Kinetic Folds

In a university research project, I studied what happens to our relationship with objects when they come alive and engage in reciprocal communication with us.

Kinetic Folds was inspired by the moment of perceptual crossing that occurs when you meet a stray cat in the street, and a moment of anticipation makes time stand still, as you and the cat try to figure each other out.

Using a single sheet of folded paper and embedding it with motors and custom-built touch-capacitive sensors, I designed an object which breathes and responds to the presence of human touch, creating the perception that the Kinetic Fold is alive.

It was exhibited at Dutch Design Week as a featured student project, and included in Eva Decker’s PhD dissertation Perceptive Qualities.

Process

One of the major challenges in this project was to get ideas and manifest them in prototypes. While my previous studies have given me a wide array of ideation methods for projects, all of them tend to revolve around a clients needs, a social change, or the context, etc.. For this project, however, there was no target group, no context of use, no market – there was only the theory.

A student sitting across me working on the same project did not have that problem. He was able to constantly build representations of his ideas, but beyond building his ideas, his representations actually built ideas.

Inspired by this approach, I took up the craft of paper folding, initially just following lessons from books. As I started crafting, however, the craft started talking to my ideas, and the research. I realized: this is research through design.

As I folded new shapes and objects, I started getting ideas on how I could use those objects to say something about the research I was doing. For example, as I made the boxes displayed to the right, I thought about the literature I had read on perception and expectations, and how I could play with people’s expectations by making them want to look inside the box and see, for example, a round interior, to trick their eyes.

Thoughts

This project is a good example of why it’s important to do research, and research through the act of designing. In this project, I experienced the synergy that occurs when the act of making influences my way of thinking, and vice versa.

The prototype in many ways sums up my identity as a designer. I believe in a next generation of interfaces that has shape-changing capabilities, but not just for the aesthetics of looks, but the aesthetics of the interaction. Moving interfaces have the potential to allow much more expressive interactions, and create stronger relationships between products and the people using them.