In short:

Dog&bone is a dog collar that turns man’s most faithful companion into a sensitive tool of communication. It is a “design exploration research” project that helped us reflecting onto critical design/speculative design/design fiction practices. This has been presented in a paper that claim that critical design should better articulate a form of dialogue within its audience. In order to enable this: How does it engage the audience into a reflective state? In the paper we present how these practices propose artefacts that are “not quite right”; how to design them; and how communicating them relies on a rhetorical strategy. The “uncanny strategy” we describe is a misbehavioural mean that critical design related practices use to stimulate the audience reaction.
Read the paper here.

Related Paper

Mollon, M., & Gentes, A. (2014). The Rhetoric of Design for Debate: triggering conversation with an “uncanny enough” artefact (pp. 1–13). Presented at the Proceedings of the Design Research Society International Consortium (DRS), Umeå, Sweden.

Context

YEAR: 2011 | LOCATION: Geneva, HEAD | PROJECT SCOPE: Idea generation, concept development, prototype development, field tests, photo & video shooting, video editing | COLLABORATION: James & Jimmy Auger-Loizeau (Supervisors), Théo Reichel (Electronic engineering), Christiane Murner (Leather work). Material: Leather collar, bluetooth connexion, anti-echoing speakers

 

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Question (or Problem/Demand)

How to evoke a distant interlocutor presence, thanks to non-verbal interactions relaying emotions and empathy, as if we where “face to face”?

Process

Dog&bone turns man most faithful companion into a sensitive tool of communication. It is a dog collar (embedding a mic + speakers) connected to your phone by bluetooth (no harm for the dog). Once back from work, the dog’s collar connects to your mobile phone, allowing every next phone conversations to be held through the loyal poosh.

“Dog&bone, The Empathetic Telephone”, is a telecommunications research project. It highlights the fact that in mediated communication, non verbal and multi-sensorial empathetic mechanisms that underpin human social links vanish because of physical absence (gestures, facial expression, body distances…). This is a parameter that devices ignore nowadays.

Therefore, the project proposes to re-visit the telephone, turning your most faithful companion into a sensitive device. Once back from work, the dog’s collar connects to your mobile phone, allowing every next phone conversations to be held through the dog. Thus, the dog can feel interlocutors emotional state and react to it – being tender if you’re sad, running away or barking if you’re angry. Taking over for the other’s physical and non-verbal absence, the dog becomes a mediator more than a media.

User observations revealed that the loyal poosh doesn’t only carry the phone but allows empathy regulation and proxemics behavior.

Therefore crafting the choice of the kind of dog allows to regulate physical and social proximity toward different kinds of interlocutors – a funny Carlin would distress, an affectional Coker Spaniel would sensibilize, a wild Shiba Inu would detach, etc.

2 prototypes
• Double EC microphone (“Echo-canceling”)
• Directional speakers (keep dog’s ears safe)
• Bluetooth™ connection to mobile phone (FM radioWaves, safe for the dog)
• “EasyPickUpTM button” (ON / OFF, pick up/ hang up)
• Mini USB (battery recharge)

Findings (or Learnings)

User observation, usage transformation
An user testing phase with the collars allowed us to confirm that the usual phone experience is drastically challenged. The phone becomes alive, tactile, affective and is free to make his own decisions (unpredictable!). Observations led to the following statement:
• Talking to a dog seems usual and natural
• The phone function is quickly and easily attributed to the dog
• The dog is accepted as a member of the conversation
• The dog character influences the experience of conversation
• The dog feels and react to the user’s mood
• A series of new “on the phone” postures appeared
• Last but not least, the proxemics – social proximity expressed in physical distance between two people face to face – is recreated between the dog and the user, as if we were in presence of the interlocutor.

Dog&bone succeed in evoking the other’s presence, mainly thanks to non-verbal cues. It brings back proprioception, proxemics, affection and unexpectedness to conversations. It recreates “face to face” conditions of empathetic conversation, but “face to dog”.

Taxonomy postures

Taxonomy postures

Papers

Dog&Bone were featured in:
Gentes, A., & Mollon, M. (forthcoming). Critical Design: a delicate balance betwe… (snippet). In …… (pp. 1–26).

Mollon, M., & Gentes, A. (2014). The Rhetoric of Design for Debate: triggering conversation with an “uncanny enough” artefact (pp. 1–13). Presented at the Proceedings of the Design Research Society International Consortium (DRS), Umeå, Sweden.

More info

Webpage of the project
Project on FlickR
Making of on Flickr
Vimeo video