Bangalore / New York City

Read<>Share: Hardware prototype


A hardware prototype as a ticket-to-talk to support social interaction


Image above: A video screenshot capturing the enactment of the Read<>Share scenario


What is A ticket-to-talk TechnologY or TTTT?

Ticket-to-Talk-Technologies (TTTT) are a kind of digital technology that support social interaction between people living in local communities by enabling interpersonal awareness about a particular everyday activity. The project followed the three design rationales of TTTT:

  1. Interpersonal awareness tied to a common everyday activity, in this case of reading.

  2. Embracing ambiguity: Not revealing intentions of reading.

  3. Peripherally displays the information in abstract forms

Roles and responsibilities

I was the solo designer, researcher and prototyper for this project. This included scouting for participants, finding collaborators to design the prototypes and finally writing the papers summarising the result of the six months long exploration.



Read<>Share is a TTTT to enable a pair of neighbours become aware of each other’s reading activity and in turn utilise the awareness as openings or ‘tickets’ for social interaction. It started with the key question:

If and how can digital technology enhance the awareness of everyday activities within a local community of senior citizens as an icebreaker to initiate and sustain social interaction?

Read<>Share is a conceptual hardware prototype, that allows non-nosy, low commitment social conversations between people living close-by. This was developed as a exploratory design process where I co-designed with the two participants, Asad and Sampath over a period of four months. The core idea revolves around sharing of mundane everyday activities between the two participants, who are also neighbours, to support their social interaction. The following texts expands on the process, contexts, how the prototype was built and the findings.

1. Inspiration

The inspiration of the project came from the Presence remote, Walky and Harvey Sack’s work that explored verbal utterances as tickets-to-talk, all of which focused on strengthening serendipitous opportunities for social interaction with a low level of upfront commitment to engage in social interaction. Svensson & Sokoler works on the PresenceRemote (PR) as a design concept of a TTTT allows senior citizens living within a community to voluntarily and reciprocally share aspects of their everyday TV watching with their friends. Being aware that their friends are watching TV at a particular time of day then becomes a way for them to strike a conversation with the friends when they meet face-to-face.

2. About the Participants, sampath and asad

I met Sampath through Asad while scouting for participants for my research. He is amicable and used to look forward to meeting me and sharing stories. So he and his wife became one of the key participants for the research.

A little bit about him. Sampath is a septuagenarian who lives with his wife in a gated community. He was in the pharmaceutical business and after retirement he became actively involved in community work. He has a son who lives abroad, and Sampath would regularly use video chat to talk to his son’s family. His younger neighbour, Asad, is a software developer who works from home. He used to often visit Sampath to address laptop and the video chat issues. A year back, Sampath had surgery that restricted his movement to home and also fatigued his eye making him discontinue the video calls with his son. This in turn reduced the frequency of Asad’s visits. Sampath now spends most of his free time reading in his balcony and occasionally takes a short walk in the common hallway in the evening.

An early drawing of a possible scenario inspired by Sampath’s story: (From left) Sampath is watching news; his niece arrives for an impromptu visit; they chit-chat; Sampath’s wife brings in tea; the niece points to a news that catches her eyes. Question: How can they continue the lightweight chit-chat once the niece gets back to her everyday life?


3. the different parts of the hardware installation

  • A fingertip data recorder that helps Sampath to image-capture couple of phrases while he is reading to share with Asad, and also to measure the time Sampath spends while reading (figure 1). As Asad does his reading online, he selects the phrases on his screen and sends them to Sampath’s book. For the exploration, we built only the physical mock-up of the recorder without the digital functionality. The digital functionality was simulated through Wizard-of-Oz method during the study.

  • Two physical books augmented with actuators that act as peripheral displays by opening up to a degree that represents the time spent by the other person on reading, and displays the shared phrases, but only for 24hrs.

Image above (left to right): One the left is the physical mock-up of fingertip recorder; Sampath reading and bookmarking texts; the Arduino enabled book display at Asad’s that opens when Sampath shares a bookmarks; the book in Asad’s reading room.


4. The scenario

Asad buys ReadShare and gifts one of books and the fingertip to Sampath. As Sampath enters his balcony, the book detects his presence and opens to a degree to reflect that Asad has been reading. Meanwhile, Sampath spends the afternoon reading newspapers and magazines in his private study. While he does this he wears the fingertip through which he records by hovering over couple of phrases that he voluntarily wants to share with Asad. The system relies on his home Wi-Fi to send the information to Asad’s book. At Asad’s study, the book placed in the periphery of his table. When Asad switches on his study lamp, the book opens up to a degree that indicates the approximate amount of time spent by Sampath on reading for the day. When Sampath is on his evening walks in the hallway, Asad meets him and asks Sampath about what he read today. The morning next day, Asad sees ‘elections’ as the phrase that Sampath has shared, and when they meet in the hallway, they discuss about the local politics.

Image of the neighbours Enacting the ReadShare scenario.    From top left to right : Sampath reads and bookmarks; Asad switches on his reading lamp, the book triggered by his presence opens the flaps signalling that Sampath has shared new bookmarks; the book placed in the periphery of his desk.  From bottom left to right : Asad browsing the book; Asad and Sampath bumping into each other in the corridor; A conversation involving the Asad, Sampath and his wife.

Image of the neighbours Enacting the ReadShare scenario.
From top left to right: Sampath reads and bookmarks; Asad switches on his reading lamp, the book triggered by his presence opens the flaps signalling that Sampath has shared new bookmarks; the book placed in the periphery of his desk. From bottom left to right: Asad browsing the book; Asad and Sampath bumping into each other in the corridor; A conversation involving the Asad, Sampath and his wife.


Findings from the collaborative exploration

A summary of the entire exploration including the interviews, and collaborative scenario enactments and feedback sessions.

Addressing Lack of Privacy
Our conversations with the participants did not reveal any concerns about privacy. Both Asad and Sampath felt that the shared phrases were too vague to lead to any kind of intrusion. In fact, Sampath was concerned if the shared texts made any sense to Asad. Moreover, both Asad and Sampath knew that they were sharing information only about their reading, and the sharing happened only if they explicitly performed the actions of bookmarking with the particular bookmarking objects.

Supporting non-committal social interactions

The shared phrases did not work as intended. Asad did not share many phrases surprising Sampath. Meanwhile, Asad did not really enjoy reading the phrases in the book. He found the amount of text shared from each article too long and boring. He preferred to watch the angle of the book to become aware that Sampath reads a lot. The reason being sharing phrases and texts demanded active engagement from the reader to read and interpret what the other person is sharing. This led to a demand for explicit commitment to follow-up from each person, and hence the feature did not manage to elicit enthusiasm from both the friends.

However, the feature of the book opening to indicate the amount of other person’s reading was well accepted. This is due to the fact that the reading activity added to the already existing cues the neighbours use to be aware of each other’s activity, without making explicit communication. For example, Sampath knew that Asad loves sports as he sees Asad playing badminton with his son while sitting and reading in his balcony. Asad becomes aware that Sampath is walking in the hallway from the shadows under the door and sounds of the walking stick. In this sense, they do not need to explicitly talk to each other. In Asad’s own words, “I know he is around and doing something and that’s enough”.


Primary reseacher & designer + Links:

Mentor: Naveen Bagalkot | Code by: Akash Manohar | Circuit design: Ankit Daftery | Paper co-authored (not published) with Naveen Bagalkot and Tomas Sokoler for Interact and CHI/Rebuttal.