The Philips Homelab is a permanent fully functional home laboratory built to study how people interact with prototypes of intelligent technology in a real-world environment. Through HomeLab, Philips researchers can better understand their needs and motivations to use technology, and bring better products to market in the quickest possible timeframe.
Homelab is also a laboratory where everything that happens can be observed, recorded and learned from. People moving around the HomeLab are watched by an observation leader and a team of behavioral psychologists. As HomeLab inhabitants use the technology, researchers can see what they find comfortable and easy, or difficult and confusing.
The researchers use state-of-the-art technology, with a fully digital video observation and recording system. When someone in the HomeLab uses a certain feature, the control-room system records it automatically onto MPEG video. And because it's digital, every time that feature is used, it can be recalled at the touch of a button.
The HomeLab is built as a two-story house with a living, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a study. At a first glance, the home does not show anything special, but a closer look reveals the black domes at the ceilings that are hiding cameras and microphones. The observation room adjacent to the Home has direct view into the Home. Signals captured by the cameras can be monitored on any of the four observation stations. Each observation station is equipped with two monitors and one desktop computer to control the cameras and to mark observed events. The marked events are time-stamped and appended to the video data.
When setting up an experiment in HomeLab, the researcher designs a coding scheme for the observation session, listing all prototypical behaviors that are expected to occur during the session. A sophisticated analysis is conducted to find patterns in the data set. For this analysis we use the software package Theme. An example of the use of Theme is an experimental study on the usability of an universal remote control.
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