Brian Hui | UX Designer for Mobile, Web, and AR/VR
UX Designer

SmartPack - An Exercise in Human-Computer Interaction Principles

The SmartPack project was a human-computer interaction prototype that envisioned a backpack with smart functionality. The SmartPack would aid in navigation utilizing haptic feedback as well as provide some safety features.

Project Overview

Project Overview

Project Time: March 2017 to May 2017

SmartPack was a project born out of the Human-Computer Interaction class taught by Dr. Ray Lutzky. The purpose of the project was to develop a brand new prototype wearable device OR improve an existing wearable device. We were tasked to utilize basic HCI principles in the project.

Our Solution: My group members Sharon Lee, Kathleen Chao, and I developed a concept for a smart backpack that would utilize haptic feedback for navigation purposes and safety. It would allow users to respond to haptic feedback to navigate instead of continually looking at their phones. The safety features can be manually activated and include a detection feature that will react if there are people following closely behind you.



As a team, we focused on providing users with a backpack that could be used in a few possible scenarios, and not necessarily for one singular purpose. Thus, we decided that we wanted to focus on safety while also simplifying the navigation experience so that users may not have to look at their phones as often and can focus on the environment around them. Looking at some wearable technology that already exists, we couldn’t find one specifically like ours. However, many different wearables do incorporate the same purposes.

There are a couple of different wearables that provide SOS panic buttons to ensure for safety. There are some in complete dedication to this feature - including Leaf (, Nimb (, Athena (, Life Alert - or others that have it as just an additional feature - including many smartwatches such as Apple Watch, Samsung Gear devices, and Android Wear devices.

For navigation, there are a few wearables that exist, but seemingly not as many as ones for safety. There are navigation belts, pendants, and shoes that use the same idea of haptic feedback to guide in navigation - including Arc Pendant (, Ubivade (, and Lechal Footwear (

Original Concept and Intended Tasks

Original Concept and Intended Tasks

Our original concept is seen above.

Early in the process, some of the tasks that we wanted to incorporate into this SmartPack include:

- Integrated microphone in the shoulder strap that can activate your smartphone’s AI assistant (Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc.). This allows the user to utilize their smartphone to call for help or ask for directions when needed.

- A sensor that can be activated to detect if people are following you.

- Safety whistle which, when used, will also send a text alert to your emergency contacts notifying them of a potential emergency as well as the user’s location

- Haptic vibration engines built into the left and right shoulder straps as well as the lower back area that can act in tandem or individually to guide users subtly and unobtrusively.

- An app that can reprogram the vibration engines to allow users to customize how the vibration engines will operate (vibrate for notifications, calls, etc.)

Audience & User Personas

Audience & User Personas

Our intended audience are people that work as bike couriers, travelers, and people that live in large metropolitan areas that have a portion of their commute to school or work that is on foot. We think that these groups of people will be the most likely to utilize this SmartPack idea to the fullest as they will spend a significant amount of time wearing the pack for their daily activities.

During development of the SmartPack and its feature set, we developed the following user personas to help us better understand our audience:

Andres Peralta, who is a 24-year-old bike courier living in downtown San Francisco. Andres would most likely use the navigation features and detection feature to help with his job.

Devon Iwasaki, who is a 27-year-old graduate student at the University of Washington. Devon would most likely use the detection and safety features when walking home late at night.

Saphi Snobar, who is a 65-year-old retired professor and frequent traveler. Saphi will most likely use the navigation features in his travels as well as the safety and detection features if he and his wife have wandered into a bad neighborhood.

Final Design

Final Design

Human-computer interaction will help the SmartPack work for its users in more natural ways. The SmartPack will utilize:

Haptic feedback to guide and reassure actions by the user.

Natural mapping with the placement of haptic technology. This will minimize the need for memorization of controls or features. For example, during navigation, the left shoulder vibration engine will vibrate to signal to the user to turn left.

Integration with existing backpack objects to ensure that users are not confused about where features are located. For example, the whistle will be found on the chest strap, as per many backpacks with a similar function. The microphone can be integrated into the strap near the shoulder area.

Credibility, which makes sure that all services provided (navigation and safety) are delivered quickly, accurately, and seamlessly, as well as creating an app that conforms with Human Interface Guidelines for iOS and Material Design Guidelines for Android to promote further trust and user familiarity.

Reduction techniques will reduce the steps it would take the average smartphone user to navigate or call an emergency contact.

Tailoring techniques will be utilized by allowing the user to customize their haptic engines to go off in any unique way for their preferred notification.

Constraint: While users can decide who to put down as their emergency contact, we made sure that users will not be able to set 911 as their emergency contact to prevent potential spam to emergency services.

Companion App

Companion App

The SmartPack will utilize a companion app that will be available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. With the app, the user can access specific features, such as:

- Check the SmartPack’s battery life.

- Enable or disable detection sensors.

- Start/end navigation.

- Customize vibration engines for customized alerts.

- Set user’s unique emergency contacts.

- Detection and SOS Log that logs when and where the detection sensor or SOS alert has gone off to remind the user to be wary or avoid areas in the future.