Upstairs: A calm auditory communication and presence system
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For decades, researchers have been creating and evaluating so-called media spaces. Most of those were virtual spaces that bridge physical distance in order to create a common shared space. In the tradition of these spaces, upstairs supports peripheral awareness between non-colocated spaces but follows a different approach. Instead of creating a large unifying space, it makes use of the metaphor of wall-diffused noises commonly known from neighbors living upstairs or next door. When sharing a space, people are subconsciously aware of other people’s activities, mainly because of their interaction with the environment. We designed upstairs to extend today’s telepresence and social presence systems (i. e. most notably the telephone and videoconferencing solutions) that mostly focus on the transmission of the conscious part of communication and thereby enrich these systems by supporting peripheral awareness to allow for a permanent connection without distracting too much. In this paper we present the design decisions that led to realized system, the technical setup and the study we conducted over a two week time frame in the homes of couples in long distance relationships.