The Untold

Team Placebo

Let It All Out, The simple act of opening up can go along way in the process of emotional healing.

The Untold is an interactive public installation that aims to help people repair their emotional state. The concept will focus on providing users a place where they can share their emotions through sharing stories or venting verbally. The Untold has been created to become a medium for people to seek more help out there. The untold is just the starting point for their first aid and to tell them that everyone around them cares about them. The installation is targeted to various kind of demographic, especially for them who are not in their stable emotional state. Anxious people or people in depression need someone to share their emotions and story. Research shows that not everyone is comfortable and brave enough to open up to talk about their problems or feelings, even to their closest friends and family. People sometimes are more comfortable with talking about themselves with someone they don’t know at all, since they have no relationship at all and it tends to help them become more open. People are social animals, and they can’t harbor everything on their own, both for feelings of happiness or sadness. Research shows that sharing thoughts, feelings, or even problem to others are believed to have those relieved feeling as if the weight they have been holding on to has been lifted, even though little by little.

The untold will have 2 sides, the conveyor and the listener. The conveyor side will tell their stories and the untold will analyse their stories to determine what emotional state they are currently in and convey that emotional state to their opposition in the form of ambient lighting inside their booths with colours corresponding to their emotional states, without disclosing what their stories were. This maintains anonymity between the two users. on the other side, the listener will receive the message through ambient lightning and give the conveyer a feedback message for them to hear. The conveyor side will receive feel acknowledged and receive a personalized message created for them by the listener side.

The interaction that the untold provides are through conversational expeerience that will be translated into color emotion. The untold can detect 4 different emotions, Red will represent anger, green will represent fear, blue will represent sadness, and yellow will represent joy. Any emotionless stories that were shared will be represented with white color and the user will be prompted back to tell more about it. The brightness of the lights will also represent the intensity of their feelings.

Technical Description

The Untold mainly uses Raspberry Pi as its main device to run the code logic. Both Raspberry Pis are connected to NeoPixel strips that are used to display conveyer's emotion and light signals to tell the state of the machine. Tone analyzer API is used to detect the emotion of the user through a text that is generated using python's speech recognition from an audio input. Sharing the state and data between both Raspberry Pis, are done through Heroku Server. Then, feedback from the listener is sent to the Conveyer using AWS S3 server.

At first, Conveyor would be able to start the interaction by touching a button on the booth. Then, the conveyor will be prompted to tell a story. After the conveyor finished telling a story, the code will analyze the emotion that the conveyor is currently feeling using Toneanalyzer API. The lights on both booths will then change color based on the conveyor's emotion. Then, the listener would be prompted to give feedback to the conveyor based on their emotion. This feedback would then be sent to the conveyor using AWS S3 server. The conveyor device will download the newest audio file, and play four other random feedback alongside with the newest one.

Final Statement

Displayed during the 2019 UQ Interaction Design Exhibit at The Edge Brisbane, The Untold proved to catch the attention of many visitors. The shape and form of the booths proved to pique the visitor’s curiosity enough for them to approach our installation. They expressed their love and interest for the concept of The Untold where a safe space is available for people to let things out. At first, most visitors did not realise that there were in fact two booths that were connected to each other. Once they realised that was another booth on the other side of the room, they could not wait to go there and try the other booth out. Our decision to keep the booths seperate fortunately went the way we intended it to. Other than to maintain anonymity and secrecy, we also thought that it would be an interesting addition to the experience if people found out at a later stage that there were two booths, instead of just one. Looking at the expression on the each visitor’s faces made everything worth it.

However, during the course of the exhibit, we observed that the due to the manner of which the booths were placed, it made some of the visitors hesitant in trying the experience out. The Untold was placed on the floor to help achieve a sense of comfort and security, where the curtains would be able to enclose the booth completely with the user inside. This would create a secluded safe space where users would be able to feel like they would be comfortable in sharing their stories. Due to this approach however, we seemed to have alienated some of the visitors that wanted to try the experience. Due to the booth being on the floor, some of the older visitors who wanted to try out the experience, were not physically able to do so. Other people also were not comfortable getting on the ground and crawling into an overly enclosed space as they feel that they are claustrophobic and do not enjoy being in a closed space for a prolonged period of time. The other issue with the booth being so enclosed is that heat build up becomes uncomfortable for a long period of time.

Future plans for The Untold is to use the observations and feedback that we received from visitors of the exhibition to refine the experience even further. One example would be to make the booths more accessible to elderly people as well as claustrophobic people by having a seat that people are able to sit on to share their stories. Further refinement in the smaller details of the interaction will also be added such as the dialog between the Untold and the users as well as the flow of interaction. All of this plus an improved emotion detector installed within the booths will surely be in future plans for The Untold.