Physical Computing & Connected Devices

An Intro

So this was the second part of the physical computing course which spanned for two weeks (if you are curious about the first part, you can check it out here). Here our objective was to reimagine and create radical new physical interfaces for existing home appliances. In the first week, we worked to create rough working prototypes of this concept and in the following week, we had to refine and polish this prototype and finally document it with a concept video. It was almost like we had to come up with an idea for a kickstarter campaign and build the prototype and create the campaign video, all within two weeks.

Massimo Banzi and Dario Buzzini

Our Teachers

Massimo Banzi, and Dario Buzzini were our gurus for the week. Massimo is one of the co-founders of Arduino and an extremely experienced interaction designer. And in fact, Arduino came about to exist as an easy way for interaction designers to prototype experiences quickly. He has been an associate professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII) for around four years.

Dario has been working as the design director at IDEO and carries with him a rich amount of knowledge about industrial and product design. He was also the student to Massimo and attended the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII).

Moreover, Ankkit Modi who was one of our instructors from last week was also supporting us enormously through the project. Ankkit is the technologist at residence in CIID, he has been sharing all his technical wisdom about equipments and resources through our in-house maker space/lab.


For these two weeks, we were given out a project brief called switch-o-rama. According to switch-o-rama, we had to select one household appliance that we have in our homes and completely rethink its interface. Emphasis was given on how people interact with the object through a tangible user interface either through knobs or actions and the output created as a result from the object was secondary. The main constraint here was that no screens were allowed in our projects.

The first two days were spent by our team to decide on a concept and was presented to the teachers. Moreover, we also had a group critique everyday from the teachers for our projects. Our concept was a power plug that requires the user to put in some effort and time in order to utilise the energy from it. It revolved around the concept of creating awareness about energy consumption and sustainability. After finalising the concept, we started working on the prototypes and were able to create a rough working prototype for the presentation on Friday.

The next week then started off by refining and polishing this rough prototype by creating a better aesthetic for the outer shell of the power plug. We got a couple of good insights, tips and inspiration from Dario for creating a cohesive family of power plugs that told the same story. This meant that we had to reduce the size of our prototype significantly and create it from scratch for the new shells. We used laser cut press fit box designs for making the shells and was later levelled using putty and several coats of paint. We had some trouble with the putty as the one we had at the workshop was pretty old and didn’t dry well, which ended up with us staying up until 3am sanding off undried putty!

Once the prototypes were complete, we also documented the concept and our work through a concept video which explains everything. Furthermore, we also presented our prototype and video as a final presentation on Friday with the class and the CIID family where we actually controlled a lamp through the WePlug system.


WePlug: Bora Kim, Taishi Kamiya, Arvind Sanjeev, Matt Visco

Every day the average person in the western world consumes about 75 kilowatt-hours a day. It takes about one pound of coal to produce one kilowatt-hour. This means every day the average person indirectly burns about 75 pounds of coal. Every time we turn on a light or leave the fridge door open we are throwing more coal into the furnace. We burn this coal because we don’t think about it. Turning on a light is just a flick of the switch, to charge your laptop — just plug it in. WePlug is a critical design project that ends this comfortable indulgence.

WePlug is designed like an ordinary socket with an added socket on the top. Until you attach your desired top cube the socket doesn’t work. The top cubes come in different forms. One forces you to inflate the cube with a pump to use the socket, another invites you to turn a crank until your desired energy usage time is met, and our third cube visualizes your energy consumption compared to the average persons on any given day. With WePlug we hope people will think twice before they plug in.


Some more experimental projects from the class:

The Internet Phone: Isak Frostå, Sebastian Hunkeler, James Zhou, Jens Obel


Måtte: Esther Bretschneider, Stephanie Lee, Clara Subirats, Can Yanardag


Circula: Kelvyn Marte, Keyur Jain, Vytautas Gudaitis


More projects from this class can be seen here: Physical Computing and Connected Devices.

This is just a short intro to my life at CIID, I will be publishing more posts on the different topics we learn as well as the projects we do through this blog. Furthermore, all the credits to the media content for this blog goes to the IDP class of 2017.

Add your comment