Things Ecology

When the Internet of Things extends to personal living and work spaces, what we experience are interactions with “Things”. These are interactive, connected products that form local ecologies and contribute increasingly to our Everyday. My research in this domain focuses on design tools helping designers create novel members of such ecologies, and on specific classes of things that are calm, unaware and simply co-existing.

The research around ‘Things Ecology’ is part of the Future Everyday group’s ‘Systems of Smart Things’ cluster that encompasses several different research directions from sound and systems communication, to peripheral awareness and systems-oriented making.


Peekaboo Cam + Connected Peekaboo Toolkit

The Peekaboo house and the Connected Peekaboo toolkit are both outcomes of a PhD project on the ‘Awareness of Things’ by Yu-Ting Cheng.

Sound of a Smart Home

Further information shortly


From the paper: In our personal spaces, we are increasingly surrounded by interactive, connected and engaging “things” that increasingly demand attention and convey a sense of continuous pace. This work showcases how things could be designed from a different perspective: seemingly aware, but intentionally non-engaging. IdleBot is a very furry robotic puppet that is waiting. Unlike many applications in social robotics, IdleBot has neither clear purpose, nor explicit functionality – it merely exists and waits. The subtleness of its interaction, consisting of mostly idle motions, is the starting point to investigate forms of interaction bordering non-interaction situated in a personal context. In two iterations, we designed a fully working interactive prototype that embodies different modes of waiting. The design of waiting behaviors is based on a prior observation study with 20 participants, whose waiting behavior was recorded for each one minute under the false pretense of having to wait for a “real” experiment to start. A Kinect device tracks people in close proximity and allows IdleBot to glance at them in serendipity. The video shows what happened when we released IdleBot into the wild.

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The Things Ecology Lab

The Things Ecology lab is associated to the Future Everyday group in the Industrial Design department. There will be more information shortly.


IoT Sandbox

The IoT Sandbox is a research tool that was established by Joep Frens and Mathias Funk as way to design for complexity in the home context. The sandbox is an augmented scale model of a house featuring connected sensors and actuators. It is not only a vehicle for design research, it also acts as a vessel for Industrial Design education.

Data canvas

3D visualisation of the IoT sandbox data canvas

Apart from the physical structure, the IoT sandbox also contains a digital layer, the data canvas. In this structure, essentially a network visualisation, we represent all designs and their communications digitally. The systems design tools are built on the OOCSI platform.

Funk, M., Eggen, J. H., & Hsu, J. Y-J. (2018). Designing for systems of smart things. International Journal of Design12(1), 1-5.

Overgoor, C., & Funk, M. (2018). IdleBot: Exploring the design of serendipitous artifacts. In DIS 2018 – Companion Publication of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 105-110). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. DOI: 10.1145/3197391.3205420

Chung, D., Funk, M., Liang, R. H., & Chen, L. L. (2018). Explorations on reciprocal interplay in things ecology. In DIS 2018 – Companion Publication of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 51-56). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. DOI: 10.1145/3197391.3205411

Overgoor, C., & Funk, M. (2018). IdleBot : exploring non-engaging interaction design in personal spaces. In Extended Abstracts of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems [VS14:1] New York: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. DOI: 10.1145/3170427.3186606

Frens, J., van Hout, B., Funk, M., & Le Blanc, J. (2018). Designing the IoT Sandbox. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 341-354). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. DOI: 10.1145/3196709.3196815

Frens, J. W., & Funk, M. (2018). Presenting the IoT Sandbox: A catalyser of insights. Poster session presented at Data science summit 2018 – 5th edition (DSSE2018), Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Zekveld, J., Funk, M., & Bakker, S. (2016). The tumble clock: bringing users in touch with their snooze time. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 900-904). (DIS ’16). New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. DOI: 10.1145/2901790.2901857