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Digital memories

UX for a perfect recall device that leverages massive data storage and always-on AV recording to augment human memory in a way that doesn't detract from memory's natural strengths.



What if you could remember everything?

The prompt for this project was to create the interface for a “perfect recall” device. This near-future extension of modern surveillance technology would presumably record everything and allow the user to, essentially, augment their memory, thereby creating perfect recall.

As a designer, my goal was to somehow avoid an utterly dystopian solution. My role included research, visual and interaction design, as well as creating the concept video below:


Formulating a research question

A clip from "The Entire History of You," an episode of the series Black Mirror about the dangers of perfect recall.

A clip from "The Entire History of You," an episode of the series Black Mirror about the dangers of perfect recall.

My team began by conducting secondary research—surveying academic writing and pop culture to explore the problem space. We found lots of research on surveillance, memory as it relates to mental health, privacy, social media, planning, and nostalgia. Our interests and research coalesced on the relationship between documentation and memory.


User Interviews

We developed an interview guide and recruited ten participants between the ages of 18–25 to ask them about memory, social media usage, and their processes of documentation.

Our 10 interviewees.

Our 10 interviewees.


Data synthesis

After completing our interviews, we began the process of poring over our recordings and notes. We had hundreds of post-its tagged with potentially relevant data points and ideas—we arranged them, we rearranged, we debated, rearranged again, and eventually, through synthesizing all we knew and were learning, a series of higher-level insights started to emerge

High-tech ideation using advanced non-screen-based medium



1. The strength of memory is its imperfection.
We found that all of our users embraced the ability to forget unpleasant memories, stating things like "I want to forget.” human memory seems to be imperfect for a reason.

2. We don't need total recall.
Similarly, none of our participants talked about remembering every part of a moment or always looking back on everything they had ever done.

3. We can't predict a memory's value.
The variety of memories that stood out for them showed us that in hindsight, many unknown experiences might turned out to carry deep meaning in the future.

4. We're afraid to get rid of things.
Our participants speak about collecting large amounts of photos on their virtual devices but rarely looking through them.

5. Managing self image is hard.
We found that the burden of being profound on social media or writing out funny tweets is stressful for them. Service like Facebook memory often fail due to the influences behind the stories shared online is quite different from those of our own personal narrative.

6. People care about memories with other people in them.
Something we noticed that was in common with all our participants was the mentioning of family, friends or loved ones in all of their fond memories. 


Design Principles & ideation

The next step was to turn our insights into design principles. These principles synthesize the psychological / ideological insights into a set of UX guidelines to adhere to in our design:

1. No absolute recall — users shouldn’t be able to recall absolutely everything.
2. No social/sharing - sharing if any should be personal, minimal and intentional.
3. No leading the user — we don't decide what is worthwhile, the user does.
4. Encourages active reflection — the user should be able to reflect on a memory.

Based on these 4 principles, the team developed several concepts:

Through further iteration, we refined the recall experience to rely on the user’s natural memory, most importantly its decline overtime. We do this by having its functionality rely on the user’s natural ability to recall the exact date, time, and location of their memory. We call it Reverie because a imperfectly-remembered memory has a dreamlike quality.

Rêverie: record, recall, forget.

Reverie is always recording, but replays only that which we can remember and put into words. Rather than replacing them, it provides a new way of reflecting on memories.

Wear the device and record your life using the pendant camera.

Recall your memories using structured vocal commands.

View projections of your memories anywhere using the projector.

Adjust the dial to create impressionistic blends of your memories.