Shuang Liu


A smart sleep mask for jet-setters

Team Size
Jan - Apr 2017
User Interviews, Concept Testing, Focus Group, Persona Development, Web Development

My Role

We are a team of 3 MBA students, 1 engineering student, 2 HCI students and 1 graphic design student. I was deeply involved in the ideation and research process. I designed and prototyped the Cocoon app, designed the box, designed and coded our marketing website, and created the Snapchat filter for our event.

Project Overview

Traveling can be stressful especially when the environment is noisy and chaotic. Business travelers need to recharge while on the go and they want to look good while doing so. We created Cocoon, a smart sleepmask designed for travelers. The soft mask blocks out light, the headphones block out noises and play white noises. When it's time to wake up, the dawn imitation feature wakes the traveler up in a gentle way.

1. Fuzzy Front-end


An Ambiguous Task

The theme of the integrated product development project is wearable technology. Our prompt is to "Design and produce an item suitable to be worn routinely in daily life, incorporating the use of active technology, responsive to user needs in an innovative way." Wearable technology is a board topic. We started our project with user interviews and market research.

Primary Research

Our interviews and observations show that:

  • Wearables have significant penetration in our daily lives, primarily in the form of wrist-based fitness trackers
  • Wearables' functionality often overlap with smartphones and their ever-increasing general purpose capabilities

Industry Reports

Our secondary research shows that:

  • Consumer Applications: General Consumer, Fitness & Sports, Fashion & Apparel, Home Auto & Remote ID, Gaming & Recreation.
  • Non-consumer Applications: Health Care, Defense & Security, and Enterprise & Industrial

Idea exploration

Brainstorming Sessions

We generated over 100 ideas and voted on ideas that we were interested in conducting further research on. We categorized our problems & opportunities into various ‘intents’ that underlined our ‘general themes’. Our solutions emerged inspired by our research and synthesis.

Idea Consolidation

In order to re-evaluate each selected category, we started another round of brainstorming on problems and solutions. The solutions were specific ideas. We placed all the solutions in a market potential by feasibility grid. We weeded out ideas that were not feasible or had low market potential. After the session, we narrowed down our ideas to four categories: remember me, record me, regulate my temperature, and teach me.

Problems and solutions for each category (self-learning, experience enhancement, memory augmentation, heat, tangible social network, habits)
We placed all the ideas into a 2 x 2 chart (feasibility vs value)

Opinions of Potential Users

We interviewed 20 participants about our four key ideas and gathered insights from their thoughts and concerns.

Idea Finalization

3 Finalists

Based on the feedbacks from user interviews, we decided on three ideas for our first design review.

Storyboards of the 3 finalists


An ultra-comfort sleep mask with dawn imitation and built-in white noise to improve travel experience.

Eye See

Glasses to help blind people navigate. One side vibrates to instruct the person to turn in that direction. Both sides vibrate if there is an obstacle ahead.

Fit Glove

Smart fit gloves for weight lifting. Red light signals if the user has an incorrect form.

Idea Validation

Concept Testing

We tested 7 concepts (our 3 ideas and their variations) and gathered 54 responses from participants. We explained each concept to each participant and asked them about their thoughts about the idea, whether their willingness to purchase the product and the amount they were willing to pay.

ZenCocoon is the winner.

7 Concept cards

Customers' likelihood of buying each product

Problem Framing

How might we craft a smart sleep mask that helps users rest well in a noisy chaotic environment?

2. Design & Prototyping

Persona Development

The Tormented Traveler

Persona Statement

“My job requires a lot of travel, so I’m always looking for ways to stay productive in transit. I want to disconnect and refocus my mind, but it’s also important that my travel accessories match my personal style. I love new technology and I’m willing to try the latest and greatest.”

Technology meets business

Features Development

Conjoint Analysis

We selected 5 features for a conjoint analysis (noise cancelling, dawn imitation, sleep analytics, battery life and price). We built 10 models, with prices ranging from $130 to $280. We asked participants to rank each card based on their willingness to purchase it.

Our respondents' willingness to purchase (WTP) for advanced sleep analytics was lower than the cost to make it, and a long battery life was not a highly valued feature.

Technology meets user experience

Prototyping: Round 1

We concluded 3 design principles from customer interviews:

  • Comfort as a design requirement.
  • Differentiation from smartphones
  • A wearable for relaxation and meditation

Material and Technology Exploration

We start with prototyping the looks-like, works-like and technology concurrently. For looks-like, we experimented with soft forms and fabric. For works-like, our team consulted with the sleep study experts from U Michigan and conducted literature research on how different colors of lights affect sleep and relaxation. For our technology, our team experimented with a variety of sensors, including motion sensors, and pulse sensors to explore ways to detect sleep quality.

The Looks-like

The sleep mask should be sleek and soft. The surface should be removable and washable.

The Works-like

Embedded LED lights adjust the strength of light to wake the user up in a gentle way. Headphones are with active noise cancellation ability.

Active Tech

Our team experimented with a variety of sensors. We were trying to use the pulse sensor to track movements during sleep.

Sleep Analytics

We planned to connect ZenCocoon with phones via Bluetooth. The companion app helps users to track their sleep quality.

Reflection and Planning

Technical Challenges

After we researched noise cancellation technologies, we realized that active noise cancellation requires us to use algorithms to generate waveforms to cancel out the noise. The technical requirment is beyond what our team are capable of doing. Instead of active noise cancellation, we decided to change our noise cancellation feature to noise isolation, where the headphones play relaxing white noise to block out unwanted noise.

We initally planned to use the pulse sensor to monitor sleep quality. However, the pulse sensor only works when the sensor stays on the forehead. When people are sleeping, they move. It is impossible to keep the pulse sensor at the same location the entire night. Since our interviewees showed little interest in sleep tracking, we decided to remove this feature.

Technology meets marketing

Feature Definition

After weighted our technical feasibility and business requirements, we finalized 6 our key features.









Prototyping Continued

Prototype Metamorphosis

Looks-like 1.5

For our second looks-like prototype, we wanted to create something lighter and sleeker than the "lamp-shade" first prototype. Our industrial designer tried to hand-sew this prototype. Hand-sewing turned out to be extremely time-consuming (more than 30hrs). The hems do not look professional compared to machine-sewing. Also, our product does not look sophisticated because of lack of delicate details.

Looks-like 2.0

We decided to use machine-sewing instead. In order to make the design more sophisticated, we decided to embroider monarch-like patterns on the surface of the sleep mask. The monarch pattern was drawn in Illustrator and used the CNC Embroidery machine to print the patterns on the fabric.

Works-like 2.0

The Box

All Managed Through One App

The Cocoon App

Cocoon is managed through an app. The user can set up alarms in any combination of three ways: dawn imitation, pulse vibration or audio. The user can listen to curated audio tracks to aid their relaxation or sync their personal collection of music, podcasts or meditation tracks.


The Tradeshow

At the end of the semester, we participated in a tradeshow open to the public. We demonstrated Cocoon to the crowd. That was a fun and exhausting night.

Our Marketing Website

We developed a marketing website to tell the story about Cocoon.
  • We crafted our tagline "Find your cocoon away from home".
  • We created a video.
  • We coded this website.

Our Snapchat Filter

We created a Snapchat filter for our tradeshow night. Snapchat is hip and fun. Since Cocoon could only be worn by one person at a time, taking Snapchat photos could keep our audience entertained.

The Tradeshow

The gang

Our Team

Sam, Adi, Rohan

Shuang, Meghan, Allie, Anand