A Participatory Design of Technology and Emotional Connection



We live in the realm of the tactile, but we stay at the digital world. When we are walking in a fast paced city, we can find people are always walking fast and focusing on the things in their hands. Therefore, stress and anxiety are the common feelings for people who live in fast paced cities. The time we spend texting each other is more than the time we spend speaking to each other. The decline of face-to-face interaction is an issue in this era. 

In order to improve the quality of face-to-face interaction, I am introducing a digital installation to the public called Resonance. 



Time: 9 Weeks

Team Size: One person 

Scope: Digital Interaction Installation  

My Role: Literature Research | Technical Research | Related Filed Expertise Interviews | Coding | Interaction Flow | Prototyping | Usability studies | Curation | Visual Design | 

Tools Used: Arduino | Processing | Illustrator | Photoshop | Keynote | Wiring | MakeyMakey | 

Resonance is a participatory project where people can co-create music and abstract graphics through a physical interaction with the installation. This project encourages people to come out of their shell, becoming the icebreaker between people in public.



Social Interaction 

How can an interactive installation using technology and design improve the quality of face-to-face interaction in order to improve a person’s immediate emotional state?

My passions and research led me to learn that being connected is associated with good mental health and well-being. In order to improve the quality of face-to-face interaction, I applied the skin-to-skin interaction to let users experience the emotional connection moment. Resonance is a digital installation that requires users to interact with this installation and people physically.


In Chinese culture, people made the rice dumpling and prepared to celebrate the lantern festival together in the old days. There are two types of the rice dumpling. People from north call it Yuan Xiao, while people from south call it Tang Yuan. Both types of rice dumpling are made of glutinous rice and signify “union and togetherness”. When making the tang yuan, people can form the ingredients into small pieces then placing them into a bamboo sieve with rice flour, sprinkling water continuously on the rice flour to form the fillings and form round balls.


I am going to apply this simple and direct movement in my project to design a digital installation. The aim is to design a cooperated device includes traditional culture and technology.



Without people, this installation is a dark space till users enter the space. When users are standing in front of each section and the sensor detects them, the led light stripe will turn on. Then the person who is standing in front of the ground wire set will be the dealer in the setup. This person needs to use one hand to touch the edge all the time when playing, then the other hand can agitate the balls in the bamboo sieve or hold the hand of person who is next to him/her. The other users in the installation can touch the people who are next to them or randomly. The only condition is at least one hand must be touching the ground wire set, then the other touching between users can be random. Users can explore the way they interact by themselves.

Game play

The installation requires users to connect with a physical circuit to make emotional connections with others. There is a dealer who needs to touch the “ground” on the edge of the sieve. The other users need to touch the person next to them, if not their touches with the balls in the sieve won’t be connected. Once the circuit of people is complete, the users are rewarded with a variety of sound effects that are the response to each agitation.



There is the installation configuration, the components includes the wired bamboo sieve, a projector, led lights, hardware console, and the sketch program.



Before I can go to install the installation, I made the model to demonstrate the real installation configuration. In this phase, the model helped me to talk to professor and the workspace owner.




Development Process


Physical affordance

In the beginning phase of hardware development, I made the prototype version one point one to test playfulness. I also tried the possibility of many materials, such as aluminum balls and flour. Then I invited participants to  touch the edge or the surface of the tray, and agitate the aluminum balls.


After the playfulness testing observation, I found participants prefered the agitation movement which they used a lot in the test. The circular tray with the aluminum balls worked well in this section. So I started looking for the suitable size bamboo sieve.


The hardware configuration

Makey Makey

Makey Makey

Arduino and ultrasonic sensor 

Arduino and ultrasonic sensor 

Bamboo sieve with the aluminum balls.

Bamboo sieve with the aluminum balls.

In order to the Makey Makey circuit board require an conducted object to connect the human body and trigger the button. In this section, I have made a few different balls, the metal balls combine with the same size plastic balls were the winner in the testing. (Figure 16) The metal balls are the conducted object in this project, and the plastic balls are the key to balancing the playfulness when users are agitating the balls in the bamboo sieve.

This lead me to my next point, I used ultrasonic sensor to detect whether users were standing in front of the installation or not. The ultrasonic sensor would receive the serial numbers when it detected users are nearby. With this data, it allowed me to set the conditions to the Arduino to turn on the light when users are at a certain distance.


After all the preproduction was done, the next step is going to package all component together into one piece.

The sieve is divided into four sections, each section includes an independent wire set and it connects to the console. 



The generated graphics were made in the processing. The graphics are fireworks which can represent the celebrating festival theme. According to the hardware setup, the program was also divided into four sections. Each section uses different color. The program will save the frame automatically when the graphic has reached the preprogramed number.

Visual Design 

Invitation Cards

Invitation Cards



Date: 2016 November 11th

The decoration in The Po Workshop Space was start from 3 days ago to the exhibition.  Everything was followed the plan and works well. The projector was installed on the top of the bamboo sieve. And the lighting was projected on the balls.


Gwynne LeeComment