a hero photo and ad for O2

O2 is a system that aims to bridge a connection between homes and nature through a personalized terrarium and a mobile application. Through meticulous onboarding and customization, it curates a unique terrarium for the user. The terrarium contains a 360o camera, a scent diffuser, and a sound system, allowing users to enter a multi-sensory experience through virtual reality glasses.

  • Time length
  • 10 weeks
  • Sept to Dec 2020
  • Team
  • Alara Hakki
  • Jenny Chu
  • My Roles
  • User Research
  • Lo/Hi‑Fi Prototyping
  • Information Architecture
  • Video Editing
  • Copy Editing
  • Toolkit
  • Miro
  • Figma
  • Photoshop
  • Premiere Pro

Overview

For ten weeks, my team and I worked hard to develop O2 for one of our Master of Human‑Computer Interaction + Design classes at the University of Washington. As a team, we ideated, conducted interviews, developed prototypes, and completed specifications for our product.

A sneak peek at the final product
A photo of the sign up/log in page for O2's mobile app
A sneak peek at the final product
A photo of the welcoming page for O2's mobile app

The Problem

Amid the pandemic, stay‑at‑home orders, and the move to remote working, many individuals started to lack and miss their connection to nature that they once had. The concept of households for many had changed suddenly.

My group and I developed a product that would help individuals connect with nature and improve their well‑being by cultivating healthy habits in their households through interactive experiences that will take them out of their current spaces.

The Challenge

How might we help individuals connect with nature and improve their well‑being by cultivating healthy habits in their household through interactive experiences that take them out of their current space?

Research

Secondary Research

Through our literature review on the connection between well‑being and nature, we revealed that as human populations continue to move into cities, there are concerns that people are becoming disconnected from nature and living in environments devoid of nature can have negative effects on health and well‑being. 1,2

Devoid of Nature: We are defining this as lack of exposure to natural light, lack of interaction with plants, and lack of sensory experiences such as tactile, auditory, visual, and olfactory.

Secondary Research Assumptions:

  • It may not be feasible to spend time outdoors due to circumstantial pandemic restrictions.
  • Lack of connection to nature in the household can lead to the development of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This mood disorder affects overall well‑being as it causes depression.
  • Location and space restrictions may not allow an opportunity to interact with the outdoors when desired or maintain a garden space.

Primary Research

These assumptions helped us narrow our stakeholders down to adults who remotely work/study full‑time, work long hours (not remotely), or experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Our team remotely conducted three contextual inquiries and semi‑structured interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of our stakeholders. The focus of these interviews was to understand our audiences' current connection to nature and if they faced any challenges within their households.

Contextual Inquiries

a screenshot of the participants homes from the contextual inquiries
The Contextual inquiries included a tour of the participants' house to show their connection to nature, in the form of plants, light, or mediation rooms

Primary Research Quotes

I am going to be more stressed. Having as many plants as I do right now is a pretty significant commitment. — T

My lights are timed to come on every day at 7:00 am to replicate natural light from where I would usually see the sun — D

Primary Reseach Insights:

  • Having too many plants can potentially increase stress levels by adding responsibility. There is a desire for a passive routine.
  • The presence or lack of nature can have a significant impact on an individual’s well‑being.
  • Setting distinct and physical boundaries between different spaces in the household is healthy for one's well‑being.

Ideation

Our research solidified our problem statement. How might we help individuals connect with nature and improve their well‑being by cultivating healthy habits in their household through interactive experiences that take them out of their current space?

Design Principles

Using the insights from our research, we developed four design principles to help address the needs of our stakeholders.

a vector image of a person

Personalization + Engagement.

Personalization will create an immersive experience, allowing the individual to interact and engage with the product on a level of their choice.

a vector image of a water drop

Comfort + Reduce Mental Load.

A solution will alleviate stress for the individual through experiences that do not create added responsibilities and amplify a positive outlook.

a vector image of a hand holding a heart

Form a Healthy Connection.

A solution will aim to create interaction and connection with the user’s environment, contributing to overall well‑being.

a vector image of a hand held palm forward

Set Healthy Boundaries.

A solution will aim to create healthy boundaries mentally or physically, which will reduce stress and mental clutter.

Brainstorming Concepts

To help visualize potential solutions for connecting people to nature within their households, our team ideated, sketched, and generated 90 potential products. Because our team was so in sync some of our ideas were similar.

a screenshot of our 90 drafted ideas
Each team member drafted 30 ideas, here is a screenshot showing some of our sketches.
Click image to englarge.
a screenshot of some of my sketches
A screenshot of some of my sketches.
click to enlarge.

Down Selection

For the first round of down selection, we dot voted on the 90 products using the criteria of green: yes, red: no, and blue: partial.

We affinitized the remaining items in the second round of down selection based on if the product was digital, interactive, passive, and physical.

a screenshot of our affinity map
As indicated in this photo, we found common themes amongst our sketches: stimulate and sensory, personalization, self‑assembly, augmented reality/caretaking, and lastly the seamlessness of the solution.

We used our design principles to further narrow our concepts down to 17 that kept our audience's needs at the forefront. Our team continued downselecting until we found three potential solutions. These concepts addressed our concerns of bringing nature into the household without adding pressure to a person's well‑being.

a sketch of our first concept, a nature subscription box
A customizable nature subscription box that provided a connection to nature through a variety of products.
a screenshot of our concept The Bud a nature pod
The Bud, a relaxing nature pod where individuals could feel safe while exposing themselves to sensory experiences that mimicked nature.
a sketch of our 3rd concept nature decoration
Interactive nature deco to be placed around the house to relieve stress throughout the day.

Pivoting

After feedback and re‑evaluating our choices, we virtually walked back to our drawing boards to ideated once more until we found a solution that complemented our problem space. The new concept combined the nature subscription box, a smart terrarium, and a plant sticker collection booklet.

We would create O2, a smart terrarium personalized with a SAD lamp, an aromatherapy diffuser, and filled with various handpicked succulents delivered in a subscription‑type manner. The user could then collect stickers in a booklet based on the plants they receive.

This pivot was an obstacle but a vital move to keep our solution focused on our potential users.

a screenshot of our new concept
O2 our new concept.

Lo‑Fi Prototyping + User Testing

To see if our solution answered our design challenge, we decided lo‑fi prototyping was the best option to test O2 with our stakeholders. We created a paper prototype for the mobile app, a lo‑fi version of the terrarium and SAD lamp, and the sticker collection booklet.

A paper prototype of an app, a lo-fi terrarium, and a paper sticker booklet
The lo‑fi prototypes for O2 during user testing.

I designed the prototype for the terrarium aspect of O2. Funny enough, I recycled cardboard so much that I had no extra cardboard laying around the house. So instead, I made a scrappy prototype with a large glass bowl, taped a small flashlight to the lid of Tupperware to represent the SAD lamp.

User Testing

Our user testing helped us gather initial thoughts on what role our product would play in their lives and the look and feel of O2. I user tested the terrarium and told my participants to imagine a stationary 360o camera and scent diffuser.

a lo-fi version of the smart terrarium made from a glass bowl and platic tupperware
The lo‑fi version of the smart terrarium that I created and tested.

User Testing Insights

  • Step away from the “freemium” idea by avoiding prompting users to buy/add newer items without concrete reasoning.
  • Scents, lights, and visuals in the terrarium prototype would create an ambiance of nature within your household.
  • General background information on Seasonal Affective Disorder should be available.
  • Building a sticker collection motivates participants to construct their terrarium + gives them a sense of accomplishment.
  • And the built‑in terrarium camera might cause privacy issues.

User Testing Quotes

I do feel like there’s a disconnection between the product and the booklet, only because I feel like you can do also add the booklet information on the app.

Every time that I water it [plants inside terrarium], I feel like I get closer to it. It's like you might forget about it, but every time you have to water it. It’s not really a job, it's more like, ‘hey I have a thing here that’s living’, and it sort of brings me peace and all these things. Your focus goes like, ‘yeah I’m glad it's here.’

I feel as if it is like a freemium game in some ways. Once you have made the initial purchase, the product will continue to try to sell you more add‑ons. I would say once again, inform the user on why you are prompting these customized suggestions.

Pivoting ... Again

The insights directly influenced the finalized version of our solution: O2. We nixed the physical sticker book and implemented it within our app. To up the immersive aspect of our design, we upgraded to a movable 360o camera inside the terrarium to allow for virtual reality capabilities from the accompanying app.

Since our prototypes were scrappy, we easily moved on after pivoting once more after user testing.

Information Architecture

To show the all the integrations and connections of O2, we created a site map that includes our mobile app, the smart terrarium, and the SAD lamp add‑on.

a screenshot of the sitemap for O2
click image to enlarge

O2 Final Design Concepts

O2 is a system that consists of a personalized terrarium and a mobile application. Through meticulous onboarding and customization, it curates a unique terrarium for the user.

The terrarium consists of a 360o camera, and a scent diffuser, allowing the user to enter a multi‑sensory experience through cardboard virtual reality glasses.

O2 finalized concept of the terrarium

User Flows

Here are the user flows for O2's accompanying mobile app. There are 3 main flows for the app: onboarding, home, and my terrarium.

Onboarding

The goal is to get to know the individual to customize and curate succulent suggestions based on the user’s initial expectations for O2, experience and knowledge on plants, and caretaking preferences.

the finalized version of the onboarding section of the app

Users will choose succulents they are familiar with, indicate the level of natural light in their homes, and their experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

the finalized version of the onboarding section of the app

This section also allows them to add on a SAD lamp to their terrarium.

the finalized version of the onboarding section of the app

This section of onboarding is where O2 will use the answers inputted by the user to make suggestions for scents to use in the terrarium’s diffuser and sounds that will play from the app on the user’s phone.

the finalized version of the onboarding section of the app

SAD Onboarding Design

Though our team all worked on various parts of the app, I soley designed the finalized Seasonal Affective Disorder section. I changed the overall look of this section to keep up with our minimalist theme and make sure there was room to include information on Seasonal Affective Disorder. There is a link to a PDF from the National Institute for Mental Health so our users can educate themselves on this disorder.

a gif of one of the onboarding sections for Seasonal Affective disorder
The old SAD wireframe.
a photo of the wireframe for the SAD section
The new SAD onboarding section that I worked on.

Home

Users can keep track of their plants' health and relax with the mindful moments that the app provides. The collection section of our app provides a virtual sticker section that allows users to build hobbies and motivates them to continue expanding on their collection within their terrarium.

the finalized version of the home section of the app

My Terrarium

Users can connect with their plants on a personal level through a moveable 360o camera.

the finalized version of the my terrarium section of the app

Key Path Video

Here is our Key Path video demonstrating a walk through of our product.

Visual System

We want O2 to help our audience feel a sense of calmness when using our products. Our brand represents a minimalist and organic essence that aims to form connections between nature and the individuals. This connection is lighthearted and immersive with intentions to alleviate stressors in individuals' daily life. To convey the essence of our product, we chose colors, photos, and illustrations to represent Mother Nature in soothing, soft, and supportive ways.

We chose the font Lato, a sans‑serif, because of its organic form, rounded shape, and various font weights. All font colors are #000000 unless stated otherwise.

a photo of our visual system (UI) for our app
[Click to see our UI specification doc]

Reflection

Obstacles

Two of the main obstacles I encountered while working on this involved the multiple but valuable pivots our team made throughout the creation of O2. These pivots at the time stuck my teammates and me in a brief rut, but pivoting is what helped us address our problem space and provide a solution.

Teamwork

Secondly, we learned how to communicate and be flexible teammates while adjusting to life on zoom, the pandemic, and working across different time zones with my teammates/participants. These constraints and the knowledge I learned while working through them helped me grow as a designer.

Impact

We could not user test a finalized Hi‑Fi concept of our product. Yet, we believe O2 will promote positive interactions between nature and the individual using the product. This connection to nature will help reduce anxiety and stress for individuals who use this product based on our research and prototyping insights.


References

  1. Biophilic design: the best kept secret of a great workplace. (n.d.). Service Futures. Retrieved May 31, 2021, from https://www.servicefutures.com/biophilic-design-the-best-kept-secret-of-a-great-workplace
  2. Fuller, R. A., Irvine, K. N., Devine‑Wright, P., Warren, P. H., & Gaston, K. J. (2007, August 22). Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17504734/
  3. Icons from Iconify, The Noun Project: hess_pascal, flatart, iconixar, Flaticon: Freepik, Illustrations from icon8