master project \ interaction design

Pixie is an envisioned intelligent coffee machine whose aim is to explore the transparency in engaging gaze-controlled interactions between humans and machines. Through machine learning, Pixie is designed to respond to the user’s emotional state, in order to enhance comfort and happiness in the specific context of hospitals’ waiting rooms. This project has been developed as a group project together with Mick Haegens, Tobias Hoffmann and Thomas van Hemert during the elective course of Embodying Intelligent Behavior in Social Context.


Gaze-coltrolled interactions are often obstructed by a lack of feedback and/or feedforward on the user’s actions. With a technology-oriented approach, we designed Pixie in a way that it could learn how to respond to the user’s emotional state, in order to enhance comfort and happiness in the context of hospital lounges. Using Linear Classification (SVM), Pixie can predict eyes-only expressions and alterate the shown emotional state accordingly to the user, with the specific goal to win a smile back.


pixie’s interface \ sleep mode


pixie’s interface \ ‘awake’ and listening


pixie’s interface \ happy

This project shows through hands-on explorations how technology can interpret and mimic complex social skills that we often consider to be limited to humans, such as emotional connection. This kind of speculative approach can ultimately open up a wide range of possibilities for interactive technologies to be fully embedded in our future everyday life, bringing people and technology closer to each other. Although, this can also rise an enormous amount of questions on what will be impact of such future technologies on human life as we know it. It is probably true that advanced machine learning (a.k.a. artificial intelligence or, in short, AI) has the potential to have a positive impact in improving our everyday life in ways we cannot even fully imagine yet, but for that to happen we need to be extremely cautious.

Personally, it is very interesting to explore how emotions can be visualizes with subtle and minimal graphic representation such as ‘eyes’ drawn only using squared pixels (thus, the name of this project, Pixie). Further developments on this topic can be found, for instance, in PowerUp!