Communication of remote contexts

This project has been exhibited during the Design United exhibition during the Dutch Design Week. Check the pictures here.

More on how it was technically realized.

Name: Context Communicator
Date: 7-2008
Duration: 12 weeks
Type: Individual
Stage Education: Master First Semester


Summary of the Project.

The non face-to-face communication of social and emotional experiences between people usually happens through phone or other media like e-mail, IM (instant messaging or webcam (e.g. Skype). The context in which the experiences were experienced plays an important role. Neither the technology nor our way of describing enables us to communicate this visual context in a way it can be “experienced” by the other person. There still are a few layers of formulation & interpretation in between: you can only imagine. This project focuses on the design of a system that is able to communicate the real-time visual context of a remote user so that the receiving person is able to “ feel” as if he/she is there without the translation steps that are required when describing an experience. Emphasis is on the visual element in experience and thus imaging technology. The final concept is a modular system of connectable triangles that can be mounted to the wall and can project areal-time abstract display system of a remote visual context.

HD Version
This is the representation based on a movie inside a moving car at night.

HD version
This is the representation based on a movie inside a train.

A more down-to-earth description:
The idea is that when you’re on the telephone with somebody and you describe your visual experience at that moment, you have to translate that experience into words. e.g.:”Nice yellow beach with the sun in the blue sky” etc. The other person will have to make an image of those words in his head. There is a level of translation and therefore some richness gets lost. In this project I’ve tried to get rid of this translation step. (the other person is wearing a camera)

In this concept the remote person wears a small device with an integrated camera.
This real time image is then translated into an abstract representation. Therefore the receiver gets (at least a part) of the visual stimuli the remote person encounters throughout the day. So you can get a glimpse of the kind of visual context the other person is in. This allows for a feel of connectedness and empathy with the other user.

One of the interesting things is the abstractness and therefore openness of interpretation. Inside vs outside, light vs dark and movements are some of the dimensions that can be interpreted by “novice” users. However it may be possible to start to recognize patterns as you get to know the system and the visual cues inside the visual context of the remote user. Also the kind of information you have on the possible situation of the other person can help to interpret the visual. For example when you know that the other person may be in the car at night just like every day at 1800 you are able to interpret it as such.

In this manner two or more people can always share experiences even from a distance. The receiving unit is a series of modular triangles one can set up however they like. It becomes a dynamic wall sculpture personalized by the abstraction of the visual experience of he other person.
It’s a ongoing research area and follow-up research projects with this project are planned.


The final concept is a modular system of connectable triangles that can be mounted to the wall and generate areal-time abstract display system of a remote visual context. Essentially the receiving person is presented with a selection of the visual impressions the remote user endures throughout the day. These visual impressions are captured by a device that is worn by the remote user.There can either be a dedicated context grabbing device but may also be an evolved version of a personal communication device (mobile phone). The captured visual information is analyzed and the visual impressions are  filtered and projected onto a abstract overview representation of the visual environment. This dynamic image is then transmitted and projected through the system of triangles.

The projection of the remote context should reside in the periphery of the attention of the receiving user. This will give the receiving part the possibility of getting the same visual impressions the other remote person endures during the day.
The concept is not meant as a replacement for a phone call; making a phone call is a focused activity. To get a sense of what the other person endures during the day the receiving user should be in contact with the remote visual context and thus the system for a considerable time. Therefore this system is meant as a continuous and always-on real-time connection between two people. Because people move throughout the day the triangles can be installed on any often-visited location (work, living room, kitchen, hallway, etc.). The modular character of the system allows for easy configuration on any place with some vacant space on the wall.

Different Contexts

Previous Prototype

Some Sketches & Renders

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