Designing The Internet of Things with the 3 Laws of Robotics

Joshua Marinacci (PubNub)
User Experience (UX)
Location: D136 Level: Novice
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 12 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Thanks to cheap sensors and even cheaper computing, we are rapidly approaching the age of the smart home: living spaces filled with smart things. Objects connected to each other and to the internet. Thermostats, door switches, lights, windows, gas sensors and toilets. However, this vision of things to come brings great challenges as well. How do we design interfaces for these devices? How can someone manage a house full of 200 gadgets each demanding new batteries and an IP address? What if your networked toaster rats you out to the FBI? The challenges of building a safe and understandable Internet of Things are immense. There is one existing ethical framework that can help: Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

In this session we will explore the complex interactions of the Internet of Things and see how the classic Three Laws of Robotics can be applied in these situations. We will cover physical safety, data privacy, setup and maintenance, and general usability. No knowledge of programming or interaction design is required, just an open mind and a desire see the future.


  • The Internet of things?
  • Why is it cool?
  • What counts and what doesn’t?
  • Inside and outside your home.
  • A quick survey of the problems IoT creates:
  • data privacy
  • physical security
  • physical safety
  • data overload
  • management overload
  • The Three Laws of Robotics
  • fictional and non-fictional history
  • guidance to solve our IoT problems
  • Do Not Harm a Human
  • physical safety
  • emotional safety
  • preserving privacy
  • Obey Orders From Humans
  • The principle of Least User Astonishment.
  • manual overrides
  • decision delegation
  • heuristic design
  • Protect Own Existence
  • Easing the management burden
  • Escalation of emergencies
  • Safe failure
  • Next steps
Photo of Joshua Marinacci

Joshua Marinacci


Ask me about HTML Canvas, GUI toolkits, and visual design. Or ask me to rant about Java stuff.

Josh Marinacci is a blogger and co-author of “Swing Hacks” and “Building Mobile Apps with Java” for O’Reilly. He is currently a researcher for Nokia.

He previously worked on webOS at Palm and JavaFX, Swing, NetBeans, and the Java Store at Sun Microsystems.

Josh lives in Eugene, Oregon and is passionate about open source technology & great user interfaces. He uses a MacBookPro and Nikon DSL to spread understanding of great design in software.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Joshua Marinacci
Joshua Marinacci
08/09/2013 4:16am PDT

The slides are posted now. Thx.

Picture of Gauthier de Valensart
Gauthier de Valensart
07/29/2013 7:44pm PDT

Do you have the slides ? Thanks


Sponsorship Opportunities

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at (707) 827-7065 or

Contact Us

View a complete list of OSCON contacts