Johnny TV Features: The Domestic Gubbins

In Johnny TV Features we’ll share with you interesting videos that we come across, enriched with our healthy opinion. This time we have ‘The Domestic Gubbins’, a video by Microsoft Research.

At first glance this video by Microsoft Research seems a bit whimsical or silly. But if we dig a bit deeper, we find there is a lot more to it, and there are some useful things that we can take away from it.

What is the video’s purpose?

The first thing to consider is what the video was for. What was its purpose? Once we understand this, we can go on to consider what the researchers got out of it and how this helped them in specific area that they were investigating.

So what was the video for? First, a bit of context. The Domestic Gubbins are part of a project called Objects Incognito (subtitle: Rethinking Machine Intelligence), which is “an ongoing enquiry into everyday ideas of intelligence”. We are promised a plethora of “intelligent” devices and technologies in the near future. But what is meant by intelligence, exactly, and what will it be like to live with these ubiquitous intelligent technologies? That is the question that this video attempts to answer.

Interviewing people

Why video, though? Jain and Taylor originally wanted to create the Gubbins as actual devices that they could give to people to live with and interact with. But this proved too challenging, so they decided instead to create this video, which shows how people might interact with the Gubbins. Then they showed it to people and interviewed them to find out what their thoughts and reactions were.

These interviews (excerpts of which can be seen here) provided the researchers with new insights and led them down new research paths.

How can we use this?

So how can we adapt and adopt this approach for use in our work? This research is very high-level and conceptual, whereas in our day-to-day work we usually deal with matters that are much more concrete. However, there are many situations where we would like to be able to put a product in users’ hands so that they can play with them (especially for products that are radically different from those currently in use or that address as-yet-unmet needs), but where we do not have anything close to a working prototype. In cases like this, we can use this approach to show how our new product might function and how people might use it, and then see how potential users react. We can then use the insights that we gain to guide the direction of our product.

Johnny TV

What are the weaknesses of using an approach like this? The video itself has to strike the right balance between showing realistic scenarios of use and keeping things ambiguous enough to make viewers think and use their imaginations a bit. And when interviewing the viewers, a certain degree of finesse is needed to avoid drawing interviewees in a direction favored by the interviewer.

In conclusion, this is a very well-made video that we can borrow ideas from for certain situations (though definitely not all).

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This and many other UX videos are posted on Johnny TV. Should you come across a video that you think should be there, please contact us via mail or Tweet me @martinpolley.

Martin Polley

Martin is an interaction designer and technical writer working at Intel in Haifa, Israel. Johnny TV dude.

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