Concept

The Family Map project came out of the Designing for Togetherness workshop. It is an application for keeping in contact with your family and close friends. Each family member is visualized on a map. When choosing to look closer at a specific person, the screen also contains meta data about the place where that person is living, for example local news headlines, weather and sports results, together with information such as tweets and/or Facebook status, birthdays, and explicitly shared items like pictures and drawings. The meta data that is mined and displayed here is based on a combination of location and the profile information that the user inputs upon joining the service, such as interests and keywords/ tags that describe them. The concept is that increased detail knowledge about the lives of family members and close friends will make it easier to uphold a good connection despite geographical separation. In its most simplistic sense it would offer relevant topics for a conversation.

A physical device (this could be something like a bracelet, watch or smart phone depending on personal preference) is linked to each user’s profile, providing notifications of particularly important events occurring in close proximity to family members and friends, such as natural disasters or terrorist threats. Additionally, some form of notification will be
given when someone is looking at your profile in the system. This would indicate that this particular person is thinking about you, and like a ripple in water effect, make you think of them in return. The sum of which would hopefully yield the potential for further communication and in the end a stronger connection.

For people not used to computers, the web application should be designed so that it could easily be used on a wall-mounted touch screen or a mobile device like the iPad.

We think Family Map can help uphold stronger bonds between family members and enhance relationships. It sets out to achieve this by reminding the users to pay attention to each other. As already explained, it works not only for family relations, but also for friends, whose news, location and context-based information you might be interested in.

There is probably no product or service today that offers everything this concept does. However, things like local news RSS-feeds and weather forecasts are of course available from many different sources. Also the possibility to chat, blog, or e-mail within your family is of course available on the Internet, for example via different social networking sites. This idea differs from those, however, since the main idea of this concept is to combine these different available sources into a single, easy-to-use interface.
Recently, a new social network called Path was launched. This social network also focuses on strong social ties but through differing techniques from Family Map, as it is primarily about photo sharing. Path limits the number of friends to 50 and hopes thereby to make a more personal network.

Relevant studies and previous projects of a similar nature will be researched to aid and guide the implementation of this project.

Illustration showing the Family Map concept

Implementation, realization and technologies

The interface of the Family Map web application will be created primarily using a combination of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. A dynamic and location aware map plays a crucial part in the application’s interface, and preliminary research has already been undertaken towards finding the best platform in this regard. The CloudMade API seems particularly useful as it offers a greater level of flexibility and visual customization than Google Maps, with underlying map data provided by the OpenStreetMap initiative.

The information gathering/data mining of news and weather will be implemented using Java. The database used will be MySQL and the connection between these two will be done using the JDBC API.

In a first approach, the Family Map should be designed so that any computer can access it via a web based interface. In addition to that, a physical device with a display should be built. This device should be able to show pictures of the people that are viewing the user’s profile or sending a message. The device would have an Arduino nano as its primary unit along with a small OLED screen, ideally communicating with the web application through a wifi module. If it is impossible to get a suitable wifi-module in time, the prototype would need to be built using alternative technology like RF modules instead. The device should be modular in the sense that it can transform into several different form factors (like a bracelet or necklace), using shell structures, based on the preference and need of each individual user. For the prototype, two such shell structures will be created.

Validation

Step one would be to get each component in the Family Map prototype to work and communicate with each other. The real benchmark of how well the idea works in practice would be indicated through some level of user testing and feedback.

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