Intimacy has been a popular topic in the HCI community, but of the forty couple technologies proposed over the last few years, most are devices to support intimate acts between geographically separated couples.

However, romantic intimacy has several components, and the majority of couples are co-located. Thus this project has focused on how technology could support the cognitive intimacy and mutuality within a couple.

Design research sessions were held with 10 co-located couples. Four aspects of the couple collaboration on collective tasks were discussed. A conceptual tool for couple collaboration, Coupost, is then proposed.

*The research report of the project has been admitted to CHI2013 Student Research Competition (36% acceptance rate).

Research Gap

A rich body of technology to support communication, and to create or augment a sense of togetherness have been designed for couples, especially those in a long-distance relationship.

However, there are other important components of intimacy yet to be explored.

Design Research

Participatory design research was used and 10 couples participated. To investigate dyadic interaction, each session invited both partners, to ensure a joint picture and shared narrative. Activities are designed to better engage users and improve their articulations during the interview and co-creation, by utilizing visual sense-making materials both for conceptualizing and probing. A 4-part interview script is based on research in workplace teamwork.

1. Couple Profile
     Warm-up for Co-creation

The dyad was instructed to sketch each other’s portrait, and to fill out some basic information. This activity helps participants relax with the interviewer, and to make them feel more comfortable with sketching, and hence the co-creation task later on.

2. Daily Communication
     Investigating Self-disclosure

The second activity aims to understand the couple’s daily communication by asking them to sketch their three most frequently used communication means or tools; then discussed each of them in more details.

3. Collaboration Process
     Interactive Visual Sense-making

Each participant creates a line chart to represent personal contribution to the task overtime. Then the facilitator combined them to create a new chart for probing. The charts serve as memory triggers and stimuli for dyadic discussion.

4. Conceptual Couple Tool
     Participatory design with the dyad

The dyad was asked to create a “show & tell” of a tool for couple collaboration. The purpose is to involve users in shaping the future solution; and having input from both partners may form a balanced picture of the expectations of a dyadic tool.

Findings & Implications

Documentation of the collaborative experience & affection

Participating couples were surprised to realize the richness of their collaboration experience. Thus a tool that could help them document the collaboration experience, including the process and their thoughts toward the task and/or each other, might be useful.

Persuasive Goal Reminder

A couple’s collaborative projects are usually less pressing and sometimes playful in nature, resulting in delays and even oblivion of the project. Providing persuasive yet subtle reminds or triggers may help sustain their passion and ultimately lead to task fulfillment.

Casualness & Playfulness.

Each couple has their own “codes” of equity and reciprocity, hence it is better to avoid direct comparisons and seek for more casual and even playful awareness techniques. Also, scheduling can be less formal and allow greater flexibility.

Partner as a motivating factor

The motivation aspect within an intimate couple can be leveraged for persuasive technology design. The presence of one’s friends have been widely adopted in persuasive systems, the support from one’s intimate partner may be another promising incentive to be incorporated.

Designing a persuasive goal reminder

Based on the literature in Persuasive Computing, there are mainly two types of goal reminder for persuasive systems: iconic/metaphorical, or indexical. The former makes use of stylistic representations to indicate progress/stagnate, while the latter usually displays concrete data through various diagrams.

Examples of iconic/metaphorical goal reminder

Examples of indexical goal reminder

Inspired by the user research findings, we decided to focus on iconic representation. We brainstormed a collection of metaphors to select one that could motivate the couple to carry on with their collective task in a persuasive yet playful way, and sending a wish card to the future was chosen. A card has the symbolic meanings as a souvenir and thought carrier, and the anticipation of receiving a card can be visualized as the progress of the joint activity; moreover, card is a kind of collectibles, thus its accumulation in the lovers’ inbox can metaphorically represent the shared achievements of the couple. Last but not least, as a tool for lovers, sending and receiving cards convey a sense of romance but avoids naivety.

A Metaphor for Persuasion

Coupost Storyboard

User Interface

Interactive Prototype Demo


Over the years, I've been collaborating with Jo on many projects, both for work and life; and this started me thinking about how might one's partner be adopted as a design variable in technology.

That's how I started Coupost as my thesis project, and again, this is a collaboration between me and Jo. I believe couple collaboration can benefit many aspects of the relationship, if you'd like to read more details, here are two academic paper I've submitted:

Couple Collaboration: A Design Research Exploration (accepted to CHI2013 student research competition)

Coupoust: Mediating Cognitive Intimacy & Mutuality within a Couple