DELFT HOME HUNTERS
A playful match-making app + wearable device to find your ideal housemates in a Dutch University Town
HOW TO FIND A HOUSE AND A HOME FEELING IN A FOREIGN CITY? The project was inspired by identifying an untapped need in the national & international student community: national and international students very seldom were encouraged to live together by the existing system, leading to segregation in the city and a disconnect between the two communities.
Moreover, in the house hunting process, it was challenging for both parties to find their ideal roommates, people that shared similar interests and ways of living. The goal was to create a system that would enable both national and international students find their ideal homes/home-mates in a fun and effective process, encouraging community building and multicultural coexistence.
Initial ethnographic research consisted in understanding the current dynamics during HOUSE HUNTING in Delft from the perspective of TU Delft international students, and the interactions occurring in these situations through WORKBOOKS and GROUP SESSIONS with CO-CREATION methods.
The RESEARCH GOAL was to gain insight on the different kinds of HOME HUNTING EXPERIENCES related to the existing opportunities in the local market, identify the EMOTIONAL HIGHS AND LOWS of the house-hunting experience, for the new comers and the Dutch residents, and formulate initial proposals to ENHANCE THE HOUSE HUNTING EXPERIENCE for both Dutch and International students.
INSIGHTS / Some KEY INSIGHTS emerged from the research were that Dutch students tend to prefer to live together, since they usually share common living spaces from the time of the Bachelor Degree. The University had a fraternity and sorority system and the student life of the undergraduate students was very much influenced by their belonging to them or not.
For the home hunting experience, Dutch students employ a system called INSTEMMING: a call for a new housemate is made on a few local house hunting websites and through word of mouth, and a student has to write a motivation letter on why they should be selected as a new house mate. If accepted through this first screening, they would be all invited on one evening to the house, where they would interact with the housemates and be interviewed individually and in group to see who was the best match. After a collective vote, the preferred house mate would be selected and invited to move in.
Although the system sounds quite efficient on the paper, it required a lot of preparation and coordination work for the house residents, who had to read many motivation letters, agree on who were the people they preferred and find a good day to invite them all to their home, as well as agree on who was the best match. And for the home hunters, the process was very stressful, almost like applying for a job, and most of the times this process would penalize international students because they didn’t understand the instemming process and felt very out of place by being abroad.
On both the Dutch and the International student sides there was a desire to meet more of each other and mingle with different cultureS, but the absence of a smooth process that could help them screen out non-matching individuals made them go for the easier option.
With the results of the ethnographic research and co-creation session, the concept for an digital/ physical platform was created, inspired by the INTERACTION VISION of PIRATE COMPANIONSHIP. Pirate companionship is adventurous, fun, a little rebellious, powered by shared goals and individual needs, a bit opportunistic and temporary in nature, but with the chance to create life-long friendships.
Developing from this vision I tried to elaborate on which elements favor the development of a FAMILIARITY between Dutch & international students, enabling an interest for a SHARED HOME FEELING and an increased multicultural interaction for mutual growth.
The final output is a PRODUCT-SERVICE SYSTEM consisting in both digital and physical components: a WEB BASED SOCIAL PLATFORM to MATCH HOUSE HUNTERS and OWNERS and an INTERACTIVE WRISTBAND connected to the platform. The hunting wristbands vibrate when two possible matches are in proximity, encouraging REAL LIFE ENCOUNTERS and a GAMIFICATION of the house-hunting experience.
I designed an initial paper prototype of the web application, focusing on the profiling of the house hunter and of the homes. The idea was to create profiles that would have 2 types of criteria:
FUNCTIONAL CRITERIA / the typical criteria that are useful to find a good match: type of room desired/offered, type of home, how many housemates, how many bathrooms, proximity to the University campus, proximity to the city center etc..
PERSONALITY CRITERIA / such as what type of hobbies and activities the home hunters and home owners liked to engage in, what they liked to share, what their interests were and habits in their living spaces.
The combination of FUNCTIONAL & PERSONALITY CRITERIA will enable a more accurate matchmaking between the home hunters and the home owners, to facilitate a good match on all the desired aspects. This would not eliminate the need for an in-person meeting at the home and on the final agreement on the part of the home residents on who was the winning new house mate, but it would make the process more:
EFFICIENT - weed out automatically the people who didn’t match at all
EFFECTIVE - allow the potentially right matches to have a chance to be SEEN, and known, beyond first impressions
PERSONAL - enable self reflection on what are the important aspects in a common living situation while studying
FUN - gamify the process of home hunting by making it a contextual game to be played with a wearable device, RFID tags and a bit of curiosity
The Project Delft Home Hunters was exhibited during the event “Delft Amazing Technology” in Delft in March 2012.
Also, the insights of the project in terms of creating HYBRID COMMUNITIES, which combined users interactions in both physical and digital spaces, were presented in a paper called Agorà 2.0: Designing Hybrid Communities. The paper was presented during the biannual conference Communities and Technologies in Munich in July 2013 and won Best Paper Award.