Interactive Tableware: Icebreaking Glasses

Demo Video



"Interactive Tableware: Icebreaking Glasses" is a participatory installation art piece which engages and enhances diners' social interactions in both the physical and virtual spaces. (Well, in other words, you have something to talk about & play with when those awkward moments come during the dinners with blind dates or parent-in-laws. :P)

Novelty in programming

In the code, the blue & green bubbles are NOT generated according to how much water has been poured into a particular glass, rather, the bubbles are generated based on "how fast" the water is being poured down (i.e., the amount & source locations of the bubbles are generated based on the speed of the water being poured down). So programmatically, I've made the force sensors into accelerometers.


This project was exhibited in "A/V Happy Hour"(Apr 23, 2009). The show was "an evening of live, audio-visual projects and installation by local and visiting artists" which took place at School of Fine Arts, Indiana University Bloomington, IN.

Postmortem: Semiotics vs. Icebreaking Glasses

When I started to conceive the idea of "Interactive Tableware: Icebreaking Tableware", I was new in this country (USA) and its new culture. But what interests me, as a personal observation, was that across different cultures, the dining table serves with one same purpose -- being a venue for people to socialize. So I wanted to make project about tableware being interactive so that diners can do "icebreaking" by playing with the components on the table together.

But when I was making a project revision for the show "Sound Optics: A/V happy hour", I found myself adding many new features within the domain of the tableware. I added diner A's fork that can interact with diner B's spoon, I added a salt bottle that can glow when the pepper bottle is shaken. The new features still interfaces/interacts with the people, but to me, the new features were like new babies who wanted to come to life very badly so that they can meet other babies who are already placed in the same cradle.

And after I finished the video-shooting for this project, there was a time I kept watching at the video, not at the motions of the generated bubbles, not listening to the sound being varied and played, but at the motions of pouring water out of the glasses with the subtle changes of movements of hand , wrist, and arm. It was a moment of Zen to me, watching the manual movements and listening to the sound of water being poured out of the pitcher and filled in the glasses.

So why this story? I think this story well exemplifies the idea of signs and their meanings (the "signified") being different with different symbols, objects, and the interpreter.

The meaning of a group of signs put together changes and evolves. Just like the story of me observing and making "Icebreaking Glasses", my attention varied in different times. What's signified varied in different times. At first it was about how external input interacts with the internal output, then it's how the internal components interact with themselves, and eventually it's only about how the external input (the hand gesture, the water).

Charles Sanders Peirce (who defined the term "semiotics") said, in a triadic fashion, that signs are communicated with symbols, objects, and the interpreted. It's easy for someone to say the meaning of a sign is subject to the changes of the object and interpreted. But from my story, maybe we can make the argument that the symbol (the actually concrete thing being seen/heard/played/touched) are also an influential factor for the meaning of a sign because games and other forms of interactive media are "things" that are ever-changing -- they combine so many forms of input (gestures, click, sound, movement…etc) and output (sound, image, video, text, vibration…etc). In every instant they provide a different sign, but when those instants are connected together, they become another sign, which will be interpreted with another meaning.



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