Where in the home are you Mycroft? Brief report from a small study

Originally published at: https://mycroft.ai/blog/where-in-the-home-are-you-mycroft-brief-report-from-a-small-study-2/

How do we use these new kinds of voice devices? With the approaching arrival of the Mark II, I cut out a tiny subset of that question and took a closer look. The structure of the report takes inspiration from scientific literature (I study molecular biology on the side).

Mark II Home Placement – A Small-Scale Study

Study period: November – December 2018
Report date: January 2019

Jump to Discussion & Conclusion

Introduction & Objectives

  • Voice assistant devices bring a new interaction model, and users do not always interact with such devices face-to-face as with other types of devices. Learning more about where people place their VA devices will inform the design of suitable GUIs.
  • The objective of the study was to get more data about the context in which the Mark II device will be used and to support the adoption of either a more traditional mobile GUI or an “oversized” GUI (the company has previews of both).
  • To study the aforementioned, a 3D printed shell of Mark II was obtained, distributed to the study participants (one by one), and its placement in the participants’ homes was documented.
  • The study had to be carried out with these constraints:
    • Zero budget
    • Low amount of distraction from everyday work (the company does not have a dedicated user researcher)


1. Decide the scope given the constraints

  • A small number of participants, but at least 10 with potentially multiple placements in the home
  • Participants who are already familiar with Mycroft and do not have to be paid
  • User tasks cannot take much time

2. Design the procedure

  • Instructions for the participants were following: “You’ll get a 3D printed Mark II. Tonight, put it in your home where you’ll put the real Mark II – not the first place you can think of but where you’ll keep the device long-term. Then take a picture of the placed Mark II exactly from a place or two places where you spend the most time in the home, which are places from where you’ll talk to Mark II in most cases.”

3. Recruit participants

  • 10 Mycroft team members who can easily get their hands on a 3D printed Mark II

4. Collect data

  • Photos and descriptions

5. Analyze data

  • In which rooms and in what places do participants place the device?
  • From what distance do participants talk to the device?

6. Sum up take-aways

Data and Results

Room Distribution
  • Living room – right next to a TV
  • Living room – on a chair, interaction from a sofa
  • Living room – on a chair, interaction when sitting at a table
  • Living Room – close to a TV
  • Living room – below a TV
  • Living room – right next to a TV
  • Living room – in a shelf next to a TV
  • Kitchen – off to the side on a top level shelf
  • Kitchen – on a countertop
  • Kitchen – on a countertop, interaction when sitting at a dining table
  • Kitchen – on a countertop, interaction from the other side of the kitchen
  • Kitchen – on a countertop
  • Kitchen – on a countertop, position 1
  • Kitchen – on a countertop, position 2
  • Kitchen – on a countertop, position 3
  • Home office – right by a monitor
  • Home office – right by a monitor
  • Home office – on top of a desktop PC case, interaction when sitting at the table or going by
  • Bedroom – on a nightstand
  • Bedroom – on a radiator, interaction from bed

Discussion & Conclusion

  • Study deficiencies:
    • A small number of participants
    • Participants recruited only from within the Mycroft team
    • The distances between a user and the device were not measured instrumentally and an average distance could not therefore be calculated
  • The living room and the kitchen are the most popular rooms for the placement of Mark II
    • Interpretation: The reason is those two spaces are the most frequented in the home (during waking hours)
  • Though a minority, some participants placed the Mark II in their bedrooms, which are comparatively more intimate spaces in the home
  • No participant placed the Mark II in a bathroom (despite the device being a music player)
    • This may change when users get multiple devices per home
    • Another reason might be users’ concern about the possible interaction between an electronic device and water (this might be a potential opportunity for high-humidity-proofing or waterproofing a future device, which would also be useful in the kitchen)
  • The results support the adoption of the “oversized” GUI based on the distances observed
    • Imposes a limit on how much information should be displayed at a time
  • To improve the readability of the content on the display of the device, it seems it would be beneficial to enable a future device to “look” directly at the user when activated with a wake word, if possible.
  • There are many directions further research studies could go next and into more depth

Jump to Introduction & Objectives


First Mark II will likely be placed on kitchen counter a safe distance from heat of the stove/oven/range.