Mind in Matter

What if a loved one in another country could embody an object in your immediate environment and communicate with you through it? Would their unique body language allow you to feel like they are more present?

Mind in Matter is a research interaction design project exploring long distance communication through our relationship to objects. By wearing a haptic headset, one is able to embody an everyday object (in this case a lamp), in a different location to create new modes of long-distance interaction.

Inspired by the personification of objects in animated films, and humans' propensity for storytelling, I wanted to create an interactive, two way experience that encouraged people to have fun and let loose while communicating through a medium we are so used to being static and merely functional.

The headset used to control the lamp is inspired by the age of retrofuturism - the first time we imagined man and machine being one

The headset used to control the lamp is inspired by the age of retrofuturism - the first time we imagined man and machine being one

Throughout testing the project with users, it was clear that the sponteniety of someone’s body language meant there were an unlimited number of potential interactions making it unpredictable.

The ridiculousness of the project and the design of the headset encouraged users to behave in a way that was funny and entertaining with all users saying they found the interactions delightful and felt more positive after than before.

More seriously, the project raised questions about the potential for artificially intelligent products to take on more dynamic behaviours to make them feel more emotional. 

Final prototype before the final piece.

Final prototype before the final piece.

Experimentation and Development

Starting with wanting to 'Animate the Inanimate', the project quickly developed from wanting to create animate objects to wanting to create a medium for communication. Below, you can see the experiment that became the turning point as I realised having a human "pilot" the product created an intriguing form of interaction.

Evolution of the headset

The headset was inspired by the golden age of futurist imagination of the 1960s. Retrofuturist and steampunk inspirations are clearly noticeable. At the same time, the bright orange colour was chosen to contrast the black and steel for a playful aesthetic reminiscent of Pixar characters and to encourage users to be playful. Pixar was a big inspiration for the start point of this project and that's why the lamp stuck as the medium.

Year: 2017