of applause whenever they do something…

It does make one think, though, that we are in for a lot of bleating, self-centred, needy machines moaning to us when they become connected; was Douglas Adams right when he wrote the character of Marvin the Paranoid Android? How can device designers build empathy into connected devices to make sure that they don’t merely tell us about their needs all the time? And what sorts of personalities do we want our connected devices to have (or will will imbue them with in our anthropomorphic way…)


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