There are two ways of conceiving the relationship between man and his environment: the first one sees the machine à habiter as a technical system which is to be understood, controlled and commanded according to thousands of possibilities offered by refined engineering functionalities; the second one imagines a dialogue between the human brain and artificial intelligence on equal terms, realized thanks to a liquid interaction environment wisely distributed in physical, graphic and vocal interfaces, where functionalities follow users’ intentions. The complete redesign of the Vimar smart home system was conceived technically as a leap towards a realm of objects connected in a network inside and outside the controlled environment. Asked to find out the best strategy to develop a suitable user interface, 21am proposed to apply a brand new concept of interaction for the first time in this market: a real Copernican revolution.
The interaction scheme, conceived as a logic principle before becoming a graphic interface, overcomes the idea of organizing the house-machine in functions and categories, introducing the intentional browsing. The logic organizes objects and functions adapting itself to the user’s intentions at the very moment when the interaction starts, aiming at showing information as well as different and related shortcuts and dynamic commands according to the path chosen, creating the conditions for predictive behaviors. A user wishing a better comfort in his room will try to find it exploring the visual scheme of all the rooms in the house, to get to all the customizable elements at a glance: be they lights, climate, entertainment or whatever. When, on the contrary, he will get control over a specific function of the whole house, for instance the state of curtains and windows in case of incoming storm, he will find convenient to quickly access a complete view of all the homogeneous elements, to control them one by one or globally.
We redefined all the states and behaviors of the various and different elements of the Vimar smart home system, including the ones by third parties, we designed a proper operating system of objects: a cosmos that is highly variable in content and composition can now be described using a homogeneous and coherent, almost elementary, visual language, that turns out to be the real key to cope with complexity. The outcome, that highlights the importance of the visual component (View) of the representation, is at the same time able to enhance the accessibility of the existing elements and to ease the adding of new and unpredictable ones, thanks to a rigorous and effective toolkit. The first use of the new interface style was, as usual in this kind of applications, on Vimar own MTS devices; after careful user test runs, designed also to investigate the peculiar way of interacting with wall mounted tablets, we improved step by step the whole interface design, looking into every single component of the operating system and of the application layer, performing a fine tuning of the color setting, customizing any detail of the software in order to get the best experience in interaction.
We also analyzed the specifications of Vimar own devices, strongly advising the realization of an unplanned medium sized (7’) wall mount device and devising design solutions able to overcome the tightening feasibility constraints; graphic interface and its support are not, in fact, separate items when dealing with the quality of interaction. The 4’ and 7’ devices, thanks to their design and moreover to the quality of the View user interface, were both winner of the Iconic Award in 2018.