Making Furniture Interactive

September 5, 2007

(interactive) Furniture

Filed under: Assignments,Exercise 1: What Is?,Marc Manzke — marcmanzke @ 11:29 pm

unitoilet prototypeIn exploring existing models, I became interested in passively interactive furniture. These pieces are not made interactive through mechanical or electronic systems, rather they are responsive through physical form. In some cases they are not interactive and are only objects of interest.

Universal toilet by Changduk Kim and Youngki Hong reconsiders the accessibility of disabled toilet. The unit does not require the user to twist or turn in order to move from wheel chair to toilet. The full text can be found here.

The second piece of interest is one of Zaha Hadid’s recent forays into furniture design exhibited in NYC. The full text can be found here


Dunne and Raby Pillow / Sound Modulated Light #1

Filed under: Exercise 1: What Is? — jilore @ 10:52 pm

Dunne and Raby Pillow

Tony Dunne and Fiona Raby design artifacts to question the role of technology in society. The Pillow project consists of an inflated pillow embedded with an LCD screen that reacts to electromagnetic waves passing through it–cellphones, television and telephone signals, pages, etc. Patterns change according to location and placement, making sensual what the human senses cannot perceive. While not a specific piece of furniture per se, the pillow is very much an intimate and domestic object in the home, and when crossed with the invisible complexities of technology, is an animated, fascinating object. Dunne and Raby value projects like these because the resulting interactions that humans have with them begin to say much about the role of design in our lives.

“It turns out that the way people use products depends as much on them as it does on the original intentions of the designer. A pillow can take the place of a dog, if you need it to badly enough.”‘

Sound Modulated Light #1

In the same way the “Pillow” makes electromagnetic waves visible, Sound Modulated #1 was featured here in Pittsburgh at the Wood Street Galleries. Participants carried around light sensing boxes connected to headphones. Walking around a series of spaces with different light qualities, the sensors turned light waves into various types of noise. While this is less furniture and more space/environment designing, it provokes and fulfills different types of interactivity from previously static components, making lamps sources of dynamic noise and creating different experiences constantly through one’s movement.

Exercise Two: Respond, Lamp – and invent-a-switch

Filed under: Assignments,Exercise 2: Add a Switch — mdgross @ 10:19 pm

Due Tuesday Sept 11, 11:59PM

Part One: Using the lamp you built in Exercise One, or constructing a new one, make your lamp respond to its environment somehow. You may use a photosensor to measure the amount of ambient light, or a switch that is sensitive to vibration — in short, any sensor that you choose to make the lamp respond. The response need not be direct or obvious (such as “darker, more light”) but it may be fickle, or impish (or not). You might think about having several “states” for the lamp, and have changes in sensor values trigger the transitions from one state to another.

You can find simple photo-resistors at Radio Shack if you need one; we have a few photodiodes we can share and miscellaneous other switchlike supplies. You’ll find tutorials on the Arduino site (here’s one) (and another) and elsewhere on reading analog and digital sensors.

Part Two: Invent (and build) a switch. A switch is a simple (binary) sensor. A switch makes an electrical connection – typically two metal (conducting) parts that connect. The exercise is to build a switch that is triggered by something other than pressing a button. For example, a switch that senses a subtle breeze? A switch that senses when you are hot and sweaty? A switch that senses when you are standing on a spot. Demonstrate your switch – with your lamp if that makes sense, or in any device you wish to build.

Kipum Lee’s Exercise 1:

Filed under: Examples,Exercise 1: What Is?,Kipum Lee — Kip @ 10:02 pm

Grass Chair
A “Grass Chair” you can purchase. There are no sensors or electrical components, but it can be an interesting experience.

Interactive Toilet Seat
Might be a fun lavoratory experience, especially in the dark.

Not So White Wall
“Not So White Wall,” Interactive Wallpaper. Thermal Display Wallpaper for Prada. A Masters Thesis project of Dario Buzzini when he was at Interaction Design Institute at Ivrea. You can read emails or SMS and also view images taken with your mobile phone camera.

Millenium Park the “Bean”
Two pictures from my summer in Chicago. This is a picture of the $12 mil “bean” in downtown Chicago. I took a shot of a little boy interacting with it. This is an example of a massive piece of artifact with no defined purpose, yet has captivated many visitors and invited a form of interaction.

Spewing water
Another picture I took this summer. In the same Millenium Park in Chicago, two sets of interactive walls that have animated human faces which spew out water in interval times. It is great to watch people just come and play in this small arena.

Exercise One: “The Living” (Dan D.W. Kang)

Filed under: Dong Woo Kang,Exercise 1: What Is? — dwkang @ 9:47 pm

I have two examples of interactive furniture:

lg12.jpg   1. Living Glass

       This is like a window that moves in response to the environment around the occupants in the building. It uses kinetc surface through an array of sensors that are embedded within the surface. There are no motors or mechanical parts in this. The wires run through cast silicone and they contract due to electrical stimulus, causing gills to open and close.  The sensors detect the carbone dioxide level in the air and starts “breating” by opening / closing the gills.





2. River Glow

This is not exactly “furniture,” but still has some interesting features that are worth discussing. The pods float in public waterways and detect the pH level in the water. After examining the water quality, they send a signal visible from the water. LEDs are connected to the pods and change their colors according to the condition of the water.




interaction with less tech

Filed under: Exercise 1: What Is? — tomrgon @ 9:17 pm

these are a few examples of furniture that, while not being quite intuitive or sensitive to external movements, still qualify as interactive normal car seat has the power to be manipulated with either a lever or controls to conform to the specific person sitting in it.  some car seats are even able to memorize the position they were set in and return to it whenever the specific person’s remote activates the are also add-ons to the above technology that can heat or massage the user depending on the user’s input.tempurpedic230.jpgfinally, the non-electronic piece of interactive furniture i looked at was the tempur-pedic mattress, which interacts with its occupant using minute cells to conform ergonomically to the form of the user.

Furniture and Art (jenn gooch)

Filed under: Exercise 1: What Is?,Jenn Gooch — jenngooch @ 8:13 pm

You will find that, as an artist, I tend to incessantly abstract definitions, answer questions with questions, and blur lines. I apologize for the length – I couldn’t really provide links that would concisely do the work justice.

As I mentioned the first day of class, I am interested in the artistic appropriation of an object, in this case furniture, as a way to borrow both its denotative and connotative qualities. The use of furniture in interactive art serves (at least) two functions: 1) furniture can invite the audience to shift into user versus viewer, providing an apparatus for an interactivity not always implied by less common objects or more formal art contexts, and 2) the creative use of a plethora of meanings different types of furniture can connote. In short, the use of furniture in art in general and interactive art in particular can make practical use of furniture as signifier and conceptual use of the signified.

While completely out of the realm of interactive, the discussion of signifier/signified and furniture reminds me of this paramount conceptual work by Kosuth.


I could go on but here are a few examples of the utilization of furniture in art either for its explicit utilitarian qualities, its conceptual implications, or both:

Laurie Anderson, The Handphone Table, 1978

handphone table handphone table sign

In this piece Anderson sets up a simple exchange, vibrations through a wooden table that can be heard when cupping ones hands. While this is not interaction by my definition in that the table cannot sense and respond, it is an interesting and early use of furniture to invite participation.

Yukio Fujimoto, Ears with Chair

Ears with Chair

This piece was at the Venice Biennale this year. Did I sit in it? No. It’s also not interactive by my previous definition, but is a classic example of inviting the viewer into an experience of art that goes against traditional audience as viewer. The sound experienced as described to me seemed hyper-binaural.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, The Dark Pool, 1995

dark pool

dark pool

Cardiff and Miller often utilize furniture and objects for their multi-media pieces and installations. In The Dark Pool the audience moves through a room full of furniture and debris, triggering audio and other happenings by movement and sitting on various chairs in the space. The audio is of truncated discussions, stories, and inter-personal dialog that, together with the atmosphere created by the room, creates a set and narrative.

Here is more video of the piece along with a few others.

Cardiff’s piece To Touch is more somewhat more interactive, in that participation changes the experience of the piece. There are embedded sensors on the table that trigger audio. I think it employs light sensors which implies the possibility for more interactivity other than simply a trigger. I’m not sure if this possibility was utilized.

to touch

I do not generally feel that an object’s use of a trigger (i.e. a motion sensor) to turn it on makes it interactive. Its response to your simply being there doesn’t give you the full experience of feeling part of an interaction, of having the ability to enact subtle possibilities. Though this can be made up for by quantity of sensors, most audiences are more savvy than to be fully entertained by something merely acknowledging their presence. We can get that from our grocery store door.


Filed under: Examples,Niko Triulizi — niko @ 7:45 pm

Not exactly furniture, but it reacts to people on a human scale


hypo surfacce

jenn gooch’s lamp w/ light sensor

Filed under: Exercise 0: Make A Lamp,Jenn Gooch — jenngooch @ 11:51 am

I wanted to play a little with Arduino’s on board analog inputs after the joy of dealing with A/D converters previously. I built a simple lamp with 3 LEDs, packing tape (I moved this weekend – it was around) and a light sensor. I played around with some borrowed code to create the following, which includes a simple serial print function (this streams numbers into the black box at the bottom of your code in Arduino that corresponds to the info coming in from the sensor – great for troubleshooting) so that I could monitor the numbers coming in from the sensor.

Since I have next week’s assignment covered I’ll work towards a more creative housing material that is less, well, sticky.

NOTE: be careful running serial all the time – it’s a good way to freeze-up or crash. Best to monitor then stop it.

board setup

light sensor
heat shrink tubing
(packing tape)

LED/light sensor lamp


/* Analog Read to LED
* ——————
* copyleft 2005 David Cuartielles (modified by Jennifer Gooch)
int sensorPin = 0; // select the input pin for the
// potentiometer
int ledPin1 = 11; // select the pin for LED1
int ledPin2 = 12; // select the pin for LED2
int ledPin3 = 13; // select the pin for LED3
int val = 0; // variable to store the value coming
// from the sensor

void setup() {
pinMode(ledPin1, OUTPUT); // ledPin is as an OUTPUT
pinMode(ledPin2, OUTPUT);
pinMode(ledPin3, OUTPUT);
Serial.begin(9600); // opens serial port, sets data rate to 9600 bps

void loop() {
val = analogRead(sensorPin); // read the value from
// the sensor
Serial.print(val, DEC); // prints value from sensor
Serial.print(” “); // space in value

if (val > 0)
digitalWrite(ledPin1, LOW); // turn the LED on
digitalWrite(ledPin2, LOW); // turn the LED on
digitalWrite(ledPin3, LOW); // turn the LED on

if (val > 250)
digitalWrite(ledPin1, LOW); // turn the LED on
digitalWrite(ledPin2, LOW); // turn the LED on
digitalWrite(ledPin3, HIGH); // turn the LED off

if (val > 500)
digitalWrite(ledPin1, LOW); // turn the LED on
digitalWrite(ledPin2, HIGH); // turn the LED off
digitalWrite(ledPin3, HIGH); // turn the LED off

if (val > 750)
digitalWrite(ledPin1, HIGH); // turn the LED off
digitalWrite(ledPin2, HIGH); // turn the LED off
digitalWrite(ledPin3, HIGH); // turn the LED off

delay(100); // delay program for 100 ms

cameleon lamp

Filed under: Exercise 0: Make A Lamp,Greg Saul — gregsaul @ 11:37 am

title image

Concept: To design a light that mimics a color if shown to it. Design: lamp driver. LEDs are very efficient as they only emit one frequency of light, and because of this the light produced could be perceived as flat and lifeless. Instead i used tungsten bulbs because unlike LEDs they aren’t flat and lifeless. Because the Arduino cannot provide enough current to power a tungsten bulb without damaging the Arduino chip, I had to use transistors to turn a separate power source on to power the bulbs. This also meant that the lamp wouldn’t draw too much current from the laptop. To do this i connected the pwm pins to base of the transistors, and grounded the transistors to the Arduino’s ground in series with diodes to prevent current flowing back through the tungsten bulbs from the Arduino. Because i used the pwm pins i could dim the bulbs the same way one can dim LEDs in the Arduino code.colour sensor. Because I wanted the lamp to detect colors and mimic them, I prototyped a simple color sensor. To do this i connected three light dependent resistors (LDR’s) to the analog inputs of the Arduino, with a 10kohm resistor between them and ground to create a light-dependent voltage divider. I covered each of the LDR’s with a piece of red, green, and blue transparent plastic respectively. This meant that when light of a certain color fell on the LDR’s, it would be absorbed and measured differently by each of them, respective to color. Thus, a color value could be interpreted from the LDR’s and replicated with the tungsten bulbs.notes. At the moment, the color sensor only works effectively when a piece of cellophane is held over the sensor to color the light. In further development a lens could be used to focus images onto the color sensor, thus obtaining a more accurate color value.

blue sensorblue lightred sensorred light

circuit layout

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