Tangible Story
Sep 2020

My Role: Programming | Circuitry | Concept Video and Imaging
Collaboration: Herin Haramoto | Richard Wecker
Tools: Arduino UNO & Arduino Nano 33 iot | Arduino IDE | P5.JS | C++
Timeframe: 1 week

‘Tangible Story’ is a conceptual project to revive the traditional oral storytelling rituals and inspire contemporary families in Costa Rica to think about the way we communicate today and deepen their connection with each other.

In today’s society, our relationship with technology is based on immediacy. We expect both fast responses from our technology and technology expects fast responses from us. This has also come to play in the way we communicate with loved ones since the majority of our communication platforms are based on those same fast feedback loops.

Tangible Story is our way of exploring slow and purposeful communication devices, where users need to actively participate, creating meaningfulness and connection by the action itself

Tangible Story consists of two devices. The transmitter and the receiver. Transmitters are meant to be kept at home for use whenever a family member wants to share a story. They can record them and it will be uploaded to a cloud repository. Once a story arrives to the repository, it will be redirected to a receiver device in one of the family member’s houses.

A light pattern signals the arrival of a new story. A person can push in the center of the device to hear the recorded memory, which will be deleted after it is played. The decision of letting the story fade away or preserving it by re-recording it into their own transmitter and re-sharing it, relies entirely on the family member. With this, family members make a conscious decision to keep their family legacy and stories alive.

Costa Rica is a Central American country with a strong family tradition. In-person reunions between immediate and extended family and friends are commonplace. Virtual engagement is also a fundamental part of their weekly social interaction using social media and messaging applications to share stories, articles, and conversations. As a fast developing country with a growing culture for use of technological platforms, some family traditions are changing in order to encompass a more modern and city-centered lifestyle. Due to this, family stories that are told in an oral way, may be neglected and disappear with time.

One of our goals, was to rethink the current touch interfaces in technological devices. These usually enforce interaction with a screen, which is a hard touch interface for the user. Our approach was utilizing fabric and taking advantage of both its properties of softness and elasticity. Thinking on the multiplicity of people and the variety of age among them, this approach allowed us to create a new kind of touch interface that is soft and intuitive and does not rely on buttons.


‘Tangible Story’ was created in the timeframe of 1 week.

Considering most of the project rely on the connection and communication of two devices, it was priority to determine how this was going to be achieved. In order to rapidly prototype, we used two Arduino UNO and a p5 sketch running on a laptop to facilitate the communication and recording of the audio. This sketch can both receive signals from the serial port and send them back according to the triggering of specific events.
Once our first prototypes could connect and communicate with each other, we moved towards designind and creating the tangible user interface of the device.  The Recorder device was modeled using Rhino and later 3D printed. The hollow part of the recorder served as a storage for all the electronics and was covered with the fabric since this was one of our main approaches towards redefining touch interfaces. On the inside it include a vibration motor that provided a subtle haptic feedback and an LED to signal when the recording was initiated.
The Receiver, inspired by photograph frames or paintings, has a rounded square shape and an almost pristine look. It was created by lasercutting MDF panels and acrylic, to create the main body of the device. The design has an open space in the center that serves as the button to start recording the stories. The entire device is cover with stretch fabric.
NeoPixel strip ran across the whole body of the pannels and a vibration motor was attached to provide haptic feedback to the user.