Heart of the Home
Tony Goncalves (VP AT&T) Talks About HoH in Las Vegas
Heart of the Home [HoH] was the first Whitebox project. It tracked an average family from morning to night, showcasing a variety of possible IoT interactions between them and a future DIRECTV.
HoH was important enough that it was shown at Dealer Revolution (an anual showcase of new technologies heald in Las Vegas). It was one of a few projects that was presented on stage. (Although almost every project presented ran through my team at some point).
The Big Idea
Earlier itterations of the project were for a walk-through demonstration of future technologies before entering the "WhiteBox". We had planned for a trio of Pepper's Ghost style holograms with directed audio at kisoks. These were scrapped as the project funding began to shrink.
The WhiteBox remained. A 9x10 room made of aluminum tubing and white muslin with a small door at one end. Once inside the room the user was presented with a large table-top TV. As animations played on the TV, important landmarks would change the room from blank walls to a new virtual environment such as: kitchen, living room, or automobile.
We used whitebox to help groups understand concepts like geo-located advertisments, in-car wifi, and context aware televison (when the TV stops playing a rated R movie because a child walks in the room).
WhiteBox became a favorite of the DIRECTV patent team.
Building WhiteBox took more than out of the box thinking, we needed more space than our office space had. I am known for my montra: "I need a room I can start a fire in". So I rented an airplane hanger, and moved part of my team down there.
Later on we began working on an automotive project, and my plan was to cut a car in half. It quickly became much more cost effective to move the project over to VR instead, although If I still had the hanger there would be half a car in it.
For the most part, the WhiteBox was driven by a program called TouchDesigner. This software was originally built to help bands have cool stage shows. Eventually it became the darling of experiential design nerds.
Touch Designer can take any input and translate it to any output. If you want to open the garage door every time you eat a carrot, TouchDesigner will get you there.
Some of the more crazy ideas we did with later versions of whitebox:
- A refridgerator that picked cooking shows based on foods inside of it
- A TV that changed channels and volume based on hand gestures
- Ability to send shows from a mobile device to a TV, and back
- Plants that controlled the color of room lights based on touch
WhiteBox In Action
A demonstration of the WhiteBox projects, development, and use.
During the life of the project, WhiteBox was demoed to over 2,000 people, Heart Of the Home was seen by over 5,000 more.
WhiteBox at SXSW
Although both WhiteBox and Heart Of the Home were successful within DIRECTV, almost none of the concepts penetrated into product development. Even when showed to crouds in Las Vegas, ideas like "in-car wifi" was thought of as impossible and bizzar.