'Smart' products and motivation

Hey all,

I’m currently doing research for a ‘smart’ version of a traditional domestic product (details are confidential). It will have some additional benefits compared to the longstanding status quo, and will also help the user to manage resources wisely. We want to catalyze individual decisions for good behavior without compelling or annoying the individual.

EG1: We own an iron that automatically beeps and turns off after 5-10 minutes. We understand that this is a safety feature, but when it happens several times during an ironing session, it can be annoying.

EG2: Occasionally, I will say to myself while using a product (usually Microsoft Word spellcheck), “stop trying to be smart! you’re getting in my way”

When designing ‘smart’ products, how do you strike a balance between catalyzing good behavior and not being annoying by removing choice?

Does anyone have any good examples of ‘smart’ products that maintain individual choice but catalyze the situation for better behavior and more efficiency?

Interesting subject!

I really liked texting with my old Sony ericssons T9-feature. Why I liked it was because I was pretty simple to add words to the dictionary, even complete jibberish or slang if that was necessary. Plus it was a relatively swift action. But if i remember correctly, it never forced the corrections in to the writing.

Let’s just say instead, that im not half as comfy texting on the Iphone. It’s created some annoying reflexes while writing.

Giving users the option to turn it off is always a good idea.

If the product has a capacity to sense user response to its smartness, it could modify its behavior, too. In the case of the iron, if it detects itself being turned on right after turning off, it could increase the length of time it waits before turning off again.

Last but not least, user-friendly access to settings is great. A lot of smart-in-a-bad-way software does have settings, but they are notoriously user-hostile.

This is an area where user testing and ethnography come highly recommended.

I would suggest making the product look a little ‘dumb’ and a little ‘helpless’. Therefore the user will feel good about himself (smarter than the machine -and not stupidier like many machines/products imply nowaday (gps,cellphones, cars,…). Hopefully the user will start caring/nurturing it and therefore change the users behaviour for the bettter. Maybe the iron can start crying if it gets to hot. Or that might be a bad idea, since an instinctive reaction could be to cuddle it :wink:

I suggest these videos:
and off course my current favorite designers:



I have an electric toothbrush that is programmed to “puslate” after 2 or so minutes to indicate how long you should brush your teeth for. If you still want more brushing, it will keep going, but it also serves to help you time the brushing without mental counting/etc.