Background Recently, the development of smart products calls for new perspectives on the future role of interactive products around us. One of these perspectives is the analogy of such products with living organisms. Although these visions have been suggested, little has been investigated about how such perspectives can impact practical design.
Methods To guide the design of more emotional and symbiotically interactive products that can be compared to living organisms, we investigated the design characteristics that can trigger impressions of lifelikeness in interactive objects. We collected and analyzed 27 design cases that can be considered to have lifelike characteristics. A case analysis workshop was conducted, composed of sorting of a design case according to its impression of lifelikeness, and an in-depth interview to identify the characteristics of design that affect these impressions. The collected data were analyzed through repetitive affinity diagramming, and the four characteristics of design properties were deduced.
Results Four key characteristics of the design properties of interactive objects were identified: a) similarity in physical properties, b) dynamic behavioral properties, c) independence, and d) userrecognition. The participants tended to perceive an interactive object as more naturally lifelike when its physical propertieshad more similarities with those of living organisms, when its behavioral propertieswere more dynamic, when it was considered to function independently, and when it had the characteristic of recognizing the user.
Conclusions Our work will provide lessons for designing future products and systems using the analogy of living organisms as an emotional experience. We also discussed the design implications of practically utilizing the identified characteristics. There maining issues that need to be discovered, the limitations of the study, and potential future work were also discussed.