After spending time researching and observing different types of human interactions in the furniture department research elective Face to Face, we (Alex Ju, Jewelry and Metalsmithing 2016 & Tyra Bell, Furniture Design 2016) were inspired by awkward, accidental touching, as can happen on the bus or in an elevator. Considering ways to positively reinforce awkward touching, we also thought about how people can be more comfortable interacting when they can't quite see face to face, such as in dim lighting or online.
After conducting user studies using large cardboard prototypes, with varying opacities in a central window adjusting how well each subject could see the other as they touched, we were surprised to discover just how severely uncomfortable people felt when they could see each other when they touched. The touching interaction took on a new significance when the other subject was completely obfuscated, resulting in our final design.
Our piece is a large plinth (24" x 24" x 60"), aeshetically inspired by gumball machines and vending machines. There are two digitally embroidered hands on pleather on each side. When two people, one on each side, press their hands to the pleather, they experience the sensation of the other person's hands through the fabric. A flexible pressure sensor in between the pleather detects the interaction, then an arduino-controlled servo contraption dispenses two gumballs.
The sound of the candy dropping into the opening brings the two participants to the side, where they then subsequently have a face-to-face meeting as they share the gumballs. The plexiglass windows into the gumballs allows the participants to have a sense of how many interactions have taken place, as the level of the gumballs slowly decreases.
Our structure is made of 2x4s, then covered in MDF and bright red paint. The upper box, which has a hidden ramp, contains over six thousand gumballs.