A class project using research to design a perfect recall device

Date: Senior Fall Quarter, 2016
Project Length: 10 weeks
Role: Interview, Insights generation, Ideation, Final solution drawing
Team: Zihan Cheng, Sarah Oakes, Natalie Lew, Lucas Webster


 Apr 18th, Facebook F8 Developer Conference, Mark revealed future plan for Facebook live.

Apr 18th, Facebook F8 Developer Conference, Mark revealed future plan for Facebook live.

 Oct 4th, Google announced google pixel would come with unlimited storage for photos and videos.

Oct 4th, Google announced google pixel would come with unlimited storage for photos and videos.


In the future, I believe we will record and replay our past more than ever before

It is already happening. Recently, as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all have updated with their own live streaming feature, we will soon become more and more used to recording longer videos, and with help from technology like google cloud, we will not longer worry about storage to keep them

 Black Mirror, S1E3, a technology called grain lets people replay everything they experienced in the past

Black Mirror, S1E3, a technology called grain lets people replay everything they experienced in the past


So how should we interact with the technology that provides perfect recall, when the time comes?

Like Black Mirror, in TV shows, movies and science fiction, there are a lot of concerns of morality when we have the ability to full control our experienced past.
We set up as a team to use research to design a perfect recall device to answer this question



Understanding the relationship between documentation and memory | Ten Interviews

We recruited 10 participants through Facebook that fits in our target range of
18-24 years olds, using phone to take pictures or videos and post social media on a weekly basis
This way we can learn more about this type of demographics behavior and attitude and as well as the social media's influences on documentation


Codes. Themes. Insights. Principles | Four steps of our research plan


While we interviewed our participants, we collected their interesting quotes and behaviors together and organized them into themes. These themes, then, helped us summarizes our research into six insights about documenting and memory. 

  Lucas and Natalie forming a infinity diagram with our notes taken during interview.
  Sarah putting a theme around a group of similar notes

Strength of memory is its imperfection | Six core insights found

There was an major big message in the air is telling us about the secret of enhancing our memory lays in our own ability to forget. Like the reason why we need to sleep, in the long term, for memory, there has to be a filtering process of getting rid of the what we didn't pay attention. We don't think we need perfect recall. 

Insight 1  The strength of memory is its imperfection
we found that most of our participants often forgot or had imperfect memories, stating things like "I want to forget" 

Insight 2 We don't need perfect recall
Similarly, none of our participants talked about remembering every part of a moment or always looking back on everything they had ever done

Insight 3 We cannot predict the value of a memory
The variety of memories that stood out for them showed us that in hindsight, many unknown experiences might turned out to carry deep meaning in the future

Insight 4 We have too much stuff but fear getting rid of it
Our participants speak about collecting large amounts of photos on their virtual devices but rarely looking through them. 

Insight 5 Managing how I see myself vs. how others see me is stressful
We found that the burden of being profound on social media or writing out funny tweets is stressful for them. Service like Facebook memory often fail due to the influences behind the stories shared online is quite different from those of our own personal narrative

Insight 6 People care about memories with other people in them
Something we noticed that was in common with all our participants was the mentioning of family, friends or loved ones in all of their fond memories. 


Ideation to interact with perfect recall technology | Four design principles defined

As we learned the secret lies in memory's imperfection, we established four principles that guides our ideation
1. Users shouldn’t be able to recall absolutely everything.
2. Sharing if any should be personal, minimal and intentional.
3. We don't decide what is worthwhile, the user does.
4. The user should be able to reflect on a memory.


Record. Recall. Forget. | Reverie | Final design solution

Reverie records constantly and replays only what we remembered
It doesn't replace a regular camera, a book of journal or a piece of true memories,
instead the more we know about our past, the more Reverie can provide us


First | Record

Live the moment and remember what happened 


Second | Recall


Press the button on the earphone and describe an event you recalled


Third | Flip around and Replay


Watch a replay last 3 minutes. From time to time, Reverie might ask you to identify any faces or objects that appeared frequently

Extra | Surreal or Dreamy

Twist the dial to change level of detail from specific to abstract, which lays every frame in the 3 minutes video together on one static image



"Knowledge is private. Language is tricky." | What I have learned about research and collaboration


Micheal Smith, our teacher, said that in the first day of class, when he was telling us about his past 10+ years experience of user research. Today, I think it explains not only the user research challenges, but also team work challenges we ran into


Be careful of what we wish for

I noticed a good question that eventually helped design was one that asked for people's attitude and behavior and spawned creativity, not facts and sought for solutions. Use of language is tricky and unintentional a lot of times. We should forget about what product we are building or who we are working for, during an interview for as much as possible.

Influencing is about offering the best of yourself first

School project teams are usually formed by interests or just pure randomness. There is rarely a talent seeking process before a team formation. So it takes time to know, and then trust what each others are good at doing. Straight feedback could be difficult to be digested. In this project, when I came back with thorough design sketches and good questions on a team critique, my feedback received more respect and attention. It eventually helped defined the physical look of the camera and the earpiece.