This showroom research focuses on exploring parents’ trust in the Smart Home as childcare solution via a speculative design concept called Big Sister. It is becoming difficult to imagine a future without the existence of sensors, actuators, and Internet of Things (IoT) in our living spaces. However, when we consider the inhabitants of these smart homes, children are often overlooked although we can assume that in the future children will be raised in smart homes. But with the rise of SHT (smart home technologies), do we even need human babysitters anymore? What if we could leave our children in the comfort of our own smart-home? This research outlines the concerns of 22 parents when confronted with this future scenario.
The future scenario in which smart homes care for children cause parents a deep feeling of concern however there is a belief that it can, and will, happen in the future. The visceral and emotional responses which we received highlight parents’ apprehension towards this future childcare scenario and proves that this area is worth exploring more in depth. Next to this, it is very likely that technology will be advanced enough to realize this concept and scenario in
the future, which makes it desirable to explore the ethical boundaries of such a system. This research study can be used as a starting point for designers developing smart home childcare solutions as a basic insight into user feelings and concerns.
Competency Areas Built
User + Society
Design + Research Processes
Big Sister: Exploring parents’
trust in the Smart Home as a
caregiver for children
Constructive Design Research
Pushing people’s boundaries and challenging them to articulate their personal mental models is something which I tend to do naturally in my everyday life, but which is rarely the focus of my final designs. I have always shied away from more showroom style manifestations of a project for fear of coming too close to art, as opposed to design, and not being able to have robust enough research outcomes to satisfy the institution.
This course however has been a great opportunity to see first hand the value of using the showroom style approach. People’s first reaction to our video of the smart home childcare alternative offered nuanced and intimate insights which I have not devoted time to capturing in previous lab or field style research approaches. One quote from the book in particular has stuck with me, “To give design more value, designers can adopt a critical attitude to make the public ware of their true interests. Critical designers look to shake up the routines of everyday life”. This inspired me to see the design researcher, especially one at a technical university, as responsible for exploring and capturing the real world’s feelings about the technologies which we work to make so common place.