Touchbox

CHI conference 2012 (September 2012)

The first thing you see is a strange-looking wooden box with a vintage light bulb and an analogue meter. It looks like a quasi- scientific instrument from the 60’s that will measure your health and serve to convince you to buy snake oil or to join a cult. The appearance was designed to spark your curiosity and set you in a mood for exploring the system.

The Touchbox system offers a play session for two Participants at a time. The role of the technology is to sense physical bare skin connection between the participants. The sensing yields analogue values in a range starting from a few centimeters from actual touch, (what I refer to as the “aura”), via light touch to full contact. The values are converted into a relatively complex soundscape, which is played back to each Participant through their headphones.

The Touchbox was an iteration of the Mediated Body that offered a play session for two novice participants. Whereas the Mediated Body required a performer to wear a suit and facilitate the interaction, the Touchbox consisted of a system encased in a box with two headphones connected to it. Two participants would put on a pair of headphones and begin to explore touch. The bare-skin sensing would react to simple touch, strokes, full contact and nearly-touching.

The physical appearance of the box was designed to spark the curiosity of people observing the interaction, with the aim of them wanting to try it out. It consisted of a wooden box with a meter and a light bulb. The light would blink when a connection between the two participants was made and the meter would show the amount of connection. It resembled a snake-oil product from the past that would measure one's health or something equally odd.

Touch in action

Done by: Mads Hobye.

The box