UX Stories: A year of doing something different

This is the first of in a series of personal posts from members of the Connected Devices UX team. If you want to follow Tiffanie directly, she’s on twitter as @lime124.

2016 was an interesting year. I started last January as an Interaction Designer for a mobile platform and ended December having grown and developed skills I hadn’t used in a number of years. One of those skills was remembering how to be a researcher.


I used to do research for medical devices, testing how fast medics could administer shocks using AEDs or learning about the difficulties of carrying medical equipment into combat. It was totally fascinating. But since I became an expert in mobile interaction design, I hadn’t really used my research skills all that much. This year I began to dust them off and try it out again.

Project Magnet” was the first project I exercised these skills on and, looking back, I see places where I succeeded and failed. I think our initial research went really well and we gained some good insights. The London experiments went less well and we didn’t learn nearly as much. I think there were many factors that resulted in less than insightful insights. Some of it was time and doing too many experiments at once, making it hard to isolate feedback. Some of it involved a high barrier for participation and low motivation to overcome it. I also think in our excitement to run experiments, we lost sight of who our target audience was (our audience was definitely not a bunch of Mozillians at a work week!). But even these failures were a success, because  they were learning experiences, something I think we need to value and speak about more often.

Later in the year, I also got involved with “Busy Family” research led by Rina Jensen and Mihaela Zahariev. I was very excited to go down to the Bay Area and visit people in their homes. It was amazing to get out of the office and talk to real people and hear perspectives I could identify with, even ones that were very different from my own. It’s a great way to develop empathy for a wider range of people. This is extremely important, because it helps to diversify our ideas and thinking. Otherwise everything I’d make would be for busy moms at the airport!

Thinking back on all the research efforts I participated in over last year, it’s  fair to say that I reawakened and strengthened my core skill as a researcher, which strengthens me as a designer, and in turn strengthens my UX team and Mozilla.

UX Activities at Hawaii Work Week

Here’s a wrap up post for the UX activities hosted at the Mozilla work week, originally posted by Tiffanie Shakespeare on Medium


This past work week in Hawaii (aka #mozAloha), the Connected Devices UX team put together the following two activities.

The first was Drink-O-Vate hosted on Thursday after the electives. Using a UX methodology called Mash Ups, people created new and whacky product ideas. For our session, we used the format “what if [a company] created [an object] for [an audience]?” I think one of the harder ones was “what if Polaroid created a dishwasher for people with arachnophobia?” The results can be hilarious, but the method can also be incredibly useful to break out of a brainstorming slump.

Drink-O-Vate was a huge success and everyone who attended our session had a lot of fun. It was fantastic to see so many people from all over Mozilla come out and participate.


An example Mozilla idea from Drink-O-Vate


The other activity was MyrderHouse located in the CD Homeroom (Kona 5). This ended up being a collaboration between MoCo and MoFo and was a lot of fun to set up. We provided a dollhouse and props for people to create a short film about their very own IoT murder scenario (basically IoT going sideways). While it was clear that our filmmakers had fun, the location of the activity really hurt participation.

You can find the Myrder House films on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/myrderhouse/

Many thanks to our Drink-O-Vate idea generators, MyrderHouse filmmakers, MoFo collaborators (Kevin Fann, Jordan Gushwa, and Natalie Worth), Emily Dunham, and the CD UX team.

Hopefully you were able to participate in one of our activities and we’ll see you in SF!

IoT Lightning Talks at the Hawaii All Hands

We hosted an exciting batch of IoT talks at the Mozilla All Hands in Hawaii and are happy to share the details with you here.


sandipvoicebankSandip Kamat talked to us about VoiceBank.


benwotBen Francis talked to us about the Web of Things.


emmaEmma Humphries talked to us about the obsolete Gopher protocal and IoT.


davidDavid Flanagan talked to us about Computational Inquiry and Inquisitive Programming.


dietrichDietrich Ayala talked to us about the results of an IoT developer research project.


franciscoFrancisco Jordano talked to us about his project to decentralize personal media storage.


katieKatie Hendrix talked to us about smart cities and community based innovation.


davidteller1David Teller talked to us about ramping up security for the age of IoT with Redox OS.


michelleMichelle Thorne talking about Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio.


jonrogersJon Rogers talked to us about an Internet connected mirror.


davidteller2David Teller also talked to us about Mozilla’s Project Lighthouse.


samfosterSam Foster talked to us about using WebRTC for private and secure P2P communications.


flakiIstvan Szmozsanszky talked to us about teaching JS via HTML5 games on microcontrollers.


kellyKelly Davis talked to us about the internals behind Project Vaani, Mozilla’s speech recognition engine.


gervaseGervase Markham talked to us about a vision for IoT security.


guillaumeGuillaume Marty talked to us about VR and immersion into local content.


The Next Phase for Project Vaani

Project Vaani voice updateEarlier this year, we moved Project Vaani into a prototyping phase with user trials. We collected valuable feedback around product concept and design, as well as validated our assumption that a voice interface would help create a faster, easier and unconstrained way of doing things. This solution was designed and built around the users’ lives, as opposed to the service providers’ business interests. With that validation, we decided to focus on implementing the core voice technology components that everyone (Mozilla, as well as partners and the community) could use in their projects.

We also found that current market solutions offer speech recognition by using cloud based solutions which lead to privacy concerns. Such solutions also need investments in cloud infrastructure. We believe creating an offline solution that can be embedded in other applications and low-footprint devices would be essential to avoid these issues.

With that, the next steps identified are as follows:

  1. We are starting with an online solution to order to create trained models first. We will then compress these models so that they can be used offline on small footprint devices.
  2. We will also create a public corpora of voices which will help with creating inclusive technologies for both speech-to-text recognition and text-to-speech synthesis.

Continue reading …

Project HomeWeb tests home monitoring concept, less the middleman.

homeweb_108889664As we continue to look at problems people experience where they live (e.g. smart home and smart cities), home monitoring seemed like a great area to explore, so in October, we kicked things off with Project HomeWeb. The team evaluated products and services currently on the market, as well as looked at research that showed how people believe some of these solutions are coming up short. After conducting some research of our own, we landed on our first value proposition test, and are using Twitter ads and a product landing page to acquire reference customers to give us even more feedback, to help us define a potential offering that could be powered by Mozilla.

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The Project Abigail Concept Test

abigail-help-1200x768_261869786Many of us within the connected devices group here at Mozilla couldn’t help but take a look at our own lives and experiences and wonder if there was a way we could help our busy families with the IoT. We have also challenged ourselves to pursue solutions that do more than provide a minor convenience. We want to have a deep and significant impact on our users’ lives.

What we’ve seen is busy families juggling schedules, tasks and lists, with much of the stress falling on working parents. How can we help them? We definitely don’t want to replace the role of mom or dad with a device, and we certainly couldn’t rely on technology to do that anyway. What if we could create a system that empowers everyone in the family to do their fair share, and give parents peace of mind, and more importantly, a less stressful day for everyone?

Enter Project Abigail, which for now we’re describing as a set of smart buttons that talk and listen to your family, so you can feel less busy and get more done. This concept is based on the premise that everyone already tries to share what they’re doing and what they need, for the most part, but much gets lost or overlooked, despite the piles of sticky notes and incomplete lists laying around the car, office and kitchen.

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Project Haiku pivot: From a Wearable to a Stationary Object for the Home!

Previously Project Haiku focused on a wearable that would connect 12-15 year old girls with the people they loved. At the same time, the Smart Displays project was exploring the space of human connection, arriving at a product opportunity for a stationary object that connects family members who live apart from one another.

Because these two projects overlapped in a similar space, we’ve decided to merge our efforts under the Project Haiku name. So, Project Haiku is transitioning from a wearable to a stationary object that resides inside the home, and we’re using the Smart Display work as the jumping point for this pivot.

Project Haiku lo-fi prototype for testingOur latest product concept focuses on connecting grandparents and school-age grandchildren (6-10 years old) without the help of parents. We want grandparents and grandchildren to feel like they’re together, even when they’re apart.

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Do People Want a Crowdsourced Air Quality Monitor?

Test of Project SensorWeb in Taipei

In our last update on Project SensorWeb, we shared the results of a small poster test in Taipei, where we were trying to gauge consumer interest in hyper-local air quality information, specifically, particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5). Since then, the team wanted to understand what percentage of consumers of this data would actually like to contribute to the network. So, we set out to design the following test, which is now running to a small group of users in Taipei.

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Manel Rhaiem: Connected Devices Outreach Intern

The Project Haiku and CD Metrics Team would like to thank Manel Rhaeim for her contributions over the past summer.

Manel worked with a variety of technologies in Project Haiku, including SQL,Google BigQuery, Periscope/Re:Dash, HTML/CSS/JavaScript, and programming libraries for devices such as the Particle.

Manel Rhaiem has been involved with the Mozilla project since 2012.

Manel Rhaiem was an Outreachy intern in Summer 2016 who worked on Connected Devices. During Manel’s internship, she made contributions to both the Project Haiku team and the CD Metrics team. In Project Haiku, she worked on doing data analysis for our second user research experiment. She also made contributions to a web-based prototype for the ongoing user testing and experiments.

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