Interactive Bench - 2011

Two week assignment in collaboration with Siri Yran and Eirik Grøttum


This project was for a task called 'Artificial Empathy' and we wanted to explore if we could evoke some sort of emotional response from the interaction with an inanimate object. The object we choose was a public bench since there is a high possibility for chance encounters with many different users. The absurdity of furniture coming alive was a fun part of the project, it is also interesting because it is a chance to catch the user off guard.

To make it come alive we had fitted the bench with contact microphones, a subwoofer, amplifier and a computer running the software. This was all hidden inside the body of the bench. The bench had a toned down expression visually so as to not take anything away from the haptic and audible experience. We also wanted it to blend in with the surroundings to increase the element of surprise when someone decided to sit.

The audio was build up by two layers. One steady pulse which felt like that of a big animal thanks to the large sub. On top of that it would respond when someone sat down, hit or stroked the bench. The response was a sort of guttural, whale like cry. This of course sparked the debate what a living bench would actually sounds like.

Defining passive and active use of the bench.

Two layers of sound. A constant pulse and a response to user input.

Two layers of sound. A constant pulse and a response to user input.

Components used to make the bench come alive.