An Interaction and Industrial Designer studying at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh tried to re-imagine the way we interact with radios to create a more meaningful relationship between the user and the artefact.
Radios have been around since the 1920s but the devices we have at home haven’t changed much even if they were designed nearly 100 years ago and share similar elements like switches, knobs, sliders.
When The Experimental Form Radio is laying on a tabletop, it is off. To turn the radio on, you pick it up and slot it onto a wall mount. The radio leverages the elastic qualities of fabric to control stations and volume. To change stations you press lightly and slide your finger along the fabric surface. To change the volume you press firmly into the fabric, and then slide your finger along the deeper cavity in the radio. The video below showcases the interaction.
Requiring the user to pick up and wall mount the radio to turn on creates a ritualistic experience with a very simple feedback mechanism. If the radio is hanging on the wall it’s on, if the radio is laying on a flat surface then it’s off. The visual and auditory feedback allows the user to have a clear understanding of the system state.
Even cooler than the video above is the next one, showing all the “Making of” process to build the wooden piece and the soft interface:
The project uses an Arduino Uno board with a custom circuit made with three independent layers of conductive fabric and conductive thread. Touching together two layers of conductive fabric completes one of twelve circuits that then either change the radio station or the volume.