Marriott Hotel Smart Lamp

William Caruso, | MIT Mobile Experience Lab

Spring 2015


  • Raspberry Pi
  • Flask
  • iBeacons


I joined the Marriott Project on March 14th, 2016 as a technical UROP. The Marriott Project team was tasked with introducing new technologies and user experiences for hospitality loyalty programs. I joined an existing group of researchers and students involved with CMS.634 Designing Interactions led by Dr. Federico Casalegno, founder and director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, to help design the future of consumer loyalty. Specifically, I was placed under Alorah Harman and Stella Kim to work on a smart lamp, two graduate students in the MEL.

The lamp serves as a hidden and mischievous piece of technology that detects when loyalty guests walk by in the hotel lobby and reacts to that guest with individualized greetings, favors and compliments. Communication from the lamp to the user is done by projecting words onto the lampshade. There is no user interaction with the lamp; instead the lamp is smart enough to know who is around it and can guide the loyalty guest through an experience by making a one-way conversation. For example, the lamp greets a guest from Italy with a simple “Ciao.” Perhaps this guest arrived a bit early for check-in, so the lamp suggests that the guest grab some coffee while he waits, reminding him that the barista has his favorite drink in stock, and then directs him towards the bar. If the user returns to the lamp’s proximity within a few minutes, the lamp would pick up right where they left off – reminding him that the coffee was hot. After this experience, the lamp could continue the conversation tailored specifically to this guest based on his preferences and interaction history.

When I joined the team, it was already determined that Stella (a graduate student) was responsible for the design and fabrication of the physical lamp and display. As a technical UROP, my task was to build the brain of the lamp - the human interface. The system itself was intended to be a minimum viable product to demonstrate certain features of such a lamp. I was to check in with the lead grad students throughout the process and was aloud to be creative and independent.

Throughout the UROP I experimented with technologies that I was familiar with. This research project was design driven – from the aesthetics of the product itself to the planning and implementation of the lamp human interface software system. Overall, I learned how to better design a software system and then iterate and implement my design.