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IoT Device + Mobile App Research & Design


A smart memorial candle that helps people remember their deceased loved ones in a meaningful way through personalized rituals.

My Role

Product Designer & Project Manager


Jinghan Zhang,

Yeshashree Prasanna


Figma, Miro, Arduino


Aug. 2022 - Present


While exploring the problem space we were surprised to learn how big the market is and how relevant it has become since COVID-19.

$ 154.5B

Global Death Care Services Market to projected reach $154.5 Billion by 2027

50 yrs

Increase in digital footprints. According to a study by Oxford Internet Institute, in 50 years there could be more Facebook profiles of the dead than the living.

COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in how we memorialize and mourn the loss of loved ones.

Project Objectives




Understand how people are grieving and remembering currently​

Uncover user needs and pain points in the digital afterlife space

Find opportunities where pervasive technologies can positively impact how we mourn, grieve and remember loved ones

Research Methods


Contextual Inquiries

To understand what people’s needs and frustrations when their loved one passed away.



To get quantitative data on people’s attitudes and experiences when they lost loved ones.


Cultural Probes

Week-long study to get In-depth insights into people’s cultural beliefs about loss, grief, legacy, and the digital afterlife.

Key Findings

Talking to friends & family 

helped the most in coping with the loss of a loved one. However, some participants found it hard to bring up the topic of the loss with family and friends and express their emotions.


of participants found rituals helpful in remembering and talking about their loved ones.

on Phone

were most prevalent way to remember the deceased.

Activities done together & hobbies of their loved ones were common themes in the recollection of happy memories.

People are unable to participate in family rituals or visit graveyards when in remote locations.

Target User
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Based on our findings we created an empathy map to help us understand whom we are designing for. We used the empathy map as a reference to ideate solutions that solve the persona’s problems.

Design Opportunity 
HMW make it easier & more meaningful for people to access, store and share memories of their loved ones?
Testing Design Concepts

We came up with several ideas. Some were futuristic like AI holograms powered by trees. Other were products that can be realized now or near future like smart picture albums, family trees, and memorial candles. We created low-fidelity prototypes of our concepts and conducted user enactment with 5 target users to get their feedback.

Smart album that display memories based on state of day.


Smart urn that displays memories of deceased ones, such as voice, image, or hologram.

Smart candle that displays memories of deceased ones.


Smart family tree to share family legacy and memories

Key Insights
People favored concepts which

They are in control of when they will be reminded of the deceased.

Allow them to share stories & artifacts of the deceased between family members.

Culture and Beliefs

Lighting rituals are common across cultures

People's comfort with the way the deceased are represented depends on their culture and beliefs


People asked if the 

"color of the flame changes based on how they are feeling"

Based on the above insights, we decided to develop the smart candle concept.
Final Design Concept
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We created the concept of Flamo, a smart Memorial Candle, a futuristic product that can be realized in 2 years, our product is designed to help people remember their deceased loved ones in a meaningful way through personalized rituals.

Key Features
Guided Remembrance Rituals
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Lighting rituals that help both individuals and families remember and celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones. Users can perform rituals together with family members to share precious moments and bond over the ritual.

Customizable Candle Display
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The display of the candle can be customized to show a picture or light up in the color of the candle’s flame. The display is also used to view media uploaded during personal or family rituals.

Interactive Candle Flame

Users can select their current emotions which will change the color of the candle flame accordingly.


The users can also light the candle from their app or use their flashlight like a match stick. 

Final Product Video
  • We would like to acknowledge that our design is limited by the small sample size of participants for our cultural probe. Due to the limited time for recruitment, we were only able to get 4 participants.

  • For our next steps, we would like to first conduct usability studies with target users to uncover any gaps in the experience. Next, we would like to polish our interaction design and visual designs for the companion app.

  • The aesthetics of the candle would have a major impact on user experience. Therefore, we would like to also experiment with the look and feel of the physical candle design. Since none of us have experience in designing physical products, we see ourselves collaborating with other designers in this field.

  • Ideally, this is how we envision the system architecture to be, but due to limited time, we were only able to prototype and demonstrate the key system concepts and features. But ideally, we would want to showcase other experiences like multiuser interaction.

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