| Interface Lab

Sensor observation

Cover Image for Sensor observation


Take a walk around your neighborhood, or a different one, or imagine a walk you’ve done routinely. Take a count of every interaction with a sensor you see or experience.


This assignment made me miss being at home with my wife, Raven. Our walks are filled with observant takes on the world around us. She's incredibly good at picking out the most precious, clever things you'd pass every day without seeing.

Sensors identified

Sensing sensors and Sensing sensors sensing

Many of the sensors give some indication of human interactivity:

  • Elevator buttons light up when pressed
  • Subway and badge entry sensors respond positively or negatively depending on access
  • Apple watch screen brightens and Airpods make a small chime when accelerometer is activated
  • The emergency stop (presumably) releases a alarm when pulled

Other, more passive, sensors don’t explicitly make themselves known:

  • The door sensor on my dorm, silently recording my exit and return
  • The cameras constantly recording my morning journey
  • Earl’s Airtag silently interacting with devices around him

Interaction stages

While most of the sensors and devices and simple interfaces, a few involved more complex interactions. Perhaps the most involved dance of sensor interactivity I experienced was from using my washing machine

  1. Human begins interaction through scanning QR code or using RFID sensor
  2. Machine connects user to device, ensures sufficient funds, then enables buttons for interactivity
  3. Human uses buttons to select their wash preferences
  4. Machine detects wash is complete based on load weight and time
  5. Machine alerts Human with a push notification
  6. Human unloads wash, Machine detects wash unload and resets for next Human