Finalist 2023

Technology of Interactions (ToI)

Jian Shin See / Monash University

Technology of Interactions (ToI) is a series of home appliances investigating our relationships with data and technology.

Our daily lives are increasingly intertwined with technological products. These technologies keep us connected, but they are often overwhelming and lead to negative emotional well-being. Being disconnected from technology is not really an option for most of us, hence ToI focuses on alternative ways of connecting us to our surroundings, social circles, and worlds.

The aim of the project is to recontextualise the information we receive from technologies in our everyday lives, and attempt to make technological interactions a more mindful experience.

Design Brief:

ToI is part of a final-year industrial design project, to design robots for use in everyday life. The design outcome can also be presented at the annual Monash Art, Design and Architecture graduate show, MADA NOW. The design process involved around four months of research and ideation, execution and refinement, and finally, preparation for the graduate show.

This project was developed by:

  • Jian Shin See

Design Process

The rapid inclusion of technology into every moment of our lives is a concerning phenomenon, but it also presents opportunities to be explored in this project. Project ToI proposes different ways of interacting with digital products, in the pursuit of healthier relationships with technologies.

Early research revealed that the main way we interact with data and technology is through electronic screens - from smartphones, laptop monitors, and smartwatches - this propelled this project towards exploring alternative modes of interacting with data, engaging with other senses through diverse forms of interaction.

The project then focused on exploring the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon to create smart living spaces and enable everyday objects with intelligent capabilities. While the idea of a more connected life sounds promising, it also raises practical questions: is a WiFi-enabled toaster really necessary? ToI was designed with a clear purpose in mind - to justify its role in our daily lives and seamlessly integrate into our routines. The ethos driving ToI's development was to ensure that it becomes an unobtrusive and valuable addition to our homes. This vision guided the creation of the three fundamental appliances that make up ToI.

Design Excellence

Radio wants us to learn about the little details we might’ve missed; Bubbles proposes a playful alternative to the dings, buzzes, or flashes of our digital devices; Lamp connects us to the world, but also refuses us the ability to engage further than to just notice them. ToI want to keep us connected without the associated anxiety and emotional baggage. ToI requires minimal amounts of direct interactions with human users, adopting a non-interfering approach to inform us of the worlds we live in. In contrast to the prevailing technological trends that demand our constant attention, ToI offers a playful departure from our daily routines.

Design Innovation

ToI technologically revolves around Internet of Things (IoT), hence the name. All three appliances utilise ESP32 microcontrollers and they connect to the internet to carry out their tasks. Bubbles connects to the Instagram API and IMAP for Gmail and listen out for notifications; Radio connects to openweathermap to experience the weather around you; Lamp connects to The New York Times API and browses the international news section. (This biases lamp's news source heavily, but NYT's API is free and has no usage limit, so it is used for the project.)

The housings for the appliances are 3D printed and painted. Wood highlights are made from Victorian Ash, as they are one of the better options for sustainability when considering its life cycle and harvesting practices, and they are responsibly sourced from Matthews Timbers. Most of the wooden parts in ToI came from timber offcuts. The combination of pastel colours and wooden highlights allowed ToI to blend into household settings and fit in alongside other appliances.

Design Impact

ToI has been presented in a public exhibition - the MADA NOW 2022 grad show. It sparked conversations around digital well-being, especially around how dependent we are on digital screens. Discussions were also brought up on how people would modify ToI to fit their lives - the main one that stood out was how Bubbles could be used for reminders for important events, like meetings.

ToI wasn't meant to be a direct solution for our relationships with technologies, but instead an exploration of what alternatives are possible within the realm of existing technologies. They allowed participants to slow down to observe and reflect, and to consider the roles of technologies that require less, not more, of their attention.

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