Published at

TEI 2020

Exhibited at

Carleton University Art Gallery

Project Date


Interactive Furniture Reflecting Dual Identity

The world is promoting inclusion and diversity more than ever before. Many people have dual-identities that they alternate between and may often blend. In our design research we explore everyday objects and the role of technology to accommodate people's needs and personalities. Can furniture change its shape to reflect our dual-identities? Can our interior spaces reveal their hidden aesthetics when interacting with us?

We designed a set of matching interactive furniture to unfold these narratives. Our Peace Table and Peace Painting change colour with proximity to reflect the dual identity of Western-Muslims. This pictorial describes our design concept and process with the aim of encouraging the HCI community to design for experiential artwork. Such interactivity can enrich and add new dimensions to the quality of living experience by merging technology into home decor in calm, ubiquitous and non-intrusive ways.

Beyond emissive displays and motoractuation, physical interaction with the surrounding environment can enhance people’s experiences, support their engagement and their well-being in a variety of ways. Architectural and interior design will soon be interweaved with HCI to build the next generation of ubiquitous environments [1, 8]. In this paper, we aim to explore how can technology support people with dual identities through interactive artwork. Previous work has looked into developing interactive everyday objects for domestic environments. For example, some have prototyped interactive furniture [8, 11, 3], artwork [13] and decorative elements [12, 9]. Still, such design intervensions are quite limited and most technical uptakes give little attention towards the artistic values and style of their designs. This inherently limits the potential towards supporting people seamlessly in their everyday life, reflecting their values and expressing their identities.

Playing with the composition and consistency helps figure out how to achieve the desired effect from thermochromic pigments. We mixed both thermochromic blue powder pigment (31 °C) with thermochromic screenprinting paint (47 °C) to get a rich burgundy purple. Aiming for a deeper purpose than just colourchange, we started with a base layer in Arabic Gold ink to emphasize ‘words of gold’ or written wisdom. This ink also gives different shades when viewed from angles reflecting the multi-faceted nature of dual-identities. Then, the top layer of the thermochromic mixed paint was added with the appearing artwork.

Blending technology with calligraphy was our metaphor for blending the Western advancement with the Islamic heritage. The interaction between them represents the harmony of cultures while the blend of the English and Arabic scripts reflect the integration of the dual-identity. As decoration and interior styles are common ways of expressing identity, values and pride, it was meaningful to use interior decorative elements as a vehicle to this context. The degradation of colour reflected the change that happens to people with dual-identity. Our pieces were programmed to change colour with physical interaction (touch or proximity), with time (autonomously) or slowly with the surrounding environment (with temperature). This reflects how identities change whether deliberately or implicitly (generated from the desire to blend in), or slowly over time. The painted text reveals hidden messages underneath as one identity fades (or morphs) over time, generation after another.