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Robots in your sink, pouring your water, and sharing secrets.

HeatBot, Waterbot, and Cleanbot

HeatBot, Waterbot, and Cleanbot

At this point, this paper is almost 10 years old, but in my quest to learn everything on the topic of ecofeedback, one must do some digging. I’m assuming at the time of this paper’s presentation LED lit faucets were not a thing you could just order off the internet – such is the steady march of progress.

In Bonanni et al’s “Waterbot: Exploring Feedback and Persuasive Techniques at the Sink,” the authors evaluated four user interfaces (below), which were meant to “inform and motivate behavior at the sink for the purpose of increasing safety and functionality.”

The Four Interfaces

  • HeatSink illuminates the stream with colored light to communicate its temperature. The interface makes it so that one needn’t test water to get a sense for it’s temperature.
  • SeeSink takes faucet automation to the next level by automatically providing the right temperature and flow of water based on what the user presents to the sink, thus saving time and water. For example, with the help of a built in computer and sensor, when a user presents thier hands, the sink dispenses warm water, should they present the sink some veggies, the sink dispenses cold water. A sponge suggests the need for hot water to wash dishes. It’s not clear if the sink tweets your meal plans to your friends.
  • CleanSink enforces hand-washing compliance at the point of use through reinforcement. While you might think this is a great idea for the kids, the researchers had workplaces, such as hospitals, restaurants, and industrial clean rooms in mind when considering this project. In addition to the faucet tracking compliance with the use of RFID technology, it can also connect with the environment to, say, brighten the room lights once someone has spent the requisite time under the flow of water. Alternatively, you could have the doors on the room remain locked until washing is complete. I’m not making that up. Seriously, just wash your hands already.
  • Waterbot is meant to discourage water wastage at home, and uses audio and visual feedback to motivate water conservation. Not only does the user get some positive feedback and gentle reminders at the tap, but they are also able to compare their usage with others in the home (two illuminated bar graphs).

One of the main conclusions of this paper is worth highlighting here: “Any device that seeks to promote behavior change must offer pleasing interaction modalities and aesthetic design. The concern for appearance in this design goes beyond marketing and has direct consequences on the success of the persuasive interface.

We can see this manifest in a number of commercial behavior-change tools, such as the unobtrusive and elegant fitbit – even how the elegance of certain smart phones have contributed to their ubiquitous adoption. All that to say – form mustn’t just be simply about function (unless the form happens to also be beautiful, as is often the case in nature).


Bonanni, L., Arroyo E., Chia-Shun Lee, J., Selker, T: Exploring Feedback and persuasive
technology at the sink. Interactions 12 (2005) 25-28

Posted in Home, Public space, Research, Water, Workplace and tagged as , , , ,

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