Leaky Objects

How should designers respond to connected objects leaking implicit information, resulting in unintentional communication?

Leaky Objects is the proposed concept to describe the phenomenon in which shared objects unintentionally reveal implicit information about individual or collective users. This leaking of implicit information changes our individual interactions with objects to through objects, enabling expressive communication and ambiguous speculation.


Karey Helms. 2017 Leaky Objects: Implicit Information, Unintentional Communication. ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2017), Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Karey Helms, Barry Brown, Magnus Sahlgren, and Airi Lampinen. 2018. Design Methods to Investigate User Experiences of Artificial Intelligence. AAAI 2018 Spring Symposium Technical Report (The Design of the User Experience for Artificial Intelligence), Stanford, California, USA.

Leaky Objects poster by Karey Helms, KTH Royal Institute of Technology


The autobiographical design probe that prompted the notion of leaky objects, was driven by a desire to communicate with shared objects about my partner. Following an international relocation for my PhD position in 2017, he was subsequently unemployed with a contrasting flexibility in environment and routines. This variability shifted the nature of my daily thoughts about him from specific inquiries into known events to general curiosities about possible happenings and overall well-being. With this change in communication content and flow, I wondered how might our method of communication correspondingly be adapted? Instead of directly communicating with each other, could we indirectly communicate with objects about each other?

This work is a part of the Implicit Interaction project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design.