Shravan Rao


When I was about 3 years old, I distinctly remember being too small to see what was on top of the table. A couple years later when I was able to see those objects, I thought the world around me had grown smaller. In a way it did, as I experienced, lived, captured, remembered, shared the space again and again. This sense of the world shrinking was exaggerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing new behaviours and modes of interaction to emerge. Continually shaping our modern lives, technologies redefine the way we access and share information and stories or even explore new places.

We live in hyperconnectivity thanks to the exponential increase in our computing powers keeping us constantly in sync with our multiple screens, tabs, devices and profiles. Smart phones serve a two way communication bringing the world in and letting the home out. As people increasingly rely on digital tools for work, communication, and leisure, the boundaries between physical and digital realms have become blurred. This has subsequently led to challenges in managing the clutter and disorganization that can arise in physical and digital spaces, affecting productivity, well-being, and overall user experience. In response, this thesis aims to create a hybrid space that carefully calibrates information and architecture to initiate interactivity within home settings.

The thesis adopts a human-centered design approach, including user interviews and iterative prototyping, to understand how augmented reality (AR) augments reality. Research focuses on young adults, primarily students and working professionals in the United States, where the proliferation of smart homes and an increased demand for personalized experiences present an ideal environment for AR to grow and thrive. Overall, the research and prototypes are representative of AR as a tool for novelty in familiarity, potentially offering new ways of enhancing interactions and immersive experiences within the home. I believe this synthesis of our physical and digital elements will lead to a decluttered and productive mode of engagement. 

This thesis is an attempt to make the world smaller, by seeing and being more.

A Note on Home

The home has been a domain that has exhibited little outward change until the rise of digital technology. However, domestic space has been slow to adapt to the technological advancements, resulting in haphazardly integrating digital interfaces into existing homes. As a result, the contemporary home has become an interface itself, mediating between its inhabitants and the outside world.


hand drawn illustration by author showing potential of spatial computing

The future holds immense potential for transforming the way we perceive and interact with the spaces we call home.

My research stems from 2 key questions : 

1. What qualifies as a good interaction and what are the cues involved?
2. How might we create an organisation framework to prioritise well-being and productivity by enhancing the quality of human computer interactions indoors?

To answer these through explorations and testing, I consider spaces and activity as potential barometers to assess interactivity within a simple framework. Initial findings suggest that users often feel burnout and information overload while using devices and screens. Working across devices creates problems of portability and redundancy.

I primarily aim to create product solutions / experiences for college students, young adults and working professionals aged 22–35. From a user survey, 33 responses were collected to analyse and enhance the quality of indoor interactions adapted to multiple preferences and needs.

A desire for immersive experiences that transport the user to different worlds and enable them to explore and interact with their surroundings in new ways was expressed. Seeing personal photos or scans of spaces, elements of nature, educational content, 3D visualizations in biology, home improvements and health tracking were some of the suggested use cases.  


Mindmap and framework by author that drives thesis research and process

Participants emphasized that the user interface should be easy to use and navigate. They want to be able to interact with the virtual environment in a natural and intuitive way, without the need for complex instructions or training. 

The dominant domestic interface today is the screen, which has multiplied within the home since the emergence of the television in the mid-20th century. Capabilities in computing have become so accessible that they have pervaded nearly every aspect and device concerning modern living. However, the spatial dimension of computing within the home is not fully captured by these interfaces.

In order to bring the concept of spatializing thoughts and information within a home setting to life, I decided to create a 3D printed model as a prototype. This prototype served as a tangible representation of the envisioned spatialized system and allowed for a detailed study of inhabitants' behavior patterns, widget preferences, and phone and media usage. The 3D printed model served as a scaled-down replica of a home environment, complete with various interactive widgets and representations of phones and media devices. The inhabitants of the model were positioned in locations that reflected their usual presence within the home. This allowed for a realistic simulation and observation of how they would interact with the spatialized system.

Image 1: Fitting in User behavior, spaces, cues and widgets within the 3D printed model of home
Image 2: Providing affordances based on user needs, room available, behavior patterns and time of day

In conducting a workshop focused on spatializing thoughts and information within a home setting, I employed a user-centered approach to ensure maximum engagement and effective results. Firstly, I gathered a diverse collection of photos depicting participants' workspaces to better understand their preferences regarding objects, people, and devices utilized in their daily routines. 

Throughout the workshop, I facilitated discussions and encouraged participants to share their insights, experiences, and challenges. This collaborative approach fostered a rich exchange of ideas and allowed participants to learn from one another's perspectives. It also enabled me to gather feedback and make real-time adjustments to better address their needs.

By the end of the workshop, participants had successfully created personalized spatialized information systems within the home setting, tailored to their specific requirements. The workshop not only avoided cognitive overload by allowing participants to strategically arrange widgets, but it also provided new modalities of interaction that enhanced functionality and efficiency. The overall aim was to empower participants to take control of their information flow, optimize their productivity, and create a harmonious balance between their thoughts and their physical environment.


User testing through paper cut out widgets

An interactive hands on workshop to understand the placement, type and duration with which potential users would want to interact with the AR app. The learnings and inferences from this process were instrumental in shaping the design and functionality of the final system, ensuring that it effectively met the needs of the users and provided a seamless and personalized experience.

I developed a proof of concept for an augmented reality (AR) based application designed specifically for homes, enabling users to seamlessly add, connect, and control various devices within their living spaces. Bridging the gap between a smartphone and a smart home, this AR-based system empowers users with timely information, personalized assistance, and automation capabilities. By simply pointing their AR-enabled device at a specific area or object, a virtual interface overlays the real-world environment, providing an interactive display of available devices and functionalities. 

The benefits of this AR-based prototype extend beyond convenience and control. It empowers individuals to become prosumers, actively engaging with their homes and taking charge of their smart living experience. The immersive nature of the technology cultivates a sense of ownership and personalization, enabling users to tailor their environments to their preferences and needs. They can access real-time information about energy consumption, security status, and device performance, allowing for informed decision-making and optimization of their home automation systems.

Moreover, this AR-based application provides timely assistance through contextual prompts and suggestions. It leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze user behavior, preferences, and historical data to offer personalized recommendations and automation features. It becomes a virtual companion that assists users in their daily routines, optimizing energy usage, scheduling tasks, and enhancing overall efficiency within the home environment.

In conclusion, this AR-based system can potentially help users to transform their homes into intuitive, efficient, and personalized environments, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.


AR user flow to interact through app with devices and widgets in the home

Different UI screens from the prototyping of the app.


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