On a beautiful sunny afternoon at Franklin Square, a public park located downtown of Philadelphia, I sat across a playground occupied by parents and their kids. Hanging on the monkey bars and riding the swings were the kids and with so much enjoyment before my eyes, I couldn’t help, but to smile at the display of youth. However, while my eyes were fixed upon the scene of joy and play, the parents of these youths had their eyes fixed on a screen, a phone screen. Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? Unfortunately, no. In today’s technological world, quality time is often spent with technology instead of without and the physical space we are surrounded by carries less emphasis than the digital space we possess in our pockets. I look at this scene and wonder how fortunate must it be for these parents to have the luxury of spending time with their kids and how the other parents, who do not see their kids enough, must be envious of them. Thinking of ways to bridge the gap between parents and their kids, I looked into the struggles of being a working parent from a lower socioeconomic background, the importance of parent-child relationships, and what it means to design for kids and their parents. I came with the conclusion to create a mobile technology that will allow for kids to be with their parents and vice versa even when they are not in the same physical space, all the while keeping the two engaged and using their imaginations to communicate with one another. Thus, enters my mobile technology, the Shared Vision Glasses, or SV Glasses.
The SV Glasses are glasses with a small webcam placed on the frame, facing where your eyes are looking. Using the existing technology in the Google Glass, the glasses have augmented reality (AR) technology installed into it along with the capability to connect with other SV Glasses by webcamming and being able to work as a phone that can send vocals and receive them. The unique features of the glasses are the capabilities of allowing the user to share what he/she is seeing with the other user that he/she is in a call with and adjusting how big the screen can be when viewing someone else’s vision. The idea of a point of view (POV) angle is a way to live-stream the physical space you’re in within the call, but the real draw of these glasses is sharing your creativity with a friend or family. Within the augmented reality technology, users may decorate their vision in real time with a voice command of saying what virtual object they want and hovering their hand over the front webcam to allow for the object to manifest. This technology is similar, but more advanced than Virtual Graffiti; an app that allows for users to decorate a picture with virtual objects or drawings that they taken a picture of and have it be seen when another user uses the app at the same location. The glasses will come with 3D tracking, which enables the glasses to display virtual objects in real time. The glasses would need to analyze its surroundings, which it is constantly doing, and after doing so, the user may create a virtual object to appear in any of the spots that the glasses have analyzed. So, even when the user’s vision moves away from the virtual object, the virtual object will not stay on the screen. It will be left in that specific vicinity that the users placed it.
The common theme in each of these technology, whether it’s the phone, the Google Glass, or Virtual Graffiti, is to connect with others through personalization. The creators of these mobiles technologies envision a clear design and a clear purpose for individual experiences to be shared. In Ann Light and Rosemary Luckin’s “Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology, and Learning” (2008), it mentions Amartya Sen, who believes “justice requires us to enable people to engage in activities necessary to achieve what they want, rather than give them what they want” (p. 9). Just like Sen talks about as well, my SV Glasses provides the users the agency to use the glasses as they please and that’s part of the reason one of the glasses’ functions allows users to change the way they see the world to one that is more reflective of their imagination (p. 8). However, even given the general nature of social justice, there is a targeted audience for my mobile tech. As I mentioned earlier, my goal is to allow for parents, who may not be spending time with their kids as much as they like, to still be able to keep in touch and play with their kids without being physically present. First, I needed to find out what prevented parents from being with their kids and the truth is a cruel reality.
Kevin M. Roy, Carolyn Y. Tubbs, and Linda M. Burton’s “Don’t Have No Time: Daily Rhythms and the Organization of Time for Low Income Families” (2004) examines the lives of 75 low income mothers residing in Chicago and how they struggle to manage their time and resources. As the mothers land a job with a weekly schedule, their daily activities became defined within their typical work days (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton, p. 168). This meant that besides going to work from starting and ending on a set time, that most of their activities outside of work followed the same strict schedule every day. Besides having to work, mothers had to take into account the amount of time required for travel to work and back and for daily sustenance activities, such as cleaning the house, laundry, and making lunch (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton p. 172). With their days being so clustered with employment or chores, when do these mothers find the time to spend it with their kids? The research shows that “care for children was the primary time obligation for all 75 mothers. Almost 40% (n = 28) of mothers saw their children less than 6 hours a day, with 10% (n = 7) spending less than 2 hours with children” (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton p. 171). For these mothers, they had fewer resources which resulted in “fewer options for work and family life and less control over their own daily lives” (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton p. 175). My glasses can, at least, enable parents to integrate more quality time talking and playing with their kids. These mothers already have it tough as it is, but:
If obligations could not be integrated, stress and frustration resulted, and often mothers were forced into difficult choices: leaving welfare because time and space hassles; dropping partners who cannot provide care support or synchronize their work hours; quitting jobs if work hours do not allow for adequate care of children. (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton p. 175)
The SV Glasses were designed to not disturb daily routines, but allow itself to be integrated with it. Masao Kakihara and Carsten Sorensen explain the three dimensions of human interaction in their article “Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept” (2001). The SV Glasses would be part of the nomadic lifestyle that parents adopted when balancing employment and raising a family. The glasses contain the idea of spatial mobility, in which “it is designed for movement” and makes it so “geographical distance no longer remains a fundamental aspect of the interaction—the boundary between ‘here’ and ‘there’ dissolves” (Kakihara and Sorensen, p. 34). However, even with the portability of the glasses, it does not relieve the way parents structure their schedule. Well, with the functionality of being able to connect with their kids whenever and wherever, that might be a solution. The fact is that those mothers have a specific work schedule and are structurally set “by largely objectified parameters, among which sequence, duration, temporal location and rates of recurrence” (Kakihara and Sorensen, p. 34). Kakihara and Sorensen refer this as part of temporal mobility and the way these mothers set aside specific time slots for their daily activities, it is considered monochronicity (p. 34). What the glasses can do is allow for these mothers to “place less value on and accept divergence of structural and interpretive attributes of the temporal order” (Kakihara and Sorensen, p. 34) by allowing them to multitask at work or during their transportation and conceptualize time as a less dependent resource.
The last of the dimensions that Kakihara and Sorensen touch on is the notion of contextual mobility, where “the action occurs is of equal importance in organizing human interaction” (p. 35). It is important for me to consider that the glasses are unobtrusive to all users and that is by giving the option of ephemeral interaction. I would like for the users realize that it takes a conscious effort to use the glasses and that it is their power to use the glasses to their advantage. Rich Ling and Jonathan Donner’s “Debates Surrounding Mobile Communication” (2009) notes that mobile technology “sometimes uncomfortably – plays into the interaction between parent and child” (p. 121). While there are obvious benefits of connection, “its use can be shaped and sabotaged in different ways to the advantage of children in one turn of the interaction and to the advantage of parents in the next” (Ling and Donner, p. 121). There’s no guarantee that my aim to build upon a diminishing relationship between parents and their kids will succeed, but it is important for me to offer the option of being able to contact friends or family.
For the most part, I’ve been discussing how my glasses are beneficial to parents, but failed to address the issue from a child’s point of view. To address the importance of parent/child relationships, I’ll be using Svetlana Yarosh, Hilary Davis, Paulina Modlitba, Mikael Skov, and Frank Vetere’s “Mobile Technologies for Parent/Child Relationships” (2009). As they have noticed also, “More than ever, parents are likely to travel for work-related business—an increase of 14% between 1994 and 2001 with an expectation for further growth” (Yarosh, Davis, Modlitba, Skov, and Vetere, p. 286). When we look at the role parents play when raising children, they have the “central role in supporting the child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development” (Yarosh, Davis, Modlitba, Skov, and Vetere, p. 285). Without the proper guidance or the lack of parent interaction, “children rarely verbally expressed affection and self-disclosed less than their parents desired” (Yarosh, Davis, Modlitba, Skov, and Vetere, p. 288). There are technology out there that help parents keep in contact with their kids, such as the phone or Skype. However, the research in the article reveals that “closeness is built more through play and care together than through conversation”, “but found little technological support to do so while separated” (Yarosh, Davis, Modlitba, Skov, and Vetere, p. 289).
I wanted my mobile tech to really encompass the idea of play so it could be appealing to the kids who use it. But for me to design something playful, I would need to understand how to design tech for kids and what play meant to them. Matt Jones’s “Mobile Interaction Design Matters” (2009) explores how children interact with their media and why it is very interesting to design things specifically for children. For example, Jones believes:
As designers of mobile interactions, we can learn much from children’s concerns and perspectives, the way they handle material things and respond to digital artefacts. Their everyday world is full of imagined possibilities—the hollowed-out tree that is a fairy house; the stick that is a magic wand—and they untainted by the cynicism or wariness one sees with grownup codesigners or participants. (p. 103)
I wondered how could I capture this imagination of a child and have them fully express it for him/herself and to their parents. Well, why not give them the ability to physically, or in this case virtually, show it. The augmented reality ability allows for unique, unstructured experiences and I wanted the glasses “such as building blocks, allow a freer range of expression” (Jones, p. 107). Now, what exactly is “play”? According to Jones:
Play is used to make sense of experiences and relationships, to create meaning about the world and self. Props are used to bridge the real and imagined worlds, taking symbols of things that exist into fantasy worlds and allowing us to express our internal worlds in tangible ways. (p.107)
What children may not be able to convey verbally to their parents, they can express through their interpretation of the world.
With each invention, the designer must think about how accessible and how ethical, in terms of privacy and surveillance, is the design. When you look at the SV Glasses, which its main draw is the visual aspect of it, it’s not all that accessible to people with eye problems, either being blind or have poor eyesight in general. Whether it’s being colorblind or a poor vision, I can enable for the glasses to have interchangeable lenses that can allow the glasses to work as prescription glasses and allow the users to choose the colors they want to see. However, the glasses come to a fault when its augmented reality capability can not be used by the blind. Though I can not cure the blind, I hope the glasses encourage kids or parents to describe to the blind what he/she is seeing and that can further the interaction of discussion. Also, for those who are mute and cannot use the voice command, just like Google Glass, users are able to toggle through the options of how to distort their vision with a clickable wheel on the side of the frame.
The ethics behind the glasses are problematic. What exactly can users virtually add or distort? Tony Liao’s “A Framework for Debating Augmented Futures: Classifying the Visions, Promises and Ideographs Advanced About Augmented Reality” (2012) discusses the promises and problems of using augmented reality. One of the issues Liao briefly mentions is that “there are certain features of AR that many informants say hold unique promise for porn” (p. 8). While allowing the ability to add virtual women or men would bring a wider range of audiences, I must decide whether children should be exposed to things such as naked men or women. My ideology is to not restrict children’s forms of self-expression and it is my duty to incorporate as many building blocks into the system, including naked men and women. I, also, must look at that the users have full on privacy. There will be no sort of monitoring whatsoever from manufacturers or businesses selling the glasses and users will not have their screens shared unless they accept incoming calls or send them. The glasses are suppose to enable intimate time with parents and their kids and it would be an injustice to have anyone else observing that interaction.
The last potential problem that arises with the ability to augment reality is that users “instead of using it to be interactive and activist, they would choose to diminish uncomfortable realities” (Liao, p. 9). This can be from changing the color scheme of the world or even distorting the faces of people and that is still a privacy problem. People have the right to not be augmented because:
this asymmetry between the augmenter and subject being augmented could be discomforting both in terms of not knowing what type of augmented information someone is bringing up about you but also the privacy violation of not being aware that you are being augmented. (Jones, p. 9)
The way I plan on solving this issue is that it is illegal to share your vision of an augmented person through social media. The glasses come with the option to record your vision and take pictures of it, but you must have consent of the augmented person to allow you to show them to the public.
The SV Glasses are a good option to keep in touch with kids, or parents, when there is little time spent between the two. We cannot ignore that parents “although their motivation to be good (parents) through successful caregiving and providing for their families could be easily frustrated in the challenging context of poverty” (Roy, Tubbs, and Burton p. 175). I don’t want parents to quit their only means of income, so they can spend more time with their kids. So, the SV Glasses are a good tool for parents so they never have to make that decision. For kids, I want them to feel safe and know that “situations… expect(ed) to be private should remain so; he or she must be able to view and choose which information is shared” (Yarosh, Davis, Modlitba, Skov, and Vetere, p. 303). My goal with the SV Glasses was to provide a good tool that makes communication more engaging for the parent and the children without interrupting daily routines, but instead gain a new one that can be integrated and not structurally established in time and space.
Jones, M. (2009). Mobile Interaction Design Matters . Mobile technology for children: Designing for interaction and learning. Boston: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers/Elsevier. Chapter 6. P. 99-124
Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37.
Liao, T. (2012). A Framework for Debating Augmented Futures: Classifying the Visions, Promises and Ideographs Advanced About Augmented Reality. In Proceedings of the IEEE 11th International Symposium of Mixed and Augmented Reality, 3-12, doi: 10.1109/ISMAR-AMH.2012.6483982
Light, Ann and Rosemary Luckin. (2008). “Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology and Learning.” Report for Futurelab.
Ling, Rich and Donner, Jonathan. (2009). Mobile Communication. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Chapter 5. P. 107-133
Roy, K. M., Tubbs, C. Y., & Burton, L. M. (2004). Don’t have no time: Daily rhythms and the organization of time for low-income families. Family Relations, 53(2), 168-178. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00007.x
Yarosh, S., Davis, H., Modlitba, P., Skov, M., & Vetere, F. (2009). Mobile Technologies for Parent/Child Relationships. Mobile technology for children: Designing for interaction and learning. Boston: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers/Elsevier. Chapter 14. P. 285-306
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