Inside your heart, outside the world.

inTouch by MIT Tangible Media Group

“inTouch” is a medium that enables users, who are separated from each other by distance, to communicate through touch. Specifically, force-feedback technology is employed to makes the users feel as if they are operating a shared physical object. The idea behind inTouch is to create the illusion that two people, separated by distance, are interacting with a shared physical object, developing the metaphor of a single physical object that exists in multiple places at once.


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An interesting way to visualize the message

The use of online social networks – such as Facebook and Twitter – connect us with everyone yet at the same time leads to a loss of intimate connections between close friendships and other relationships. While the nature of these networks facilitate surface level communication, K.I.T enables deeper communication through better expressing emotions.  Emotion is important for everyday social interaction and brings value and life to communication.  K.I.T is a set of interactive, tangible, objects that allow users to physically express their emotions. The users’ emotions are shared on a visual online network that is private and represents emotional histories over time. The aim is to reconnect close relationships and provide better emotional health, support, and awareness.

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Searching inspirations1

This is a final year project of a student. The device is called Keepin Touch, which can connect four people at the same time.  When you miss someone, just press the certain area, and the distant user can touch the device to check if someone has sent him some warmth.


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Tools & Technology1


Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software.  It can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators.

XBee Shield:

The Xbee shield allows an Arduino board to communicate wirelessly using Zigbee.  It is based on the Xbee module from MaxStream.  The module can communicate up to 100 feet indoors or 300 feet outdoors (with line-of-sight).  It can be used as a serial/usb replacement or you can put it into a command mode and configure it for a variety of broadcast and mesh networking options.

Xbee Breakout Board:

This is a popular and simple breakout board for XBee, optimized for breadboard mounting and gateway applications, in other ways when you use it only as an interface. It can be directly connected to the FTDI cable or to a de-chipped Arduino board, the breakout board has all the components needed to interface with 5V boards, don’t forget that the XBee needs 3,3V.

There is also a detailed tutorial how to install and use the usb to serial converter and how to configure and test the XBee module, where you can set the XBee parameters which are also explained in details.

Here is the link:


Pachube (“patch-bay”) connects people to devices, applications, and    the Internet of Things. As a web-based service built to manage the world’s real-time data, Pachube gives people the power to share, collaborate, and make use of information generated from the world around them.

Here is the link of the website:


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Why Potted Plant? What is the metaphor of plant?

Why Potted Plant?

1. Easy to reform and potential to develop

It has a pot that can be used as a perfect container to hide most electronic things in order to make the device look like everyday object. Well designed, the digital plant may also have aesthetic values and become a decoration of the house. What’s more, every leaf and petal of the flower is an element, which provide enough space for the future exporation.

2. Metaphors and meanings behind

It is quite interesting to find that in different countries, what will people think or connect in the mind when they see the plant have a lot in common. In China, people will connect the plant to life, people and emotions, etc. Here, when I ask people, they give me a quite similar answer.

Zoltan Kövecses claims that in English, the plant domain is mapped onto a variety of target concepts such as: social organizations, scientific disciplines, people, economic and political systems, human relationships, sets of ideas.

K. Ahrens analyses the LOVE IS A PLANT metaphor in Mandarin Chinese and she claims the following: “Love is understood as plant because plants involve physical growth and love involves emotional growth”.

In the EMOTIONS ARE PLANTS metaphor, different stages of emotion development correlate with the stages of plant growth. The stages of plant growth that are mapped onto the stages of emotion development are: seed, germination, budding, flowering, fruition and withering.

To call forth an emotion is to sow a seed. One thing we know about seeds is that they do not germinate immediately after they have been sown but they undergo a dormant period. This period continues until there are favorable environmental conditions for plant growth (appropriate soil temperature, oxygen, water etc). Similar with the emotion development, with certain conditions (communication, environment, time,events etc) , emotions gradually develop.

Therefore,  using the image of plant to act as the emotional link bteween people and using it to project and visualize the dynamic relationships among people are meaningful.


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Current plan and idea for my FYP

Today, people’s ways of living, working and thinking have been greatly transformed. Just by making a phone call or sending a message we can communicate with our friends, located in areas all around the world. However, interactions between people separated in the long term are still largely limited by distance. What we want is to see, to feel, to touch and to show the information and the emotions.

My plan is to create an Interactive Digital Plant that can help and support close family members or friends living apart to better interact and communicate with each other, where tangible interaction, co-participation, emotional design and embodiment interaction are considered.

This Interactive Digital Plant is an interactive artifact which is embedded with electronic controls, sensors, actuators and is a visualization and embodiment of some application or service. It offers the possibility of keeping in touch with someone we find special in a more interesting and less intrusive way. It consists of a pair of interactive potted plants for two people sentimentally connected, each can react to user actions, display some information and synchronize the information and states with distant end user’s device, creating a real-time connection, a physical link between people separated by distance.

Possible scenario and quick sketch:


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Reflective Level (Part3: Class interaction)

During my speech, I set a small competitive game which you can see described in the following picture. And we divided people into groups of 2. The group which is first to write down the right answer would be the winner of the game, and for the winner group, we would take a photo of them to keep their moment!

P.S. After this task, I asked a question ,”How many of you would like to buy a watch like this?”, it was so suprising and great to see that most of our classmates raised their hands, including our teacher. ^^ Guess most of our class like thinking and reasoning.


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