could instant feedback, through sound, provided at the moment when food is being thrown away change our behavior towards food waste and influence our actions?
1/3 of all food produced is wasted. Although we know that we should not waste food, we are still doing it - finding it hard to change our behavior. One reason could be the lack of instant feedback. Feedback helps us to understand the repercussions our actions have on the environment. Because we are not directly affected by food waste in real-time, it is easy to ignore and it becomes difficult for us to change our behavior. Furthermore, this project was created during a sound design course where the aim was to explore and create product sounds.
Ecora leverages auditory & visual cues in a humoristic way to help users better manage their food waste at home. The project consists of two components - a smart bio-bin and a supporting mobile interface. The aim is to influence users' behavior and nudge them towards a more sustainable food lifestyle.
During this project, I was responsible for creating some of the sounds that the bio-bin was making as well as testing it on other people in order to improve it throughout the process. I also helped out in the prototyping phase of the actual bin, creating cardboard mock-ups and exploring the interaction with the bin. Finally, I worked on the art direction for the app and created the look and functionality of the "sound aura".
Using the Bio-Bin throughout a week
(play with sound)
Ecora leverages auditory & visual cues to help users better manage their food waste at home. Throughout the week the Bio-Bin will generate different sounds depending on how much and what type of food is being thrown away as well as how the user interacts with it.
Details of the Ecora Bio-Bin
The bio-bin has an initial state where the amount of food waste that it fits is very small. Every time the user needs more space they would manually have to increase its size by pulling it up - this to constantly keep the user aware of the amount they are producing.
Paper Bag Storage
The aim is to influence users' behavior and nudge them towards a more sustainable food lifestyle using auditory feedback and humor.
Sounds for different types of waste
Ecora helps the user to gain knowledge that it also matters in what state the thrown away food is. The bio-bin can detect its weight (since this will say something about the amount) as well as how dry/wet the food waste is. This is since throwing wet food waste in the bio-bin can cause for example mold leading to the bin needing to be emptied more often as well as health issues.
Sound while throwing something light/wet
Sound while throwing something light/dry
Sound while throwing something heavy/wet
Sound while throwing something heavy/dry
Sounds for interacting with the Bio-Bin
If the user needs to expand the bio-bin, since there is no more space, a sound is generated to remind the user that "now they have wasted more than their initial goal was". When they need to change the bag a resetting sound is made indicating the start of a new period.
Sound for Expanding the bin
Sound for Resetting the bin.
Keep track of your improvements & set goals
When opening the Ecora app the user can find both helpful tips to reduce their food waste as well as see a compilation of what the different interactions with the bio-bin have been recent. This information is gathered in a “sound aura” which consists of all the sounds that the bio-bin made throughout the week. The Ecora app also provides the user with recommendations or tips to reuse/reduce food waste. These tips enable the user to make wiser decisions with regard to food waste management in their
Check your weekly sound aura
Set weekly goal
Useful tips on how to avoid food waste
Your Weekly Sound Aura
(Play with Sound)
The Sound Aura is generated through the collected sounds that the bio-bin has been making throughout the week. The sound is supported by visuals showing what type of waste was being generated. The user can later compare the different sounds for different weeks and in this way get a picture of how their behavior develops/varies.
Sounds for interacting with the Bio-Bin
To create the different sounds for the Bio-Bin we first created soundboards for how we visualized the sounds to be. Later we used Vital as well as created foley effects, using for example wet towels, to create sounds that we later mixed using Soundtrap.
Iterating on the Sounds
Our biggest struggle while making the sounds was creating the sounds for the axes wet-dry and heavy-light. We wanted them to be easily distinguishable, for users to be able to learn them, and at the same time, they needed to belong to the same family of sounds. To achieve this we constantly tested the sounds on people outside of our group, playing the sounds and making them point out on the map where they would have placed the sound.
Wizard of Oz
Apart from testing the sounds we also used the Wizard of Oz method to test our mock-ups. We placed a Bluetooth speaker nearby the prototype and let people interact with the bin to later hear their feedback.
- Retrospective & Learnings -
Before this project, I had not paid too much attention to sound while designing products, but now I “see” audio everywhere ;p
Sound has the ability to give a product a unique personality which also permits humor.
On one level, it feels strange to create a product that aims to encourage people to live more sustainably, but that at the same time is quite complex (with speakers and sensors), which can be seen as very unsustainable. However, we identified a space where the integration of auditory cues potentially could enable behavioral change in people - where the product really only acts as a shell. The bigger aim, apart from the product, is to provoke and raise the question.
Behavioral change takes time and Ecora is not about making it easier, instead, it focuses on the user gaining awareness about food waste through constant reminders and feedback.
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