Connected Lighting for a Caring City

Group: MIT Design Lab
Sponsor: Signify (formerly Philips Lighting)
Duration: 2017 – 2018
Role: Researcher (2018)

Determining a Framework for the Generation and Evaluation of Ambient Intelligent Agent System Designs
Designing Value-Centric AmI: Building a Vision for a Caring AI Using Ambient Intelligent System


The proliferation of Artificially Intelligent agents and embedded, publicly-available sensing systems has placed great importance on the field of study known as Ambient Intelligence (AmI). AmI systems point to a future where urban areas are at least partially aware of (and responsive to) their inhabitants. AmI systems present significant technical hurdles for implementation; less studied, however, is their potential impact in terms of user experience.

This project resulted from a collaboration with Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) and resulted in a design vision for such an AmI system, where user values act as the driver for design. Specifically, the system is modeled as a personal lighting agent, tasked with conveying a sense of personalized, contextual caring to city inhabitants.

The initial phase of research involved inquiry into emerging trends in urban well-being, a review of emerging interaction technology, and most importantly, a round of primary research that dissected the term caring into various perspectives. Through this research, we devised six terms for caring: accepted, accompanied, invited, acknowledged, assisted, and protected.

The AmI system is presented as Phil, the caring lighting agent. Phil communicates through a combination of Li-Fi technology and smart material surfaces, interacting with its users everywhere from home, to work, to public urban spaces.

In an effort to keep Phil personal and private, voice commands were avoided, and a gestural interaction system was developed for communication.

Finally, scenario-based design was used to construct a series of storytelling videos that describe various possible interactions of users with Phil and communicate ways that Phil helps users to feel cared for. As an additional contribution, the scenarios were then dissected using a graphic scene-by-scene analysis. This technique provides an armature for hosting the complex discussions needed to review both the technological features and user values inherent to any future AmI system.

These stories, along with the accompanying research, can be found at

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