Smart home decor lets you keep in touch with loved ones


Communicate with anyone anywhere in the world without picking up the phone.


Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Penny Webb has developed a series of home accessories that can change colors when subjected to various stimuli, even if they occur many miles away. The items in what the Maker calls the Separate Togetherness collection are designed to peripherally interact with each other, enabling people anywhere in the world to engage without necessarily having to communicate directly.

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“Separate Togetherness is the result of my research into augmented digital environments and ubiquitous computing. Intentionally or not, advancements in digital technology have catered for a very natural, psychological human need; togetherness,” Webb explains.

Each accessory is made using a combination of smart materials that respond by slowly and subtly adjusting in appearance to converse remote presence. The ambient objects, which share a similar shade palette and embody a circular shape, are paired with a corresponding sensor embedded inside another small object in a separate location and connected via Wi-Fi.

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How it works is relatively simple. When someone stimulates the sensor by breathing, stroking or moving past it, its companion product reacts by altering its hue, thereby reminding the user of a special someone. The set consists of a hanging lamp, a curtain and a mirror.

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The lamp — which is made of phosphorescent pigment, polyester resin and small UV LEDs — glows in response to distant changes in lighting that are detected by embedded light sensors and a wireless Atmel based Arduino unit. Secondly, the curtain can reveal layers of colors in response to a distant touchpad consisting of piezo elements, detecting pressure when stroked. Finally, the mirror — comprised of thermochromic pigment and epoxy resin — fluctuates its tint in response to a distant breath.

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“On its own, the Internet is a relatively lonely place void of human contact. The products each interact, and aim to engage your peripheral awareness as an alternative means of attaining distant closeness,” Webb adds.

Interested in learning more? Head over to the project’s official page here. Meanwhile, you may also want to check out how one Israeli design student developed a similar trilogy of creations that can transmit silent gestures between loved ones.

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