An Interactive Communication Pillow

In this project, Carina Gansohr dealt with the problem of loneliness and separation of physically separated persons. She aimed to find an innovative technological solution to increase a feeling of closeness over a distance for couples living in long-distance relationships. An interactive pillow pair was developed which enables the exchange of intimate voice messages by using a sense appealing tangible user interface in form of a good night pillow. It is meant to support the going-to-bed ritual between partners over a distance: When one partner goes to bed, he/she can squeeze the pillow and record a message. The message is transferred to the other pillow via WLAN and waits for the other partner. As soon as the other partner lays the head down on the pillow, the message is played. The pillow is meant to provoke a relaxed and reflective ambience in which dedication for one another can be revealed and is supposed to motivate partners to exchange meaningful messages (differing from ordinary messages that are exchanged daily via popular instant messengers).

We built a working prototype to evaluate the pillow concept in the field. A qualitative study based on a combination of cultural probes and interviews was conducted with three couples in long-distance-relationships to test whether the pillows are usable and applicable as an intimate communication device. Results of this first study indicate that the concept is appealing to the users and successfully conveys a relaxed, cozy and intimate atmosphere. Couples report that they felt closer to each other and that the pillow made them slow down, feel warm and safe and compose messages meant to express support, consolation, love and appreciation.