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Current mobile devices

The problem

18 MO.

Mobile technology is always evolving. Recent advances in touch screen interactions have made using mobile devices fun and enjoyable.

However, devices are still just chunks of metal and plastic that lack any human qualities, and thus there is no deep emotional connection between user and device.

Most are discarded and replaced after only 18 months.


Process A quick glance at my process... view the in-depth blog of my journey at


Models Model-making was an essential part of the design and discovery process. Ergonomic studies resolved both UI and ID proportions. A lot of experimentation was required torefine Modai.


The solution Project Modai explores a future user interface and industrial design of a mobile device. It attempts to lengthen and enhance the relationship between you and your device through forging an emotional connection.


Charger port

Headphone jack

Earpiece speaker

Camera + flash



The device Modai’s industrial design is simple, ergonomic, and unique. With a brilliant full screen, a muscle wire peelstand, and sturdy aluminum body, Modai will support you wherever you go.

Camera button




The brand The Modai brand is youthful, energetic, and, most importantly, human. These principles guided the emotive qualities of the user interface design and the industrial design

Logo The logo represents the social and work paradigms of everyday life, and the avatar in the interface that represents them. It is playful and also references the use of fingers for interactions.

Color palette The colors are calm and approachable, representing the friendliness of Modai.


The 4 issues The device knowing what you need.

You knowing the device’s needs.

The current app-based ecosystems on most devices provide great content and experiences, but it’s tedious to wade through screen after screen of apps. The device has no idea what you need, and that your needs change depending on the context you are in.

Current devices are limited in ways to get your attention: lights, sound, or vibration. These are either disruptive or ineffective, and hold no relation to the message the device needs to convey.

Meaningless interactions.

Technological advances.

Most interactions happen through taps, buttons, and switches. For the most part, the action itself has no relationship to the end result, and the interaction method holds no cues to what will happen when you actuate it.

Even with the deepest emotional connection, the rate at which technology becomes obsolete makes it difficult for any bond to form between user and device.



The device knowing what you need.

Paradigms Modai has two paradigms: social (Fundai) and work (Prodai). This parallels with people’s daily lives and the need to balance the two.



Modai sorts content to the relevant paradigms so you get work emails when you’re at work, and not when you’re hanging out.

Like Superman The transition between paradigms is inspired by Clark Kent’s transformation into Superman through taking off his work clothes. Pull the Paradigm Zip up/down to change into and out of Modai’s work clothes.




The device knowing what you need.


The Avatar

Modai OS is a dynamic, human user interface that gives you exactly what you want, when you need it. Fun modai, Fundai, filters and delivers social content just for you.

is a humanized representation of the device status. (More about this later).

Widgets change depending on your context. This weather widget appears in the morning when you are planning your day.

Volume slider sits on top of the earpiece slot, utilizing feedforward to indicate its action.

Clock indicates time through digital, analog means, and the sun/ moon. Also accesses the alarms.

Things to do contains all tasks, appointments, meetings, and reminders relevant to the current paradigm. Also has shortcuts to relevant apps.

Relevant item contains items most frequently used in your current context (time/location) and things to do.

Message stream pulls from many customizable sources including mail, text, Facebook, Twitter, RSS. Giving you info you need, fast.

Repository contains all other applications on the device.

Paradigm zip allows switching between the social (Fundai) and work (Prodai) paradigms.


The device knowing what you need.


The Avatar

Professional modai, Prodai, shows you all the content you need to succeed in your work-related endeavors.

is now indicates that you are in the work paradigm: Prodai. (More about this later).

Paradigm zip allows switching between the social (Fundai) and work (Prodai) paradigms.

Tasks contains all your work-related action items.

Message stream pulls from the same sources as the Fundai stream, but filters out all non-work related messages.

Projects lists out all the projects you are working on. Supports collaboration on multiple devices with shared task lists/deadlines.

Relevant items contains work-related items most frequently used in your current context (time/location) and tasks.


The device knowing what you need.


Concierge Modai proposes an area in the UI called the Concierge that delivers contextually relevant content based on previous usage and habits in different times and locations.

In the morning

Contextual suggestions

Good night

When you wake up, Modai greets you, and gives you the things you care about in the morning: what the weather will be like today, messages you’ve missed, things to do today.

Modai can give you suggestions based on your context. If you are at a bus stop, it may give you a shortcut to the bus schedule. If you were walking by the dining hall around lunchtime, it would pull up the dining menu for you. Modai cares and will try to give you all the information you want as easily as possible.

If you notice, this nighttime screen doesn’t have the weather widget. That is because Modai has learned that you don’t need the weather application at night (because the day’s weather has already passed). The Concierge only delivers contextually relevant content.


You knowing the device’s needs. Modai muscles


The peelstand is made of santoprene with impregnated muscle wire within. The muscle wire can move by itself and hold its form.

The peelstand allows Modai to physically move by itself and expands possibilities to tangibly interact with the user. It lets Modai express its emotions and needs.

Muscle wire is a shape-changing wire that is electrically activated to move on its own.

Lend a hand... or not The peelstand can move by itself, or you can physically actuate it.


You knowing the device’s needs.

Wake up! Throughout the night, Modai slowly “gets up”. It sounds the alarm at its apex, which you can snooze by slightly pushing Modai back.

.. zzz.

Kickin’ back The peelstand also acts as a kickstand for entertainment purposes: both ways.

Notifications By peeling back ever so slightly, Modai can indicate, face up, down, or nudging you in the pocket, that it needs your attention: whether it’s a text, a call, or a contextual suggestion!


You knowing the device’s needs.

Not the blue ones. Modai’s graphical avatar visually represents the device’s status, including the paradigm you’re in, if you’re on a phone call, and the battery life.

Battery life The avatar integrates battery status visually. The status is linked with the emotion of the avatar, so it’s sad when it’s out of juice.

The avatar furthers the emotional connection with a Tamagotchi-like creature you can bond with.

Speak up The avatar is also linked to the current volume of Modai. The size of the mouth is a gentle indication of how loud Modai is.

Current status The avatar shows you what you’re currently doing, whether it’s working, on a call, or taking a picture.

zz zz


Need something? Since the avatar is a representation of Modai, it knows everything Modai does. Simply ask it through text or voice to find what you want, fast.


Meaningless interactions.

Human interactions By looking at how humans interact with one another, Modai proposes a few ways to humanize actions, whether it’s shaking Modai awake, or shushing it by covering the speakers.

Put it to sleep Modai’s capacitive sensors allow you to stroke and pet Modai to sleep (with two quick strokes), instead of using a meaningless lock button.

Shhh... Whether you’re at a meeting or in class, simply put your finger over Modai’s earpiece or speaker to shush it.

Sh-sh-sh shake it Shake Modai awake, just like you would to another person. To prevent accidental actuation, Modai can capacitively sense your grip.


Meaningless interactions.

Open and close The open state visually indicates the need to be charged, and the closed state is a pleasant visual detail. You can still push it open with the charger, even when the battery isn’t low.

I’m hungry! Modai is equipped with a charge port that magnetically opens and closes. When open, a red interior is revealed, similar to a child saying “Ahh!”. This physical interaction is deeply linked to the digital interaction of the avatar.

Say “Ahh!” Modai is equipped with a magnetic charge port with 3 prongs for quick and easy charging. When battery is low, the port automatically opens to physical cue you to charge Modai.

Digital + Physical The charge port is connected with the avatar. The digital seamlessly integrates with the physical to create a cohesive experience.


Technological advances.

Say “Cheese�


10.1 Megapixels, 200 ISO, f/1.4.

Miniature speakers, auditorium sound.

Modular internals To circumvent the problem of outdated technology, Modai has modular, upgradable internals. Simply peel back the peelstand, and pull the tab to release the internals.


Packs of paper-thin batteries last you days.

Modular Modai The simple design of the internals allows customization, upgrading, and lengthens the lifetime of the device significantly while adding a bit of your personal flavor to the hardware.



Stereo-quality recordings.

Faster and faster.


Modai’s brain.

What about the others? The rest of the components evolve slower, and reside within the base: antenna, vibration motor, accelerometer, etc.


Technological advances. Step 2 Swap out the old parts, and install your new hardware.

Step 1 Purchase your new parts.

Step 3 Mail the old parts back with the same box. Simple!

A sustainable ecosystem Modular internals open up the possibility for a friendly ecosystem between you and Modai’s manufacturers.


and up to date.


A human device Project Modai is an exploratory design to inspire discussion of what could be, and how, with new technologies, we can begin to think of our electrical companions as more than a tool, but a friend.


Project Modai: final  

Final boards for Project Modai. See more at

Project Modai: final  

Final boards for Project Modai. See more at