Diri – the actuated helium balloon: a study of autonomous behaviour in interfaces

As the sophistication of ubiquitous computing technologies increases, with advances in processing power and decreases
in size users are being confronted with increasingly intelligent interfaces embedded in everyday devices. This raises
an interesting challenge to consider how people might perceive and respond to technologies that demonstrate such advanced functionality. In this paper we try to further unpack what autonomous behaviour in interfaces might actually mean for human-computer interaction and how it is experienced by people. People’s relationships to actuated objects have
always been exceptional in comparison to inanimate objects, it has been demonstrated that we find autonomous machines
‘fascinating’ and ‘engaging’. We feel quite comfortable in describing mechanical processes in terms of social behaviour and reasoning that such technology has an intention and motivations. There is much to explore about the design decisions that drive people to regard an autonomous, interactive system as a social agent and lead them to react in certain socialized ways.
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To capture and comprehend perceptions of autonomy and embrace human social responses, we designed, developed and deployed actuated helium balloons with attached electronics that fly autonomously, supporting high-res cameras to take pictures or collect video footage. The purpose of these devices is simply to document the space (which might serve a variety of potential user functions). We were speculating around how perceptions of a camera interface change as soon as it is actuated. In an age made remarkable by the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles for military use, could flying objects also be designed to become our companions? See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwzptoiYJdU

We made an instructable on how to build a Diri: http://www.instructables.com/id/Diri-the-actuated-helium-balloon/