How might the IOT-connected devices in our smart home create ambiences that impact our mood?

ChromotherapyBot :: Emotive Responses over the Internet-of-Things

Harvard GSD Research Seminar :: Enactive Design :: Spring 2021

A Collaboration with Grace Chee  Instructor :: Jose Luis Garcia del Castillo y Lopez

This short study tests a design approach for creating emotive responses in one's smart home environment. We designed a simple program that takes mood-related data from users and changes their smart light hue and intensity in response. Based on the pseudoscience of Chromotherapy, our project playfully projects the occupant's emotion back onto their room in fantastical, technicolor hues.

Problem Space :: Emotive Interaction with the IOT

The smart home is used almost exclusively as an optimization and automation tool, adjusting lights, temperature, door locks, cleaning robots, and a range of other devices and appliances in the most efficient and convenient way possible. What if the smart home could start to tackle more playful, emotive aspects of one's domestic experiences?

We were inspired by the strange concept of Chromotherapy to explore emotive responses in smart lights. Chromotherapy, or color therapy, is an  alternative medicine practice. Despite being debunked as a semi-mystical pseudoscience, chromotherapy is still practiced today as a form of alternative medicine, spawning a wild variety of strange and wonderful technological devices for delivering the correct hue and dose of therapeutic light waves at just the right time.

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Interestingly enough, the aesthetic qualities of chromotherapy devices are present today in many smart home interactions: for example, devices like the Echo Dot vibrantly light up across a spectrum of different hues, indicating different functions and giving the device a kind of life-like vitality.

Channeling the whimsical color theory of chromotherapy, our design for the ChromotherapyBot takes the color-hue aesthetics of IOT interactions to the extreme, understanding occupants' emotive states and mapping them onto the room along an intense spectrum of color.

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Designing ChromotherapyBot

ChromotherapyBot is a smart home personality that senses qualitative aspects of its user such as their "mood" or activity levels, mapping quantitative data about the occupant to emotional states.

When the occupant starts behaving differently, ChromotherapyBot will read their verbal and nonverbal cues and interpret them along a range of emotions. ChromotherapyBot then responds, either creating an empathetic experience by reflecting the occupants' emotions in color and sound, or acting (chromo)therapeutically to alleviate or exaggerate them, creating provocative implications on a potential human-smart-home feedback loop.

ChromotherapyBot is built on a three-stage process to relate quantitative inputs to chromotherapy-like light regulation.


1. ChromotherapyBot detects emotion by recognizing voice cues through a microphone, or activity levels through a camera. These are both read through a computer's webcam.

2. ChromotherapyBot processes these inputs to detect the occupant's "emotive state." Voice cues are processed through the python speech_recognition library and searched for emotion-indicating keywords, and camera data is processed through cv2 to detect activity levels.

3. ChromotherapyBot regulates the smart home's light and speakers to create an empathetic smart home response. a LIFX light is controlled by the computer over wifi and the LIFX API, while a speaker is controlled directly from the computer's audio.

Implementing ChromotherapyBot

ChromotherapyBot is tested in two implementations:

Implementation 1 :: Human <> Room

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In the first implementation, ChromotherapyBot reads your activity/emotional state. Your room understands you and gives an empathetic response, providing color and sound therapy in your own room in response. This creates interesting implications where ChromotherapyBot may influence its occupant's emotive state, or reinforce existing states. See the short clip right.

Implementation 2 :: Human <> Room <> Human

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In our second experiment, ChromotherapyBot reads your emotional state and broadcasts it to a friend/coworker/partner. The other person’s room changes as non-verbal cue of your state.


This raised a number of interesting implications: Does this prompt them to check in on you? Does the color therapy help them empathize with your state? How does this change your human-to-human interaction with the other user? See the short clip right.

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