Mary Tsai
UX Designer | Maker


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ORION - A Sustainable Behavior  Motivator


team: Adrian Galvin, Laura Rodriguez, Mary Tsai, Jesse Wilson

class: Interaction Design Studio II

Duration: Spring 2017 - 1 Semester


Design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of AI in learning, teaching, and education. Your creation should demonstrate the best qualities of a symbiotic human-computer experience that takes into consideration the environment, objects, and people. Your system should be designed to improve learning, teaching, and education.

The Orion system is an in-home IoT device that monitors 4 utilities - electricity, gas, water, and air quality. After time, Orion will begin to relate your utilities to local sources, such as the river that your water comes from. Finally, after the appropriate amount of interaction, Orion would start to match you to volunteer organizations based on the engagement that you have with the device.

Orion itself would also have certain goals that it would want to ensure, such as learning about the users interests and preferences, as well as seeing an overall improvement within the users journey. It would be aware of each users’s capabilities, so if the set goal is no longer attainable, Orion could make suggestions on a more realistic target.

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Since we were required to incorporate Artificial Intelligence into our device, we had to carefully consider the learning journey that Orion would undergo. Similar to all smart devices, Orion has to monitor the user(s) over a period of time in order to analyze their habits before making suggestions on how to be more sustainable. The diagram above describes how Orion monitors the usage of the 4 utilities and would start to test out different motivational tactics on how to keep the user engaged over time. It would also be able to see what utilities are the most concerning to the user and eventually (when the time is right) suggest local organizations that help address that problem.





We held 3 phases of research before moving into the design development. We first interviewed experts within the field of sustainability and local organizations to gain an understanding of the existing problems and how they are currently being addressed. We then conducted numerous rounds of user testing, workshops, and expert evaluations to start to refine our design concept.

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When starting design development after the exploratory research phases, we wanted the Orion product to focus on the aspect of connecting a community. We wanted to the user to understand their impact on the local community and how their own actions could affect the people and environment around them. 

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After user research, it was determined that the users would want to use Orion to force connection with their neighbors. With this consensus, we decided to focus Orion's goal to changing the definition of a user's home. With the eventual local organization matching farther down the timeline, users would then be able to connect with other volunteers who they had interests in common with.

With this newly refocused concept, we focused on a few different visualizations that would be involved in the Orion product: 

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One problem to tackle is the fact that users of current energy-saving products like the Nest tend to forget and ignore the devices over time. With our product utilizing Artificial Intelligence, it would employ and learn tactics that would attract the users's attention when they have not interacted with it in awhile.

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Due to the limited time for design concept and development, if we were to take further steps with Orion, we would want to consider the following:

  1. Because Orion affects behavioral change over long periods of time and we speculate on how it could keep users engaged after several months or years, it would be very difficult to test this without having a prototype in someone’s home.

  2. We would like to explore how organizations would submit their volunteering opportunities and what the interface would look like from the organizations side.

  3. We had wanted Orion to help to reduce food waste and heat loss but those were discarded as we scoped down.

  4. Although the community aspect was addressed with the connection to volunteer organizations, it would be ideal to further explore how users could see how their collective usage within a neighborhood or community affects a large part of their city.

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