Internet of Things enabled Smart Built Environments (SBE), which have the potential to improve the lives of individuals, groups, and the broader community. Such SBEs incorporate sensors and actuators into the built space to provide new functionalities or enhance the current ones. Consequently, SBEs require new, multi-modal user interfaces and interaction techniques. In addition, the amount of information generated by an SBE can be overwhelming. As such, Meaghan Dee and our team are exploring new ways of communicating information and providing feedback to the user. We are developing visual modalities of user feedback in support of the effective use of SBEs. The FutureHAUS (http://futurehaus.tech) smart house is the SBE that is being used as a case study. It is a research testbed for studying how we build (fabricate) and interact with SBEs.
The FutureHAUS demonstrates an ongoing, successful collaboration between the departments of computer science, visual communication design, and architecture. We have prototyped a series of “smart” program elements for a single-family home. These “cartridge” elements include kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, home-offices, mechanical rooms, entryways, and closets, and are intended to be “plug and play.” The goal is to support a seamless operation of all systems of the house from energy and HVAC control and management to entertainment, lighting, cooking, etc., as well as to provide accessibility and support for healthy living and aging in place.
As a part of this, a team of visual communication design students and faculty are developing a prototype for an app that could control the home, and the computer scientists are implementing functional interactive wall displays. The FutureHAUS will be competing in the 2018 Solar Decathlon in Dubai this fall, but our research will continue after the competition (including researching how people live and age in such a smart home).