cue: an investigation on communication in the workplace


In collaboration with Microsoft and Art Center College of Design, designing Cue was an opportunity to explore numerous modes of communication through wearable technology. The objective of the design was to explore how wearable technology can facilitate less direct and more subtle, but effective forms of communication. Inspired by diversity in the workplace or classroom, effective learning and communication isn't always easy when people are having trouble expressing themselves. Simple statements such as "I need help," "I don't understand," or "I need to talk through something" are sometimes the hardest statements to express. Cue is an opportunity utilizing technology as a solution to this type of communication dilemma.



How many times have you read an email or text and felt an instant heated wave of irritation? Or felt hurt? Or disregarded? These are familiar experiences for us all. Without any information other than words, sometimes, very few words the meaning we make out of the cryptic electronic messages we receive is necessarily shaped by our own feelings and expectations. Consequently, what we believe is being said may have very little to do with what the author wishes to communicate. In the workplace, employee recognition is one of the top psychological needs that influence happiness in one's job. Acknowledgement, praise and recognition are essential to a successful work environment. As people begin to feel respected and valued for their contribution, trust can be developed and communication can begin to flow. At times, not all managers or supervisors are keen to the feelings of their employees and due to a number of possibilities such as culture and language, gender, or personal social inhibitors, employees may not feel comfortable to express themselves to those above them. The same can be said for classrooms or learning environments. The teacher / student relationship may be hindered by similar reasons which can obstruct the outcomes in learning or completing a task.

Cue has two parts: digital and physical. It sends a digital nudge to another user under the same network to let them know how they are feeling. Haptic, screen-based or visual responses are received which lets the person know the sender needs some sort of attention. The device is designed to be subtle and small so the user only needs to slightly tap, drag, or press on their device. 

Cue is activated with common body gestures which allows the user to illusively operate the device.


It was important for the devices to feel light and natural, thus, using organic materials such as leather and wool was intentional. The design isn’t invisible, however it is subtle and embraces technology in a form not so recognizable and is attuned with other accessories, clothing and jewelry. Using natural fibers allowed Cue to blend in with any article of clothing, making it an easy wearable. Downloading code into two Spare Core (Photon) with chip antennas, the below sensors were sewed into fabric. A different sensor was embedded into a different design allowing users to choose from a variety of physical movements when activating Cue.


Cue non-automated and only responds when people feel the need to use it. When activated, it sends digital signals to a group or a single receiver. Think of it like a silent pager or a private social network that changes its members varying on contexts.  

In the example below, an employee sends an anonymous trigger to his manager who receives a notification that someone in a certain area is feeling requires attention. She receive the Cue and decides to send those members in that area a message letting them know she was receptive to it and free for a one-on-one quite hour. Each employee receives a Cue on either their smart watch, smart phone or computer. At this time, any employee may decide to ignore her Cue or respond by activating their device. In the case of the frustrated employee, he can apply pressure to his device, Cueing her the importance of his need to speak with her.