Saturday, August 4, 2007

Furniture that feels

A team of Japanese researchers from Osaka University has designed a set of emotion- sensing furniture that senses people’s presence and gradually changes colour. Called Fuwapica, which loosely translated means "soft and flashy," the interactive set, which could be in shops, airports, museums, or bars within a year or two, uses technology to extend people’s emotional state into a room that may be devoid of ancient ideas, say its inventors. "We want modern people like us to remember that there was an interaction between people and furniture," said Ichi Kanaya, assistant professor at Osaka University.

Prof. Kanaya and his team, working out of the university’s Mongoose Studio, designed a round table that has a computer and built-in LCD display and four air-cushioned chairs. The table and chairs are linked to each other via a wireless signal. Colour sensors in the table scan objects placed on top to determine their hue and then the computer sends a signal to the chair to match the colour of the object.

In a typical scenario, a person might walk into a room furnished with Fuwapica, place a memento or favourite item — say a blue vase — on the table and sit on one of the chairs. Gradually the chairs will begin to change from white to blue. According to Prof. Kanaya, the brightness is controlled by pressure sensors inside the chair. The higher the pressure, the brighter the colour. "It’s a wonderful demonstration of integrating high-tech into lifestyle experiences," said Jonathan Cagan, professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and co-author of The Design of Things to Come. "It focuses on the pleasure that people receive from the interaction, not on the technology," he said.

However, only objects placed on the table do not dictate chair colour.Even a casual sitter will elicit a response from the "chair gods." — ANI