WeTable, a Tangible User Interface to Empower Conversations


A tangible user interface to empower conversations by using an inflatable table and a red ball. When the table detects that a person is talking too much, it inflates and makes the red ball to roll to another person to talk. 


Process Overview


There is one main interaction: inflating one specific part of the table in response of the amount of time talking from the same person.  As we will discuss in the Implementation part, there are different microphones integrated in the table that allows to detect which user is talking more than the others. When this happens, the part of the table from that user starts inflating, making the red ball roll to another user to engage a new conversation. A very interesting concept here is that users don't need to have external tools or apps, we have the same scenario as now but with more augmented functionalities.


Different solutions were explored to find the right tool to engage conversations. An initial approach was to use a digital app to randomly select the user, but this created a mental load for the user due to the need of focusing on an external tool. After some iterations, we started designing the tangible interface.



This prototype combined software and hardware. From one side, we have the physical table which was designed and built using a CNC machine. There are also 5 inflatable airbags and 5 microphones distributed around the table that are connected to an Arduino Uno.  

From the software side, we have an Arduino Uno and a Pneuduino in order to receive the different inputs (microphones) and trigger the outputs (airbags).  The Arduino Uno was  connected to a Pneuduino board to control the airflow and pressure. The data analysis and connections were made through Processing.

Contribution and Role in the Project

My role on this project was the initial design of the table and interaction, as well as coding the software to manage the table. I was also in charged of integrating the electronic components (microphone, inflation system, controller boards) .

This project was created for the Tangible Interface class with Professor Hiroshi Ishii. I had the amazing opportunity to work with the following designers and architects: Haeyoung and Kritika from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Yan and Carolyn from MIT.