Invisible Technology Hidden in Plain Sight

Electronics become incognito, appearing as food and art

20 September 2017

As technology becomes more pervasive, we are starting to seeing less of it. Voice-command technology, found in the Amazon Echo, can be placed around the house to control computers and televisions, replacing remote controls. Some people are going so far as to have a device surgically implanted under their skin.

But after attending several consumer electronics shows, The Institute has spotted a trend in devices that don’t quite resemble tech anymore. In fact, they mask the technology, making it almost invisible. Here are a few fun examples that stand out.

  • INSTRUMENTAL JELLY

    With Noisy Jelly, we now can make electronic musical instruments from agar jellies. The concept was created by Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard, two students at ENSCI–Les Ateliers, a design school in Paris.

    You place the jellies, which can be molded into cones and other shapes, on sensors. When you touch the jellies, their vibrations convert into music through an Arduino programmer. The sensors are thin sheets of wood as well as metal foil, acting as electrical conductors. The conductance decreases with the height and width of the jelly shape.

    “The signal has specific properties which are inherent to the jelly material,” Pluvinage told Co.Design. “When you touch a jelly shape, maybe because it’s wiggling and the pressure of your finger is also not fixed, it produces a really small variation.”

  • ART IMITATING ART

    The focal point of your living room doesn’t have to be the large, black screen of your television. Samsung developed a model this year—the Frame, designed by Swiss entrepreneur Yves Behar—that displays artwork when you’re not watching television.

    The ultra-HD television comes with a wooden frame that attaches magnetically to the screen, or customers can choose a white or black card frame. Depending on the size, the television sells for US $2,000 to $2,800.

    Danish company Speakarts is developing a wireless speaker disguised as a customizable piece of wall art. Five visual artists created modern designs for the project. Customers also can upload their own high-resolution photo; Speakarts will print it on audio-transparent paper, which wraps around the speaker, according to an Architectural Digest article.

    “I really felt the need to change the way we perceive loudspeakers, and Speakarts is the solution,” cofounder Thor Monsted says in a promotional video. “No compromises—just a marriage between stunning design and high-end sound.”

    The company is hoping to raise $60,000 on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

  • SOFT SOUND

    Liquid Midi, a project from EJTech, uses electrically conductive paint and fabric to produce sound with Arduino controllers. Founders Esteban de la Torre and Judit Eszter Kárpáti use textiles as audio-emitting surfaces.

    The paint is silk-screened onto cotton fabric and connected to Arduino Mega ADK microcontrollers. Bare Conductive, a design and technology company, produces the paint. The team uses the Max MSP visual programming language and Ableton Live software.

    The textiles can be used in clothing and accessories. Liquid Midi also can be used in decorations and blankets.

    “One of our main focuses is researching human-computer interaction,” the EJTech founders say on the Bare Conductive website.

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