I read the Master’s Thesis of Broms about the “Awareness Aspects of the RemoteHome” and some of the cited papers. This helped me to move forward from “that would be cool” to “this could be interesting”. There has been done a lot more research into this topic than I had previously thought. And although I was first disappointed that something similar to my ‘scenario 5’ (visualizing presence) has already been done, I could also benefit from this and not make their ‘mistakes’ again. Or I could put more time in the design, which is according to Strong&Gaver very important. They emphasize the importance of design in awareness representations for homes. And I still want to make it ‘open’ so that everyone can create their own and easily adjust it to their needs. Something that was unthinkable five years ago. While they needed expensive workstation computers or laptops we can use cheap Arduino and get the same results. Broms also says that
“One could imagine some sort of modified network hub connected directly to an Internet connection. Each node, a furniture, would connect to the hub over a wireless connection so that they would be easy to move around. If the RemoteHome where to be developed into a commercial product this would be a very plausible and realistic technical solution for sure. “
… and that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do the last month.
Smith&Hudson noticed a dual tradeoff between privacy and awareness, and between awareness and disturbance. So we should look for a balance between being well informed about activities and being distracted by information.
Pedersen&Sokoler started the Aroma project which explores the abstract representation of presence. They investigated what kind of data they had to capture and display to convey a sense of remote presence for the purpose of peripheral awareness. By “abstract” they mean the amount of data removed from the original signal. “The more we throw away, the more abstract our display becomes.” And that doesn’t mean it becomes incomprehensible.
“People have an amazing ability to make sense of even very few and scattered snippets of information – just think of the hunter who is reading the ground for traces of animals passing by.”
One of the reasons they choose for abstraction is that they propose that an abstract representation provides a kind of “shielding” for privacy of the people in the spaces. According to Tollmar&Persson this seems true. One common reaction towards their 6th Sense was that the warm light gave them a feeling of security and did not include at all a feeling of surveillance of which they were worried about.
Their observations showed that all homes are furnished and decorated with things that not only have a practical function. “Many things and furniture were placed there because they reminded them of a relative, or a situation in the family member’s previous life”. They also found out that there is a need for communication within the family because some family members live apart or because some grown-up children had moved. Some of the reactions they had on their study:
“You think a lot of about other person. More thoughts than usual. You see pictures, what she is doing, how she moves in the rooms etc. Often you have thoughts that are more direct, ask questions in a more direct matter and so on. Now you think more like, well, now is she awake, at home she’s doing something, what is she doing right now… It feels good, in a way, the need for telephone contact isn’t so big as it usually is. I can see that she comes and goes, and then I know that everything is OK, if not she would probably give me a call.”
“The lamp really reminds me of my two sons. It feels as they are here.”
Also Hindus et al showed with their home studies that people desire more kinds of connections to family and close friends. They did those studies for the Casablanca which explored how media space concepts could be incorporated into households and family life.
They found out that a telephone call isn’t good enough and that talking in person was preferred because it allowed more personal interactions and spending time together.
They concluded(?) that consumers were interested in social communication devices with the following attributes:
• Fun to use, low in cost and simple to operate.
• Kept users in touch with loved ones or helped them monitor kids and elderly parents at home.
• Respected privacy and did not create new obligations.
• Offered multiple communication modes and enough information.
The Casablanca project yielded additional guidelines that are specific to the home context, as follows:
• Express just enough meaning, but not too much. Designers need to respect the value of perceived simplicity as well as the need for enough information and for expressiveness on the part of users.
• Social interaction should not be imposed on users. Designers need to allow users to fulfill their existing social obligations without adding new ones. Users already feel increasingly obliged to keep in touch, and can see added communication as extra responsibilities.
To support peripheral awareness Pedersen&Sokoler do not expect people to constantly monitor the various display elements. That’s why they looked around for ways to somehow “stretch time”, allowing users to feel the recent activity rather than just providing a snapshot.
 L. Broms, “Awareness Aspects of the RemoteHome A Concept for a Remotely Shared Flat Share,” Environment, 2005.
 W. Gaver, T. Dunne, and E. Pacenti, “Cultural probes,” interactions, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 21–29, 1999.
 S. E. Hudson and I. Smith, “for Addressing Fundamental Privacy and Tradeoffs in Awareness Support Systems ~ J,” Computing, pp. 248-257, 1996.
 E. R. Pedersen and T. Sokoler, “AROMA: abstract representation of presence supporting mutual awareness,” in Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, 1997, pp. 51–58.
 K. Tollmar and J. Persson, “Understanding remote presence,” in Proceedings of the second Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction, 2002, pp. 41–50.
 D. Hindus, S. D. Mainwaring, N. Leduc, A. E. Hagström, and O. Bayley, “Casablanca: designing social communication devices for the home,” in Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, 2001, pp. 325–332.