The Little Mover and Shaker

A joyously repurposeable tie to the internet.

This little box and cylinder are designed to do three things well. Turn, vibrate and sound. All based on online prompts. It is beautifully crafted to give a real value and weight to online actions, and stimulate the imagination of how we may interact with information.

Any piece of data that can come in via email (including from the hundreds of sources on services such as IFTTT and Zapier), can elicit a reaction. Progressively wind up a weight to represent the time until your next meeting, vibrate when your housemate is approaching, speak things you might have left behind as you approach the door.

It has a speaker, strong servo motor, and vibrator. Additionally, it has magnetic sides which can support up to 200g of additional weight, and screw in points to allow for more secure attachment to objects.

Inspiration: We are seeing a proliferation of little sensors to market, such as the Gecko (which I backed!), Tile etc. However sensing is only half the story. Actuating back out into the environment is just as important in making data real to people. Most current products are very specific in how they act back out into our world (e.g. the Nest alters our heating, Belkin WeMo turn appliances on and off, and ‘smart’ toasters make toast. This project creates a repurposeable actuator that can be used in a wide variety of small tasks.

The process behind creating the Little Mover and Shaker came about through co-design workshops, where there was such strong individuality in how people expected their ‘smart’ devices to react. Some wanted the blinds to open in the morning, some wanted their non-standard pillbox to remind them to take . Some wanted food in the cupboard to rotate based on used by date. To help facilitate this array of individual expectations, the Little Mover and Shaker takes things back to basics, allowing people to tap into their DIY undertones and craft a solution that works for them.

How it works: The online service used to configure it is designed to be as easy to use as possible. Instead of typing in what you want it to do, simply send it a copy of the email you want it to interact with, then move the object so that it does what you want it to. Shake it for five seconds if you want it to vibrate for 5 seconds, wind the top if you want it to wind up. This assigns what emails like that (including variables) should do in future. There are finer grained controls available if you log into the device.

Considering the future: One of my strong design considerations is how the device will hold up over time. This device is designed to continue working for as long as people need it to. It does not rely on a central server. This negates the risk of a company not supporting it or shutting down their server in future. It also allows respects people’s privacy, allowing people to do everything on their own home network as easily as using Gmail. The decision to build using email also gives it a good chance to maintain usefulness. And even if email did disappear overnight, the device firmware is easily upgradeable.

Future work: Currently USB powered, with inbuilt rechargeable battery only lasting 1 day. I’d love to improve this to include other methods of power scavenging.