Envisioning a new model for voice interaction

Plug+ is a trainable switch that explores an alternative model of voice interaction in the future intelligent home. By connecting with different appliances, it enables people to create their own voice command to control home appliances.


While products have been designed and manufactured to serve a predefined use, logic, and behavior, with advances in emerging technologies such as machine learning, increasingly objects are acquiring the capability of learning, context-awareness, and evolving affordances. This paradigm shift brings new models of interactions between people and objects. New complexities inside objects also bring challenges for designers to translate and bridge the gap in understanding these interaction.

How can we create new metaphors of interaction with intelligent objects? What language should we use to communicate objects’ learning process? What new values can the kind of trainable intelligence bring to us?


Plug+ is an exploration of trainable interfaces of intelligent objects. We use switches, an important yet conventionally passive electrical component of a home, to explore the potential of training in a tangible way. We examined a range of machine learning models such as supervised learning and reinforcement learning to inform the training interface to enable you to teach it more actively.

The prototype consists of two part, a switch box that allows you to connect any of your appliances, and a detachable training module that you can place anywhere in your home and train it with your unique voice command.



Plug+ is built on Arduino and Wekinator, which enables it to be trained and used locally, making it a more reliable, free from concerns about data and privacy in cloud-based systems. We designed a simple training interface, using LED and the change of the light, different modes such as training and using modes can be indicated. More importantly, it provides a direct and understandable feedback to demonstrate the training progress. The modular design enables you to connect Plug+ with any appliances and use it in different scenarios.

The Making

Concept & Development: Yuxi Liu, Varenya Raj, Reuben Jerome Dsilva

Consulting: Massimo Banzi & Simone Rebaudengo