Devices and Data and Agents, Oh My: How Smart Home Abstractions Prime End-User Mental Models


With the advent of DIY smart homes and the Internet of Things comes the emergence of user interfaces for domestic human-building interaction. However, the design trade-offs between the different representations of a smart home’s capabilities are still not well-understood. In this work, we examine how four different smart home abstractions affect end users’ mental models of a hypothetical system. We develop four questionnaires, each of which describes the same hypothetical smart home using a different abstraction, and then we collect responses depicting desired smart home applications from over 1,500 Mechanical Turk workers. We find that the choice of abstraction strongly primes end users’ responses. In particular, the purely device-oriented abstraction results in the most limited scenarios, suggesting that if we want users to associate smart home technologies with valuable high-level applications we should shift the UI paradigm for the Internet of Things from device-oriented control to other abstractions that inspire a greater diversity of interactions.

Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
Meghan Clark
Meghan Clark
Postdoctoral Scholar

My research interests include sensor networks, radio communications, and network monitoring.