The white stone and the sleeping one

During my time as a guest researcher at KTH/CID* I led a project where we imagined future use of IT in a social context. Will interactive television affect future sitting room design, was one of our research questions.

To visualise one of our conclusions, that new communication channels seldom replace but rather complement others, we made up a new product with its own communication channel: ”The white stone”. The idea was to create a product that was completely closed and neutral, as a flat white egg, with all its technology hidden inside. (Doesn’t that idea remind you of an American computer company? Well, anyway.)

You would buy the white stones in pairs, give one of them to a close friend and when its’ touch sensors felt your friend holding it, it would contact your stone. Then, your stone would beep to get your attention, and when you picked it up your friends’ stone would be warmed up by internal heat coils. That would be all. Feeling your warmth, and the notion of you two thinking of each other, would be enough. We never made a prototype but I actually think the effect would be quite interesting. And obviously this product would add a new communication channel, and a new aspect of peoples’ social life without replacing or interfering with others.

So far so good. Now, more than ten years later, I read an article about a mother who had problems with her son being too restless to fall asleep and too old to use a teddy bear. She therefore invented the ”sleeping stone”, which is simply a well selected ordinary round stone, like you find on the sea shore. The mother would warm the stone up in her hand and leave it to her son at bedtime. And like magic her son got calm and fell asleep almost immediately.

For me this both touching and fascinating. Experience thinking in the digital culture is just fine, but with the same experience oriented thinking you can actually do with a simple stone!

This is also an interesting consequence of the sensitivity in the human hand. I went to an electronic games show once, where I tried the same electronic game (skateboard racing i large city) as a full body game with a tilting seat, and hands only game with force feedback. The latter was a much stronger experience, because our hands are so sensitive.

Read the sleeping stone story in Swedish here. For an automatic Google translation of it, click here.

And if you like, read the research report from 1998: Future Home Environments and Media Forms.

*) Centre for User Oriented IT Design, a cross competence industry collaboration centre at The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

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