The Flask


Here To Enhance Conversations

The Flask is a home-installation that aims to enhance social interactions within a household environment. Users drop tokens that represent different emotional values (eg. joy, sadness) into a central flask which is then displayed on the table top as a unique visual output. It acts as a visual backdrop and aid the conversations going on around it; filling in empty space and providing inspiration for conversations.

Users place tokens that represent their emotional state, such as joy or sadness, into the Flask. The Flask will then display an unique and ambigous visual represention of this emotion onto the table top. Multiple tokens can be placed into the Flask, with more tokens creating increasingly complex visualisations which will hopefully give the users more things to talk about.

Technical Description

  • - Phidget RFID Reader and RFID Chips
  • - Phidget JS server plugin
  • - EaselJS
  • - HTML (Output)

A Phidget RFID reader was connected to the computer via USB, and a local server handled data from the reader. A JavaScript plugin from Phidget allowed data to be handled directly by the Flask’s JS code — each chip called different functions in the visualisation, which was built off the back of a JavaScript library called EaselJs from the CreateJs suite. This library allowed animations to be handled through a ticker method, which updated every frame or so (depending on the hardware). The animations were rendered on a HTML Canvas element, and were calculated using Cartesian functions that updated a given particle’s X and Y coordinates every tick. Depending on the RFID chip, particles were created with different behaviours in order to evoke different emotions from the user.

For the final build, the visualisation was rear-projected on to a glass tabletop and the RFID reader was secured inside a glass container, the eponymous “Flask”.

Final Statement

The Flask was a mixed success at the Exhibit. The build itself worked perfectly, and the public was largely engaged and interested in the Flask. However, the majority of interest was in playing with the tokens and the visualisation rather than the intended emotional responses. This could have been due to the nature of the exhibit which encouraged shorter and less reflective responses than the intended home use. Whatever the reason, further work on the Flask should include a more in-depth look at how users respond to the Flask over a longer period of time, possibly through the use of a technology probe. Future works would include making the system run with an arduino to make it wireless and a touch display screen instead of a projector.

The Flask was an interesting project to work on. It began with a slow start, but through the creative process, it came together piece by piece to become something which Team Stilio envisioned The Flask to be.