Amplifying the connection between empty nest parents and their children through ambient information design

Yue Ma, Purdue University


Family members living a long distance from one other, such as parents and a child who studies abroad, can experience complex and mixed emotions, including sadness, worry, loneliness, etc. For example, Empty Nest Syndrome has become a modern social issue. Remote family communication is of considerable importance in this context. Traditional methods of verbal communication in such situations require synchronous interaction, a shared particular time and a particular environment, which are often inconvenient, especially given time zone differences and busy schedules. Hence, this thesis explores design solutions for a new communication experience between empty nest parents and their children – using non-intrusive ambient information design – to amplify the connection between them.^ First, I clarify the social justification of the empty nest family. Contemporary status and issues are discussed from the perspectives of both of parents and children. Following this, a literature review contextualizes different communication methods and techniques in current research. To build the conceptual support for this design solution, ambient information design is discussed in detail as an advanced, subtle, and non-intrusive principle. The design solution stage is guided by user experience design strategy. An audio-recorded integrated interview and survey session was conducted at first to build specific data sets on communication behaviors and the expectations of empty nest parents and their children. Then, a summarized design requirement was generated from the literature review and user research to guide the following design process. Design solutions were conceptualized and finalized based on the design requirements.^ As a result, this thesis challenges existing technologies and methods aimed at amplifying the connection between empty nest parents and their children by offering a novel, non-intrusive, and ambient information communication experience called FAMILINK. The first-level interaction focuses on an at-a-glance display of the fuzzy and essential status of another side, such as out of home, at home, having dinner, or sleeping status. The second level interaction focuses on creating a dining experience that implies the presence of another side to increase the emotional bond. Through a mobile application and a portable projector, FAMILINK creates a cohesive system that generalizes sensor-collected data into an ambient hologram display and projection. It is my goal to offer closer connections and bonds between empty nest parents and their children through a convenient and gratifying user experience.^




Zhenyu Qian, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Design|Multimedia communications|Individual & family studies

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