Augmented Furniture
Collaborated w Shen Ruotong

Figure 1: Side Table and its decorated cable

01
Abstract

Subscription Model explores the increasing popularity of “subscription services”, “unboxing videos,” and “rental fashion” as an emerging lifestyle, where subscribers perpetually try out new products but never buy. The project proposes a new furniture ‘type’, embedding our digital habits routines within a physical form.
The side table acts as a media that connects the life and the lifestyle. The side table maps the unboxing of a subscription box to the gesture of opening a drawer.


02
Tech
I used Openframework, a C++ based toolkit, for programming the project. Compare to Processing 3.0, which renders through CPU, Openframework uses GPU. So it is a lot faster and glitch free for seamless video transition. 

In Openframework, I set up a serial communication with Arduino, which collect data from a distance sensor to determine what speed to play the video. This including calculate how much the drawer has been pulled out, and how much time has passed.

A force sensing resistor is also used to for an accurate measurement to switch video.



03
Video Documentation




04
Process: Filming unboxing videos and putting together furniture

My collaborator did an amazing job crafting the drawer from scratch. Together, we make design decisions such as what kind of aesthetic to go with for the furniture, and what goes into the videos. 

The pinky, flashy bitcoin was my personal favorite. It plays out the idea of “unashamed hedonism” and “performing selfs.” 




Process


Figure 2: shooting unboxing videos; wiring the hardwares


Figure 3: Baking sculpey clay; coloring

Figure 4: Sculpey Close up


Key Questions

How media trend impact the culture imagery of self?  How the hybrid existence of the side table symbolize our being as cyborgs? How is outsourcing labor a sign for social status and class?


Concept

Products are advertised as a way to access upgraded lifestyle, social status, and a better self.  In turn, the idea of “self” become something can be bought and sold. I’m investigating how media, as a information technology, reinforce hegmonic social scripts by producing the “ideal” selfs.
One of the selling points of subscription model is the privilege of labor outsourcing, which signifies a particular social status (Hu, 2019). Companies also hide their mass produced nature and algorithmically generated tastes. I’m challenging technologies role in propagating the “unashamed hedonism” and “performing selfs” (Featherstone).


Design

“...within consumerism the body has not only become the medium and focus of worldly success and failure, but it is also the source of pleasure and discipline, love and horror - seemingly lncompatable sensations whose uneasy co-existence can be Illustrated by the way in which the U.S. bestsellers list has been recently been dominated by exotic cook books and sexual manuals on the one hand and diet and exercise books on the other.” - Mike Featherstone.

Shen and I split the works, she concentrated on the making of the furniture, I worked on the content that’s inside the drawer. I found Featherstone’s quote guiding me through the process of making the medias. To me, the media selection should be a mix of luxurious product and preview of lifestyles. In our design, we’re embracing the augmented technology as part of the mundane future. By decorating the cables in figure 1, we are putting a headlight on the technology itself.


Reflection

This project allow me to look at how technology shape the expression of social bodies. 61% of the consumers of subscription box are female. The nature of this issue is also highly gendered, as most of the subscription products are designed to fit feminine taste.


Technologies

Openframworks
Distance Sensor
Force sensing resistor
Arduino