Published at

DIS 2018

In collaboration with

Lancaster University

Project Date


The Shape Changing Table Runner

ActuEater, an actuated table-runner (a traditional decorative centre-piece for dining tables) changes its physical shape in response to socio-physical interactions around a dining table. This prototyped deployment of ActuEater reveals complex ways in which it can change the experience of people in an interior space and how they perceive and interact with such calm technology in interesting (and often unexpected) ways.

ActuEater also shows how an interactive interior element can be simultaneously a resource for social engagement and a dynamic decorative artefact. We explore the implications of this for situating novel technologies in everyday settings, focusing on 'discoverability' and 'legibility' of interactive spaces in-the-wild, and critically consider how decorative artefacts enhanced with actuation and shape-changing interactivity can offer new aesthetic possibilities for adaptive interior spaces.

Actuating dynamic materials offer substantial potential to enhance interior designs but there are currently few examples of how they might be utilised or impact user experiences. As part of a design-led exploration, we have prototyped (Wizard-of-Oz) an actuating, dining table runner (ActuEater1) using ShapeClips, and then developed a fully-interactive fabric version that both changes shape and colour (ActuEater2) using thermochromic colour-changing fabric and shape-changing SMA nitinol muscle wire stitched inside the table runner.

Four in-situ deployments of 'ActuEaters' in different dinner settings and subsequent 'design crits' showed insights into how people perceive, interpret and interact with such slow-technology in interesting (and often unexpected) ways. The results of our ‘ActuEating’ studies provide evidence for how an actuating artefact can be simultaneously a resource for social engagement and an interactive decorative.

In response, we explore design opportunities for situating novel interactive materials in everyday settings, taking the leap into a new generation of interactive spaces, and critically considering new aesthetic possibilities.