Deus EM Machina: On-Touch Contextual Functionality for Smart IoT Appliances

Homes, offices and many other environments will be increasingly saturated with connected, computational appliances, forming the “Internet of Things” (IoT). At present, most of these devices rely on mechanical inputs, webpages, or smartphone apps for control. However, as IoT devices proliferate, these existing interaction methods will become increasingly cumbersome. Will future smart-home owners have to scroll though pages of apps to select and dim their lights? We propose an approach where users simply tap a smartphone to an appliance to discover and rapidly utilize contextual functionality. To achieve this, our prototype smartphone recognizes physical contact with uninstrumented appliances, and summons appliance-specific interfaces. Our user study suggests high accuracy – 98.8% recognition accuracy among 17 appliances. Finally, to underscore the immediate feasibility and utility of our system, we built twelve example applications, including six fully functional end-to-end demonstrations.

This research was generously supported with funding from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and a Google Faculty Research Award.



Xiao, R., Laput, G., Zhang, Y. and Harrison, C. 2017. Deus EM Machina: On-Touch Contextual Functionality for Smart IoT Appliances. In Proceedings of the 35th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Denver, Colorado, USA, May 6 - 11, 2017). CHI '17. ACM, New York, NY. 4000-4008.

© Chris Harrison