E4: Parakeet Smart Mirror

For this week’s prototype deliverable, I created an interactive smart mirror for parakeets or other small birds. The smart mirror would ideally assist and interact with the birds to provide them with food, enhance scratching, and showers to clean them. Birds are very social beings and at times, they are lonely without their owners around. The product would be a mirror that would clip to one of the walls of the cage with the external parts of the mirror-like the spray bottle and motor be attached to the outside of the cage to prevent harm to the bird. Birds are free to interact with the mirror while they are in their cage and ideally when the owner is not around. For birds that are shyer, this smart mirror is a great way to train them to interact and learn body gestures that will respond to their actions.

The smart mirror senses different body movements which will trigger a response to the motor which will lightly shake the mirror to aid the bird in scratching or will release seeds that will feed the bird. In addition, the mirror also has a “shower” function which will spray the bird to give it a shower. Birds primarily have three needs: eating, scratching during molting season, and showers for cleanliness. This product will provide a human-free experience for the bird while the owner is away.

The prototype consists of one main part which is the bird mirror. Along with the mirror itself that is acting like the movement detector is the spray bottle attached to the back of the mirror and the motor at the bottom to shake the mirror. This simple prototype is held together by some tape.

Actions that will trigger mirror response: Shaking & fluffing up of the feathers, feet grabbing onto the ladder, and head bobbing.

During testing, it was difficult to replicate the functions of this mirror inside of the cage while mimicking the fluency of how I would want the mirror to be. Thinking about this prototype as a real product, there would need to be a way to reduce the size and set up of the mirror for the owner and the cage. The mirror itself is very engaging for the parakeet which made appealing to our primary user group easily. However, the issue I came across while testing in an artificial environment is that the parakeet was least comfortable with using their mirror and did not want to do the body movements on command and in front of a camera. I believe that the camera was distracting the parakeet and he was not comfortable with using the mirror freely while a human was around.

Once the camera was more hidden and I put more pressure on my parakeet to play with the mirror, the movements to product-response functions were successful. The functions assigned to each movement did not scare the parakeet and he did enjoy the dispensing of the seeds more than anything else. With this usability testing, it is clear that a product like this would be perfect for birds that are alone and comfortable in their own cage to use while their owner is away.