Date: December 2019 - February 2020
Project Type: Team Project 
Member: UI Miyake, Shion Ito
Location: Köln, Germany
Project summary
Nonvisual Interface
This was a one-month Human-Computer Interaction project during my exchange study at Köln International School of Design, Germany. A professor tasked students to create a new interface that people can interact with without visual information. We were expected to do a range of activities from making concepts to developing working prototypes.
Ui Miyake, a Japanese design student and I worked to create a series of interfaces which offer an animated tangible experience with wrinkle-like textures.
Each prototype's interface has a unique response when a person interacts with them as if they have their own personalities. For example, one of them has an attention-seeker mind and if people shine light directly on it, this causes it to move excitedly like it is dancing.
Through the life-like and 3-dimensional features, we aimed to provoke discussion about human's lives in which they are getting used to current touchscreen technology used in smartphones which have inorganic and typically flat feedback.
Provoke discussion about our sense of touch
Nowadays, people are interacting with smartphone by touching flat screens. This situation involves both positive and negative aspects; while you can control objects in the screen with your finger which is intuitive, people lose the opportunity to have sense of touch which leads the problem where blind people can’t recognize the interface. we wanted to make people realize that we are gradually taking this situation for granted and rely on our sense of visual too much. Thus we wanted to create a speculative prototype which requires people to focus on feeling texture. Ultimately, we wanted to have people who interact with the prototype discuss our sensation and touchscreen technology.
Thus, we made five interface-prototypes which has artificial wrinkles that move differently as if they have their own personality. We also designed white coloured exhibition space that looks like furniture of someone’s room. We put prototypes in this exhibition space to create imersive experience to communicate with the protypes.
Problematise current smart phone touch screen 
During the first stage, students individually started to ideate what non-visual interface they wanted to develop for the project. At the time, I was thinking of what non-visual interface could contribute to our life and noticed that current smartphone touch-screens are too visually oriented and I personally miss the sense of pushing physical buttons. I thought a non-visual interface can help make people's touch sensitivity more prominent and by using this high sensitivity, I could create interactions which people carefully feel the response of devices.​​​​​​​

Avocado as a Nonvisual Interface 
During the ideation, I found avocado the best reference for my concept. when people buy avocados, they touch its surface and recognize if it's the right time to buy it. I thought that even though people are doing it unconsciously, their fingers become more sensitive to touch to check the readiness of avocados. I found that if I could create a situation similar to that of checking an avocado, where people touch organic textures to understand the analog information like freshness of foods or pulse of livings, rather than didital information.
Being inspired this finding, I finally decided to create an interface which has animal-like behavior and people can guess what emotion the interface might be feeling. I made a presentation of the idea and built a team with a student, Ui Miyake, who shares the same interest.
Five life-like interfaces
Then, we discussed what interaction can be possible and we came up with some ideas. Eventually, we decided to go with an idea which was to create five different prototypes that have five different movements. We thought with this idea, we could make people curious about each device’s personality and more consciously interact with the interfaces. Also, we expected people to share their thoughts with one another as they interacted with the prototypes, sharing their thoughts on each interface's personality.
We used wrinkles for each device's expression because in everyday life, we see facial wrinkles and use them to understand people’s feelings. However, we were interested in how people could use their sense of touch to understand feelings rather than using vision. To do this, we had people touch the wrinkles of each device interface and try to understand their feelings. During the development of the prototypes, we used Arduino and yellow coloured vinyl fabric so that people couldn't visually identify each personality.
Final Design
Mischievous one which hides under a chair and when people sit down, it hits the seating surface. People can check its feeling by touching it directly.
Attention seeker which move excitedly when people shine a light. People can check its feeling by touching it directly.
Resentful one which inhabits in trash box as if it is its territory. When it feels changing the environment, it would be mad. People can check its feeling by touching it directly and carefully.
Introverted one which hides in the space between books and people can check its feeling by touching it directly.
Odd one which moves randomly. When it comes to this interface, there's no defined personality. People can guess its personality by touching it directly.
In a final exhibition where we presented these five life-like interfaces, it was seen that visitors were interacting with them actively. Although we needed to explain its relation with smartphone touchscreen, we achieved to encourage them to sense the surface carefully with their fingers. 
Back to Top