Commissioned Piece - Interactive Icebreaker

I was asked by Louise Valentine at the University of Dundee if I would be interested in creating a "talking point" for an upcoming business breakfast that she was organising between the new centre for entrepreneurship at the university and Dundee's chamber of commerce, which would host up at to 50+ businesses in the morning.

Using my skills as an interaction designer, I was interested in how I could use creative technology to improve the experience of networking, and where it could potentially fit in. I wanted to create something simple and interactive as well an output that would integrate itself nicely whatever the event.

In the end, I decided to run with a colour changing light box that would assign a colour to the user when touched - this colour would dictate who they should try and speak to during the event i.e. preferably someone of a different colour from your own. Overall I was extremely happy with what I produced and felt like it was a success on the day. People's feedback was overall extremely positive and giving people a goal to work towards at the event (collecting stickers) provided the participants with a common talking point when approaching new people. I'm extremely grateful to Louise for the opportunity.

The Process:

I started off by creating a moodboard of inspirations, ranging from simple boxes to more abstract shapes. 

moodboard - lightbox.jpg

Initially I wanted to try a more traditional box, shaped after a speech bubble. I did a few cardboard prototypes of this and found that it wasn't as interesting as I wanted it to be - I wanted the object to have a bit more presence.


While still debating on the form, I began making the technology working. I had been keen to use conductive materials again in my work and actually integrate it into a more resolved prototype. Once again I used a capacitative sensor with conductive thread and Bare Conductive paint. When the paint comes in contact with a current, it triggers the Arduino to generate a random number between 1 and 4. The 4 colours are then assigned to the numbers i.e. red = 1 and so on.  


With the technology working, I made a decision on the form - I opted for a base that could be positioned on a table top, with the acrylic now extending out of the form to hold a message - in the end I opted for the centre's motto created using vinyl: #ThinkAskAct. I used the laser cutter to assemble the base and cut the acrylic pieces, opting now for the extended acrylic piece to be a speech bubble. Happy with the form, I began to integrate the technology.


During the process of assembly, Louise took me down to see the space to get an idea of how we'd run the experience tomorrow. It was agreed that I would be near the entrance and to assign people their colours. Satisfied with this, I went back to finish the final assembly and get set up for the event.