squeezy balls

figure2cThe (affectionately termed) squeezy balls project is more formally known as the Mood Squeezer. It was an exploration into the effects of playful, tangible technologies on serious office environments. We wanted to see if the introduction of such technologies would encourage more openness and discussion between colleagues. The main technology of Mood Squeezer is the SqueezeBox (see left). It is a simple device consisting of a black box and six different colored squeezy balls on top. The SqueezeBox invites people to squeeze the color of their mood; a deliberately odd request to encourage intrigue and thought. The ball colors are not linked to moods in any way, it’s up to the user to decide what color best represents her current mood. This open-ended relationship is also deliberate to encourage discussion and the exchange of subjective views between users. Sensors inside each ball can detect when the ball is squeezed (and also how hard and for how long) and arduino technology inside the SqueezeBox sends all squeeze data to a backend server and database. The squeezed colors are then visualized back to the office community in real time. We ran two deployments of this study in two separate offices (one academic and one commercial). Both buildings had office space spread across multiple floors so we built a number of SqueezeBoxes to put one on each floor. In both buildings they were placed in communal elevator lobby spaces where people regularly passed through each day. DSCN8554We ran the study in two offices; one in Bloomsbury and another in Canary Wharf, London. To visualise the squeezed mood colors; in the first office we re-purposed a large digital floor display (see right) that already existed in the building as a mood visualisation and showed the squeezed colors there. The floor display was in a communal space in the building where everyone could go to see it. The physical display was naturally divided into 6 squares so we used 5 squares to show what mood colors were being squeezed on the 5 different floors. We used the 6th square to show an aggregate of how much each color had been squeezed in the building for that day. Vinyl floor stickers provided information about what each square represented. image1In the second office we re-purposed four office lights as Mood Totems and showed the squeezed mood colors on them. The Mood Totems were placed adjacent to the SqueezeBoxes on each floor and only showed the squeezed mood colors for that floor. The top part of the Mood Lights showed what colors had been squeezed most recently on that floor and the bottom part gradually filled up over the course of the deployment showing what color had been squeezed most on each deployment day. Our results showed that Mood Squeezer had a positive impact on the office environment in a lightweight manner, without distracting from serious work matters and without requiring too much time or effort to engage with. It lead to more openness between colleagues about moods in the workplace and how they were feeling throughout the day as well as in-depth discussions on the relationships between mood and color (even outside of the workplace with friends and family) and replaced typical weather chat as a conversation icebreaker. It also led to stronger feelings of workplace pride with many bringing friends, visitors and even their children into the office to see the installations. In some cases the Mood Squeezer was re-appropriated for game-play. This was observed to some degree in the first deployment as groups of individuals would typically congregate around the digital floor display and try to observe the lights change as another colleague squeezed balls on the SqueezeBox. However, playful behavior was much stronger in deployment number 2 due to the close proximity of the Mood Light visualizations to the SqueezeBoxes. A strong sense of competition developed between those who wanted to change the Mood Lights to a single color and those who wanted to keep it multicolored. Colleagues would even recruit others to help them with their cause and make group decisions each morning about what color they wanted the Mood Lights to be that day. Watch the Mood Squeezer video: https://vimeo.com/72335185   Publications: We fully describe the results from these deployments in two forth-coming papers to be confirmed soon.

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