Flamo: Smart Memorial Candle

Helps people remember their deceased loved ones in a meaningful way through personalized rituals.


Sep’ 21 - Dec’ 21


Academic (UofM)

Tools Used

Figma, Photon, Particle Workbench

My Contribution

I facilitated the problem scoping discussions, lead concept visioning, wireframing and interaction design. I collaborated with my teammates to design and conduct research studies.


UX Designers - Jinghan Zhang & Zongyao Wang


Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking experience that can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and alone. Sharing memories and commemorating their loved ones can provide comfort during the grieving process. However, many people hesitate to discuss the deceased, leaving the bereaved feeling isolated and unsupported.

There is a need to facilitate conversations among the network of bereaved friends and family to provide emotional support and comfort during this difficult time.


Flamo, a Smart Memorial Candle


Companion App


Guided Rituals

Perform ritual privately

Guides users in celebrating cherished moments with their loved ones by

  • Remembering happy memories
  • Facilitating storytelling though photos, videos and audio
  • Expressing their thoughts and emotions
  • Choice to share with family or keep the memorial private

Invite family to participate in a ritual

Users can choose to make it a family event by

  • Inviting family members and initiating the ritual
  • Joining a ritual started by family member

Lighting Interaction

A cathartic experience for users to light the candle using their flashlight

Process of arriving at the solution

Narrowing down problem spaces

We started with the question - Where can pervasive technologies make a positive impact on people’s lives?


Digital Afterlife and Death Care domain is rich in opportunities

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

<aside> 😷 COVID-19 pandemic lead to increased use of technology to memorialize and mourn the loss of loved ones.


Gaps & Opportunities


Talking about death & grief is a taboo so people are struggling to express their thoughts and feelings.


Lack of personalized options to honor loved ones.


Increase in unmanaged digital assets left behind by the deceased.

Helping the bereaved cope by better navigating grief.
Augmenting memorialization processes.
Managing Post-mortem Legacy.

Formative Research

Narrowing down opportunity spaces

We decided to conduct broad Exploratory research to help us decide which opportunity to peruse and identify our target user.

Research Questions

Secondary research

  • What are people’s experiences, needs and frustrations when their loved one passed away?


  • How did people grieve loss of loved one?
  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • How do people memorialize their loved one?

Cultural Probe

  • What are people’s personal and cultural beliefs about loss, grief, legacy and digital afterlife?

Interested in learning about our research design? Follow the links to our research reports → Research PresentationCultural Probe Activities

Key Insights & Design Goals


  • Grief is not a problem to be solved. It is not a linear process and people cope in different ways.
  • Some participants found it hard to bring up the topic of the loss with family and friends and struggled to verbally express their emotions.
"It's hard at the beginning to discuss this with other people because it hurts so much..."
HMW make it easier to have conversations on the topic of loss and grief?


  • 90% of participants found rituals (Religious or Personal) helpful in remembering and talking about their loved one
“When we're eating as a family, grandma will pour a glass of wine to say a few words to grandpa as if he's still here.”
  • People are unable to participate family rituals or visit graveyard when in remote locations.
HMW make the process of memorialization easy to do from anywhere?


  • Pictures, videos and voice message are stored on the phone
  • Sharing belongings and digital artefacts of the deceased between family members is challenging
HMW make it easier to share memories of the deceased?


Participants mentioned that the activities involving sketching fond memories of their loved one made them feel happy.


Participant created a collage of her late father’s hobbies - gardening and cooking.


Participant created a sketch of activities and places that she took her deceased pet dog to.

HMW design an experience that enables storytelling?

Opportunity space narrowed down to 1

Augmenting memorialization processes through storytelling and personalization

Managing Post-mortem Legacy

Helping the bereaved cope by better navigating grief.

Defining our Target User

Based on our findings we created an empathy map that synthesized our target user’s behaviors, contexts, needs and frustrations.


Ideating Experience Concepts

Since our problem could be approached from multiple dimensions, we needed a way to structure our ideation so that we explore in all possible directions. We used a speed dating matrix approach to our ideation.


From all the ideas we generated, we choose 3 of the ideas we were most passionate about and envisioned high level scenarios of use.

The matrix approach helped us leverage the diversity in our thoughts while maintaining the collaborative efforts.

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 created low fidelity prototypes of our concepts and conducted user enactment with 5 target users to get their feedback.


Smart urn that displays memories of the loved one such as voice, image & hologram.


Smart album that display memories based on state of day.


Interactive memorial candle with lighting rituals.


Smart family tree to share family legacy and memories.


People want control over

  • When they will be reminded of the deceased
  • Choice of sharing their emotions or mourning privately

Culture and Beliefs

  • People's comfort the way the deceased are represented depends on their culture and beliefs
  • Lighting rituals are common across cultures


  • People asked if "color of candle flame changes based on how I am feeling"

Selection Criteria

  1. Non-intrusive objects that give users control and flexibility over the interactions with IoT devices
  2. Sharing functionality with other family members
  3. Catering to a general population of the target user, no representations of the deceased.

Accepted ✅

  • Interactive Candle
  • Picture Frame
  • Voice, Picture, Video

Rejected ❌

  • Hologram based Ideas
  • Urn & Family tree
  • Futuristic forest graveyard
  • Emotion Detection

With these selection criteria we eliminated some ideas and we found that interactive candle was the appropriate solution for our target user’s needs.

Imagining the Experience

I was responsible for developing the system concept and interactions. I began by sketching, diagraming and creating task flows.

I studied what common items people presently use to create memorials at home


What would the candle look like?

I presented sketches of the physical design of the candle to my team and we decided to go with a square shaped candle.


How would users interact with the candle?

I imagined that it would be a more cathartic experience for users to light the candle manually. So I imagined the user lighting the candle with their flashlight.


Lighting interactions


Lighting Rituals

How would multiple users interact in this system?

Other family who have the connected candle and companion app can join together to perform a ritual.

What are the hero task flows?

The main feature of the app is the personalized rituals that the user can do alone or with family.

Task: Perform guided ritual


Task: Begin ritual with family


Designing the experience

Low-fi & Mid-fi Wireframing

I created low fidelity wireframes to figure out how we would layout the information & what interactions should take place. Hailey created Mid-fi wireframes for usability testing.


Physical Prototype

We used a photon microcontroller to turn on and off an LED neopixel ring which we used to simulate the flame.


Iterating based on user feedback

We conducted an informal usability testing of the hero flows and interactions with users (recruited among our friends). It highlighted some gaps in our designs which we addressed in the next iteration.


Finalizing the designs

High-Fi mock ups & Prototypes

I took the con on creating a style guide. We choose to continue using warm colors and decided to move away from illustrations.

Style Guide


We created high fidelity mock ups based on this minimalist, warm style.


See more



If I could do this again,

  • I would do competitor analysis right after we finalized the design direction. It would have helped us understand the mental models that users have about technology used in memorialization
  • I would be mindful of the number of activities included in the cultural probe study. We give the user too many so 2 participant weren't able to complete them. I would also run a pilot test.

If I had more time

  • I would like to run more evaluative studies of the end-to-end experience with target users to uncover any gaps in the experience.
  • Collaborate with an industrial product designer to polish the design of the physical candle with the focus on improving aesthetics and practicality.