Creative Assignment 3: Devices for Sharing - Connected Intimacy

tl;dr: Prepare a conceptual design and realize a working prototype of a product for connected intimacy.

Type: Collaborative

Due: Wednesday 11th February, 10pm. No late work.

Submit to:

Team Assignments: Will be shared on Slack

Learning Objectives

As part of this assignment you’ll be asked to:


For years, technology has empowered new forms of human-to-human connections. Mobile phones and SMS are an incredible example of this - they have radically transformed when, where and how we can reach out to other people.

While the Internet of Things is often talked about in terms of sensors, hardware and functional utility, it also creates new opportunities to enrich human experience; to not just connect objects, devices and things to one another but to help us better connect with the people in our lives.

Connected objects have much potential to create more intimate understanding between two or more geographically separated people. They can allow us to understand and empathize with one another by giving us a window into some facet of another person’s daily experience or by allowing us to share a facet of our day.

Examples of Remote Communication and Connected Intimacy

There are already many examples of ways that connected objects can do this.

Many projects explore simple ‘gestures’ that can be transmitted through connected objects. How can a handshake, a pat on the back or a hug be sent between two people across distances?

The Tangible Media Group at MIT created inTouch in 1998. It is designed to explore “new forms of interpersonal communication through touch”. It allows a gesture to be sent from one allowing two sets of connected rollers. Rolling the cylinders on one devices creates the corresponding action on the paired device, and vice versa, allowing two people to share

They continued this line of exploration with LumiTouch in 2001 where they developed a series of paired picture frames. Touches on the frames are sensed and when it is held the other frame lights up as an indication that the other person is thinking about them. It allows for a moment of intimacy to be shared and for new interpersonal communications with subtle gestures.

The Good Night Lamp is a kickstarter backed projectwhich connects a series of bedside lamps. “Good Night Lamp is a physicalsocial network. It allows you to keep in touch with people all over the world. When you buy Good Night Lamp it comes as a set of two lamps: a Big Lamp and a Little Lamp. When you turn on your Big Lamp, the Little Lamp turns on too. You can send your Little Lamp to your friend or family member anywhere in the world. There is no lengthy setup and no internet connection needed.”

Lover’s cups sees drinking as ‘a new communication channel’ and a shared ritual between two people for example, to share a toast at distances. The cups ‘enable people to share the time of drinking with someone they care about in different places. Using a wireless connection, an otherwise ordinary pair of cups becomes a communication device, amplifying the social aspect of drinking behavior.’

Telesound allows sonic emoji to be shared between two remote individuals. Using a mobile device you can choose from a series of audio clips and develop multiple clips into a ‘grammar’ or vocabulary. Once the audio emoji is built, it can be shared with any friend’s speaker.

Pillow Talk is “an interactive product aimed at bringing long distance lovers together. Each person has a special pillow on their bed and goes to sleep wearing a wireless ring sensor. When one half of the couple goes to bed, the pillow on the other’s bed begins to glow softly. Placing their head on the glowing pillow, one can instantly hear the real-time heartbeat of their lover and feel closely connected, regardless of distance.”

Other projects have explored: sharing pulse readings or biometrics between partners, activating scents remotely and many other variations but fundamentally they are designed to let two people say “I’m thinking of you.”

Love Letters by Jonathan Sher, see also article on Designboom

Project Outline

Your project is to create two connected devices for simple interpersonal communication.

You should identify a simple communication problem and design for that context.

You are not required to create a fully implemented product prototype, but should have a working demonstration.

Your project documentation should:

Using Online Material:

It is perfectly fine to use examples, code, tutorials, and things you find on the web to help you realize your project. That’s part of the open-source mentality that surrounds much of Making, Arduino and microcontrollers. However, you cannot just copy and paste these solutions. In your documentation you must acknowledge where you got this content from. Include a link to any tutorials, guides, or code that are part of your final solution.

Final Documentation:

Projects should be added to the IDeATe Gallery. You should provide a clear and concise description of your project, your process, and the outcomes. It should be quick to get an overview of the project. Ideally, your description of the outcomes should be repeatable too i.e. anyone in the class can replicate it easily from the information provided.