cubble: Multi-Device Assistance for Emotional Closeness and Communication in Relationships over a Distance

Der heutige Artikel stammt von Robert Kowalski, der sein Studium mittlerweile erfolgreich beendet hat. Hier berichtet er von seiner Diplomarbeit „cubble“. Das Projekt wird im Februar auch auf der International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction in Barcelona vorgestellt.

What is cubble about?

In today’s global society, the number of long distance relationships (LDR) is increasing. Naturally, couples want to keep in touch, share their emotions and feel connected despite the distance. Current approaches to solve this problem fall into three categories. First, the use of additional dedicated objects, which tend to be too inconvenient to be carried around and too easy to forget. Second, the utilization of common communication channels like social media or phones, which do not provide intimate closeness or have been confirmed as ineffective for maintaining intimacy. Third, mobile applications (apps) designed for LDR couples, which still lack evaluation.

00_cubble 01_cubble

cubble is a new hybrid interaction concept that aims at overcoming these limitations and which leverages the mobility advantages of mobile apps, by combining a stationary object for the domestic use and a smartphone application while being on the go. Detached from time and place, couples separated by distance are now enabled to continuously feel connected and share simple messages and emotions through colored light, haptics and thermal feedback.

Nudging the partner from far away

People can send a nudge to their loved one by simply tapping their cubble object at home or the screen of their smartphone once. Before sending this signal, the user can select one of eight predefined colors, which should accompany the nudge. Based on the receiver’s home or away location the nudge is forwarded to either the domestic or the smartphone cubble client.

02_nudge 03_nudge

A nudge sent from one’s domestic hardware cubble to the partner’s home cubble (left) and a nudge sent from a hardware cubble to the partner’s cubble app (right).

On the receiving partners end, the cubble message is then displayed via a colored light flash supported by vibration. During the user studies, partners used the colors to express short messages and feelings such as “I love you”, “I miss you”, “Thinking of you”, … or to coordinate their regular communication.

Extending nudges to tap patterns

Another possibility partners had was the tap pattern. This is basically a rhythmic extension of the nudge, by providing the users to record repeated taps and also keep the timing between them. However, this component was hardly used to create new kinds of messages, but most of the study participants actually used tap patterns to amplify their message or feeling.

04_hybrid

Holding hands always and everywhere

The feature that couples loved most about cubble was the holding hands functionality. This way, a “live connection” was established between the partners, providing the warm feeling of being in touch right now by holding hands. To do so, each partner has to hold one of their cubble clients and both start pulsating in a warm, yellow color. Additionally, the domestic cubble heats up on its top side to simulate the exchange of body heat between the partners.

How did the couples like it?

They loved it. Not only did the daily exchange between partners increase greatly, but they also had a strong feeling of connectedness and closeness and perceived the hybrid approach as very enriching. Especially the holding hands feature in conjunction with the hardware’s thermal feedback made it a truly unique and bonding experience for them. Besides these and more indications that cubble supports couples in experiencing emotional closeness and that it fostered their intimate communication, the favorite finding was that cubble made people smile.

Want to know more?

Please read the cubble TEI publication or feel free contact me anytime via my webpage.

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