This paper has a lot of great information into studying what people would like in a smart activity bag, who may potentially use or buy such a bag and some important concepts to be built upon. This post is just to highlight some things that I found useful, it is just pulled quotes from the paper so I can refer back to it.

Investigating the opportunity for a smart activity bag. (ACM)

Abstract: As long as people have traveled, they have constructed bags to help them carry more items than their hands will hold. While quite effective at keeping things together, bags do a poor job of communicating when something is missing. We propose that there exists an opportunity for the HCI community to improve the quality of people’s lives by creating bags that have knowledge of people’s schedules and equipment needs, can sense their contents, and can communicate when something has been forgotten. To investigate this opportunity, we conducted a field study with six dual-income families. Through interviews and observations we investigated their experiences using bags to organize equipment needed for children’s enrichment activities. Based on the findings we generated 100 concepts and conducted a needs validation session to better understand the best opportunity to improve people’s lives with technical intervention. This paper reports on our field study and needs validation session, and shares insights on the opportunities and implications of a smart activity bag.

Some important notes / concepts / quotes from the paper:

While bags work well at keeping needed items together, people often experience breakdowns; forgetting an important item.

It is often hard to tell from looking at the outside if a bag contains all the needed items. In addition, people can look into a bag and see what items it contains, but it is difficult to see what is missing.

From a usability perspective, bags require people to “recall” all the items they need in order to see what is missing; and as Nielsen’s heuristics for usability show, interactive products should rely on “recognition over recall” to reduce the load on the user’s memory [23]. (Nielsen, J. Heuristic Evaluation. In Usability Inspection Methods. J. Nielsen and R. L. Mack (eds). John Wiley & Sons, 1994.)

Imagine a bag that (i) can sense the objects within, the current time, and its current location; (ii) knows what items are needed for various activities; (iii) knows the time and place of these activities; and (iv) has the ability to communicate when everything is “OK” or when items are missing. This kind of “smart” activity bag can become a more active participant in people’s lives, helping them to transport the right equipment to the right place.

Previous research shows that dual-income families are a particularly good target audience for UbiComp technology. Unlike elders—another popular target for UbiComp systems—dual-income families aggressively adopt and experiment with new technology to increase their flexibility and to better react to dynamic situations [7, 11]. They desire systems that can give them a feeling of control over their chaotic lives, and parents particularly want technology that can help them effortlessly manage the “busyness” of their many activities [8, 9]. (Darrah, C., Jan English-Lueck and Freeman, J. Families and Work: An Ethnography of Dual Career Families. Final Report to Sloan Foundation grant # 95192-0113, San Jose State University, Department of Anthropology, San Jose, 2001.

Important References:

Davidoff, S., Lee, M.K., Yiu, C.M., Zimmerman, J. & Dey, A.K. Principles of smart home control. In Proc. of UbiComp, (2006) Springer, 19-34.

Davidoff,S.,Lee,M.K.,Dey,A.K.andZimmerman,J. Rapidly Exploring Application Design through Speed Dating. In Proc. of UbiComp, (2007) Springer, 429-446.

Dey, A. K. and Abowd, G. D. Cybreminder: A Context- Aware System for Supporting Reminders. In Proc. of HUC, (2000) Springer, 172-186.

Frissen, V. A. Icts in the Rush Hour of Life. The Information Society, 16 (March 1999), 65-75.)

Finally, the CybreMinder system works by recognizing a “situation” and triggering an appropriate reminder based on the situation at hand [10].

Students at Simon Fraser developed the LadyBag; a series of concepts for lady’s handbags that use LEDs [18]. Like the Torch Bag, one use of the bag is for self-expression. However, their designs also indicated the use of an RFID system so the LEDs could work to communicate when an item is missing. An article from New Scientist magazine describes a speculative project from MIT to build a bag using smart textiles that could prevent users from forgetting their umbrella and wallet [5]. (Biever, C. Smart Fabrics Make for Enhanced Living. In New Scientist, (2004), Accessed: September 2, 2009: fabrics-make-for-enhanced-living.html.

LadyBag Project:

Forgetting a non routine item seemed to be one of the biggest factors for forgetting an item.

Some of the insights highlighted are very complex to be able to create in a smart bag, but it would make it a very useful bag to have. from their paper:

Insights: A well-designed smart bag would need to have different rules for what is missing at different times and touchpoints. A challenge is both for the system to know and for the user to be able to explicitly state an approximate time before a touch-point that something should be considered missing. For example, non-activity items should not be considered missing until the last minute, but serviced and used items, like uniforms and baseball mitts, might be considered “missing” the night before an event during initial packing. Additionally, the smart bag would need to know which items needed to be removed at any of the various touch-points. Things like wet bathing suits remaining in a bag for a whole week have the potential to damage other items stored in the bag as well as the bag itself. Ideally, the bag should be able to sense its location as well as the location of users both to infer the current touch- point and to infer if the bag has been left behind. This also indicates the need for the bag to communicate with people who are not nearby, perhaps via text messaging. Finally, the need to create reminders when the rules change…

Last minute items – families often placed a note on top of the bag etc…

In terms of communicative form, our strongest hunch coming out of the sessions is that smart bags should use light patterns integrated into the bags physical/visual design to gain the user’s attention, but that the bag should also have some means, such as a screen with text, to indicate precisely what is wrong.

Read Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J. and Evenson, S. Research through Design as a Method for Interaction Design Research in HCI. In Proc. CHI, (2007) ACM Press, 493-502.


Sun Young Park
Donald Bren School of Information and
Computer Science
University of California, Irvine

John Zimmerman
HCI Institute, School of Design
Carnegie Mellon University

From: CHI 2010: Going to the Mall: Shopping and Product Design April 10–15, 2010, Atlanta, GA, USA