Anticipation of Time Together

This machine counts down to a shared, significant event. The anticipation of this event is experienced while being together or when separated.

Hywel and Jesper live together in East London, but are regularly separated due to Jesper’s work. However, when Jesper returns home they often take a holiday together. This is a ritual they’ve been engaged in for a number of years.

Looking forward to these trips of reuniting, the anticipation of being together again and going on holiday, became the focus for the design of this Ritual Machine.

For Hywel and Jesper we found much inspiration in their attitude to time keeping and routine, Jesper’s love of travel and Hywel’s design sensibility. We responded to their anticipation of being together again and this became the focus for the design of their Ritual Machine. This machine counts down to a shared significant event, that they first set together, then experience the passing of time and finally celebrate the arrival of the event. It resembles and evokes an electronic sand timer.

Our ethnographic interviews and probes revealed that Hywel and Jesper had a specific design aesthetic, and therefore the design of this Ritual Machine would need to meet the families design preferences. The machine is a flip-dot display, a mechanical display that consciously references the departure boards of airports and railway stations. The flipping of dots produces a sound that contrasts moments of change, like a ticking clock or the drama of a full display update.

We built an iPhone app for both Hywel and Jesper allowing them to interact with the display, which otherwise has no direct interactivity. From anywhere in the world, the app shows what is currently displayed at home, allowing them to check the progress of an event. Any touches on the iPhone screen are displayed in real-time on the home display, that may be co-opted for phatic communication.

We wanted to create specific moments for them both while in front of the display and were inspired by Cold War film language of double locks and secure systems that require two people to initiate a sequence. The display is a Bluetooth iBeacon and this allows the iPhones to judge their distance, allowing the system to ensure that all parties are together and close-by. When an event has not yet been set the display reacts to the presence of each iPhone. When both are present an interface is shown that spans the two screens and allows a future time and date to be set. When the time arrives an animation creates a moment of celebration.

This Ritual Machine alludes to the sense of excitement associated with travel. The anticipation for the mechanical cascading of the dots is analogue to the anticipation of the next trip or time together. The choice of material and colour was a deliberate attempt to design a machine that would be accepted into Hywel and Jesper’s living room, a space that we had observed was carefully curated.

Ritual Machine 2b  IMG_0123

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