Developing better breakfast routines through fear and discomfort

Our project is a physical interaction installation that incorporates declining fear and discomfort within the kitchen to motivate users to establish healthier morning routines. This is done through a series of mini tasks that are usual in most people’s morning routines, including installations on a toaster, kettle, a sink and a pantry. Each of these tasks, however, contain a twist that causes a different part of the environment to change and increase fear and discomfort to the scenario when tasks are not done correctly or not monitored properly. This is counteracted by decreasing fear and discomfort as users complete the tasks designated, eventually ceasing these external factors. This includes sounds being played when an activity is not being completed, lights flickering to make items looks discomforting or aspects of the environment changing. The 4 mini tasks in the experience are in a specific order to teach users of a standardized morning routine that will give users a healthy start to the morning.

The purpose of these items together is to provide a kitchen experience that teaches users through un-user-friendly tasks how to have a healthy breakfast. Our research found that one third of young adults 18-25 can have a hard time struggling to keep a healthy breakfast routine. By using this installation in the common kitchen space, the use of discomfort and fear will motivate users to find a way to decrease this fear and discomfort, whilst also teaching themselves how to start their mornings off healthier.

Technical Description

The project consisted of four separate installations that represent a form of a health breakfast routine. These include the following:

The Kettle

The kettle is wired to detect when the switch on the kettle is turned on or off. After a set period of being in the on position, the kettle will start to cause noises to be played through a Unity project set up with different sounds, providing different discomforting noises each time until the kettle is turned off by lifting the kettle from its stand or by turning the switch off.

The Toaster

The toaster is wired to a relay system to toggle the status of the toaster to on and off. Whilst on, the toaster will allow for the magnetic level to lock into place, operating like a normal toaster without the heating elements being supplied power. After a specific period of time, the toaster will begin to play noises to remind the user the toaster is still on and is near completion, and once complete the circuit to the toaster is turned off, to signal the completion of this task.

The Pantry

The pantry is filled with a variety of pre-placed items of healthy and unhealthy food options that will be presented to the user. Each of the corresponding items will cause a response through sound and lighting through the use of Neopixels which are connected to conductive pads on the pantry, to detect when the user takes an item from there, so when a “healthy” pantry item is taken the lights will turn white, when a “Unhealthy” item is taken then UV lights will be turned on and will reveal the discomforting looks of the food item which have UV paint on them, this will cause the user to receive discomfort if it is unhealthy and reduce the discomfort for healthier ones. This will teach the user about which items are good and bad for breakfast in the morning.

The Sink

The sink is the final task in the experience that is made with a monitor providing a visual image of a sink embedded with a motion detector on the side of the sink frame to detect dishes being placed on the monitor. Initially, the sink will fill with mould overtime as other tasks are being completed, eventually being full of mould. Once the user uses the brush and cleans the plate, the motion sensor will send a message to Unity and the mould will begin to go away, causing the sink to be clean again. This trains the user in being clean around the kitchen.

Final Statement

The final exhibition for our team went well for everyone and we were thoroughly surprised with the positive feedback that we received for our project on the day. Although there were some aspects of our project that we were not able to achieve and some things on the day were not working at 100%, we managed to sell the experience that we wanted across to the users on the day.

At the beginning of the day, we focused on ensuring that everything was working together on the same pc and that we had the resources to be able to sell the idea to our users, including our promotional materials. We also knew at this point that our sink component was not fully functioning and decided that we would have to just simulate it on the day. To do this, we had the video of the mould growing in the sink and had to explain to the users the intended actions of the sink. As well as this, we found that some of the pantry items were buggy and would sometimes not trigger the intended effects that we wanted. To combat this, we assigned some of these items towards a 'neutral' reaction, where the conditions would not change when picked up. With the rest of the setup, the stall was prepared according to plan and the other interactions were operating as intended.

As the event began, our team was surprised with the amount of participation with the project, given that ‘fear’ and ‘discomfort’ were the main advertising points of the project stall. People were intrigued with associating these words with habit creation. By the time users had been explained the concept and had a walkthrough of the installations in our stall, the users came out understanding what we had created and could see the potential in this friction used in the future. The users also found the interactions playful and somewhat clear with their intentions, specifically the pantry. Out of the devices we had created, the pantry was by far the standout device that made the most sense with our concept due to the clear cause and effect of the user’s decisions.

Moving forward, our team agreed that some of the aspects would need further redesigning to adhere to the habit creating message behind the project. This included: making the negative consequences of the kettle and toaster more obvious (like the pantry), aligning the installations with one another, having decisions carry over and affect other objects within the space and completing the sink portion of the project.

At the end of it all, our team was quite happy with how the project turned out and we were quite surprised with the amount of positive feedback received from the public. It tol our team that frictions could be used in the future to create better habits.