Luxo Jr, the adorable little lamp in the Disney Pixar logo, breathes life into mundane inanimate objects. In this project, we brought an animated lamp to real life. I led my team prototyped an emotional lamp that tracks, reminds and motivates people to get things done.

Project Type: Physical Prototyping, Interaction Design
My Role: Interaction Design, Prototyping, User Testing
Collaborators: Rickie Xie, Yitao Wang
Timeline: 11 days

We all slack at some point, and we restlessly look for new ways to fight against slacking. Although current to-do list applications help us get organized, their influences are limited. In this project, I want to explore novel ways to fight against slacking, in a future where everything is connected and personified.



The psychological theory behind our idea is “operant conditioning”: get rewarded for desired habits. Hence, WonderLamp responds with positive actions when people are getting things done. 

Interaction Model
WonderLamp communicates through emotions. To deliver a concept of how WonderLamp works, we chose three basic emotions: Encouraging, disappointed and happy.

Once we mapped out the basic concept of WonderLamp, we refined details through generating low to high fidelity prototypes. 


Making it, rethinking it and reimagining it.


Low-Fidelity Prototypes

Two low-fidelity prototypes were constructed to decide the mechanical requirements.


From the prototype above, we learned that a "pan and tilt servo" could accomplish all of the three emotions (encouraging, disappointed and happy). For the lamp to respond to different directions, we added a third joint on the bottom.

I constructed the prototype on the right. From this prototype, We chose Arduino Uno, micro servos, RGB lightbulbs and Infrared Reflective Sensors.  


Mid-Fidelity Prototype

A mid-fidelity prototype was constructed to build lamp motions.

I constructed the prototype above to code motions such as "Dance",  "nod head", and "shake head". Due to the nature of the Arduino servo library, each servo movement is deconstructed down to precise angles. For instance, to accomplish “nodding”, I programmed the servo to move to a 100-degree angle, then to 170-degree, then back to 100-degree.

We created a chart with five scenarios. The angels of the lamp's three joints were specified in the chart. Below are the five scenarios: 

  • When the lamp is off;
  • Turn on the lamp;
  • Add the to-do item;
  • Take off the to-do item;
  • When the to-do item is overdue. 

Quick Validation
After programmed the lamp movements, we asked three people to read wonderLamp's emotions. We learned that the transition between each motion was too fast, which leaves users a little time to respond. We also learned that users interpret WonderLamp's neutral position as "looking guilty," because of the low angle. We adjusted our code based on feedbacks. 


High-Fidelity Prototypes

A mid-fidelity prototype was constructed to gauge the look and feel of WonderLamp.



Putting everything together. Hello, WonderLamp!


User Tests

To measure whether WonderLamp communicates emotions, we conducted three user tests.  We prompted users with a random scenario (i.e. "imagine you have an exam to study...") and provided basic instructions. 

Based on users' feedbacks, we added blinking lights to convey better "happy." We tweaked some details (i.e. more exaggerated nodding) to enhance the emotions.


Next Steps

We took WonderLamp to "Prototyping Studio Final Salon" and "UW Area 01 Maker Summit". From visitors' feedbacks, I developed four areas for improvements:


Synchronizing with Other Services
WonderLamp could synchronize with other services such as Google Calendar.

Task Urgency and Importance
WonderLamp could react based on the urgency and importance of tasks. For instance, "buy milk" is not an important task and should be tolerated when it is left undone. 

Currently, the interaction only happens on one desk. Other mundane objects could also adopt similar interaction: Imaging your couch gets uncomfortable when you are watching TV instead of working.

Diversity of Lamp Motions
Users could create new lamp motions/emotions. We created a Github repository for WonderLamp. In the future, we are planning to make it public.