3D Display Cube
New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York
Compared to 2D interfaces, the 3D Display Cube exhibits data spatially in a way that is closer to how we actually envision objects. Designed for a course called The World, Pixel by Pixel, James Clar’s cube is made of 1,000 LEDs soldered onto a 10-inch freestanding matrix. Each individually controlled LED acts as one pixel and can be refreshed at a rate of more than 60 frames per second, creating a low-resolution 3D television. Video and audio data enter the cube through a serial input device and are transformed into a dynamic light sculpture. “Watching that wave blasting through the three-dimensional object was absolutely wonderful. It was like one of those holographic devices you have in Star Wars,” Chantry enthused.
Hayes Raffle and Amanda Parkes
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Topobo, a 3D constructive assembly system that can record and play back motion, was designed by Hayes Raffle and Amanda Parkes for a Tangible Interfaces course in which students explored the physical embodiments of computational media. The system’s ten pieces are linked with Lego Technics connectors. Nine are passive and one has a built-in motor to make a dynamic connection. By snapping together a combination of the colorful, multishaped components, the user constructs biomorphic forms like animals and skeletons. To program a sequence of behaviors, press a button on the active piece, then push, pull, and twist the creature. Switch the action piece to playback mode to watch the motion repeated. Kalman called the product both “charming and convincing,” and was also attracted to its carefully realized curvilinear packaging.
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design Jerusalem, Israel
When asked to design a piece of domestic furniture suitable for mass production, bibliophile Yedidia Blonder made a bookshelf that celebrates its cargo. Line employs just two pieces of square, 10mm profile that touch the wall with a translucent plastic mediator, ensuring that books hold visual precedence over their furniture. The hollow metal rods were connected with a Japanese wood-joinery technique, and the system comes with a handy 1:1 printed sheet of paper that helps installers locate where to drill. “I like it because it looks as if it is just a line drawn on the wall,” remarked Kalman, who also appreciated the graphic compositions created by multiple shelves.
Bending and Binding and Anchoring
Jeffrey Erath, Lucas Herringshaw, Aaron Baczkowski
Tulane University, New Orleans
The assignment—to rethink the typical construction barrier for renovations on the Tulane University campus—stipulated the use of PVC tubing and electrical conduit, and a budget of only $300 to produce 30 feet of fence. Jeffrey Erath and his team came up with Bending and Binding and Anchoring: A “kit of parts” includes four main components that can be arranged to create 27 combinations within each 7-foot section of fence. The multifunctional system incorporates areas for bike parking, seating, sign posting, entrances, visual protection, bus stops, and access to vending machines. Rice applauded both the fence’s function—”the ability of the structure to respond to programmatic needs”—and its aesthetic—”the PVC contours are not just posts and a line, but seem to represent a vertical landscape.”
Pod the Massager
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
“In a year of war and uncertainty, this project tapped into a widespread desire for creature comforts,” observed Kalman of Farrah Sit’s portable massaging device. The brief, for a course called Appropriate Technology and Sustainability, was to design a product using all or some of the mechanical and electrical components of a handheld, battery-operated screwdriver. With help from Brown University engineering student Abby Thomas, Sit machined and press-fit an off-centered weight onto a small motor, encased and wired it to batteries, then sheathed it in rubber to distribute the vibration. Noting that most handheld massagers on the market are impersonal products made from bulky injection-molded plastics, she housed her massaging motor in a form more appropriate to its function: a soft, comforting scarf. The pea-green textile, which Kalman seized and draped over her own shoulders, can be wrapped around the body or slung over the back of a chair.
Nomad Mobile Workstation
Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
For a senior project in which she had to create a ready-to-manufacture and marketable product, Ivy Tseng designed the Nomad Mobile Workstation, which provides a practical work surface as well as a protective storage case for a laptop computer. The hard briefcase opens on a rotary hinge and locks at 180 degrees to form a 14×24-inch surface. It is large enough to accommodate the use of a mouse—as well as “a drink or a pencil,” Kalman observed. The bag’s interior is padded and molded to fit the contours of the user’s lap. Additionally, the padding isolates the computer’s heat from the user. Commenting on Tseng’s success in fulfilling the assignment, Rice said, “I can imagine using one of these.”
University of Washington School of Art, Seattle
Advances in transportation technology are often viewed by the public as “futuristic Flash Gordon inventions” that do not relate to daily lives, notes visual communications design student Devon DeLapp. Assigned to conceive a publication that would communicate Honda Motors’ commitment to emerging technologies, DeLapp invented a funny and lovable navigator—an exaggeratedly low-tech robot, made from silver-sprayed cardboard boxes. The publication documents a day in the life of the robot and its encounters with these new technologies. The incongruity of the robot showering and refueling a car are particularly humorous. Throughout this square, compact book, visual narrative pages are interleaved with smaller pages containing data about Honda’s new efforts. The jurors liked the juxtaposition of the slick and sophisticated subject matter with something as “clunky and dumb” as a cardboard robot. Chantry pronounced it “really hilarious” and Kalman thought it had the “feel of a Futurist performance.”
Andrew R. Coates
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Brown paper bags, log piles, lightbulbs, and milk crates were the inspirations for Andrew Coates’s thesis project, which celebrates the mundane. Exploring an undercharted area of ergonomics—what he calls “mental comfort”—Coates designed a line of products that tap into collective memory: a shelf made from a steel bracket slipped inside a brown grocery bag; ornate adhesive poster corners cast in rubber from decorative wood accents found in hardware stores; vases cast from balloons; and a candle in the shape of a lightbulb. Coates’s hope is that people will attach to the objects their own meanings. Chantry applauded the products’ connection to popular culture and their humor, subtlety, and consistency of tone. “These functional transformations invite a new scrutiny and enhanced appreciation of what would otherwise be thrown away,” added Rice, who also praised their “raw, unpretentious energy.”