Tag Archives: interface

Soft electronics

German designer Katja Riley found a way to translate music into a tactile experience. Her project “Touched by Music” is an example of tomorrow’s wearable technology that does not bring the feeling of wearing tech. According to her vision, next generation of electronics will become soft, visibly disappear, and will relate to different human senses.

– Usually, hearing sense overpowers our touch sense. ”Touched by Music” project gives people a new experience of music, which is a tactile way of hearing – said Katja Riley, the author of the research that is much more than an ambitious bachelor project. ”Touched by Music” is a fascinating story about human senses, technology, wearable devices, music, dance, design, fashion and e-textiles all at once.

New textile-based products will move the technology to the fiber level.

”Touched by Music” is a top made of electronic textiles that makes music feelable on the human body. There are twelve small vibrating motors integrated with the garment. An MP3 file is sent via Bluetooth to a microcontroller integrated with the device. When the controller receives and analyzes the data, it activates motors adequately.

Touched by Music e-textiles

There are low frequencies vibrating motors on left and right sides of the stomach. Medium frequencies motors (the drum) are placed on the upper chest. On the back on the neck, there are high-frequency motors.

In contrast to today’s most products that bury technology inside a hard shell which consist of many materials, the next-generation products and their interface may be made of the same soft material.

The microcontroller and vibration motors are connected to each other and powered trough a conductive thread integrated into the fabric. A removable battery is located just next to the microcontroller on the lower back.

Touched by Music architecture

Katja Riley emphasizes that motors do not simply vibrate in a rhythm of a music. Vibrations rates are dynamic, which means they portray a mood of each song. If the wearer is happy or sad and chooses a matching song, an adequate emotion will be felt on his or her body.

Quotations used in this article have been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original interview with Katja Riley watch the video embedded below. To learn more about conductive threads, pay particular attention to the part between 6th and 7th minute of the video.


Katja’s wearable device enables anyone who can’t hear or has limited hearing to experience music, but the designer does not address her project only to deaf or hearing impaired people (though, she is very happy that they can benefit from her project).

– Music is not just something we enjoy. It makes us feel better. It can heal. With this device, you can either choose just to feel the music, or you can listen to it and feel at the same time – Katja explains.

Touched by Music What is music

– All of us, those who can hear and those who can not, feel the music on our bodies, as music is nothing else than sound waves that hit us. The tactile experience is what makes us to really like a song. That’s why we turn on music very loud when we really want to feel it. When we are at the concert our experience is different from listening to music at home. The emotional side of music, which is the feeling of it, can be portrayed anywhere with my wearable – the designer continues.

Katja is the most excited about the materials she discovered during her research. She is fascinated by electronic textiles and how they could make electronics soft: – With e-textiles, we can give a new feel to electronic products and make them more human.

Touched by Music wearable credits TrendNomad
Photography by TrendNomad.com

The first “Touched by Music” prototype is at the testing stage. It is not ready for a consumer market, and it is just a suggestion of how the final product may look like. The prototype was sewn, but Katja wishes to manufacture its final version on a seamless knitting machine.

– The technology chosen to produce this product is not something I can make a model just like that. There are very specific and huge industrial knitting machines necessary. It’s expensive at the beginning, as there is a lot of know-how and specialists needed to set-up such a machine, but when you go into production, then it is not expensive anymore. It is quite sustainable and much quicker method than cutting and sewing fabrics. Seamless knitting is kind of 3D printing for clothes. It comes out of a machine in one piece, cutting or sewing are unnecessary – Katja adds.

In the next 5-10 years we will see e-textile-based products that enable completely new ways of how we deal with electronics.

On the other hand, reusing and recycling e-textiles, including separating conductive threads from regular textiles, are near-future-problems the industry will encounter and should think of solving them in advance. Katja Riley suggests that the solution may be found by working with e-textiles manufacturers from the very beginning. Moreover, smart textile products must have specific new labelling standard to ensure correct disposal.

The designer believes that people will treat e-clothing differently than a regular garment which sometimes has a lifetime of a week. In her opinion, with additional functions and increased value people will use electronic clothing much longer than they do today with cheap fast fashion.

Touched by Music Katja Riley at DMY Berlin 2016 credits TrendNomad
Photography by TrendNomad.com

I met and interviewed Katja Riley at the exhibition organised by University of Applied Sciences in Berlin at DMY 2016 design festival, which ran June 2-5 in the capital of Germany. If you would like to ask some questions regarding ”Touched by music” project, please contact the designer directly at katja.riley@mac.com.

Photos 1, 2, 3 and 4 depict slides included in the presentation shown by Katja Riley at DMY Berlin 2016.


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No-glasses 3D from 2D

Yesterday, it seemed that 3D TV sets were just a fad and, mainly due to a small amount of 3D content, this technology has already faded into oblivion. Meanwhile, new generations of no-glasses 3D displays, as well as an extremely efficient technology that instantly converts any (!) 2D image into a three-dimensional production, have been developed. 3D, once again, returns, also in a mobile version.

At present, the advancement of typical 3D displays is limited due to the small amount of 3D content. Although people could buy certain movies in 3D, viewers could not watch the majority movies as well as TV shows and video games in three dimensions. In the result, 3D TV sets owners still mostly watch 2D content. Interestingly, none of Samsung 2016 US TV models will support 3D.

Another often mentioned disadvantage of 3D format, which is a need of wearing special glasses, seems to have been overcome. No-glasses 3D screens (so-called autostereoscopic displays) has been available on the market for several years. Usually, this technology is implemented into some medium size TV sets, but much smaller 3D displays from time to time also appear in a mobile segment.

At the Mobile World Congress 2016 which took place in late February in Barcelona, representatives of companies such as JSDigitech and SuperD claimed that a demand for 3D displays, especially in mobile devices, is yet to come. Now it is still a niche.

When speaking to representatives of two Chinese companies mentioned above, it was quite easy to become convinced that soon some consumer electronics manufacturers will start putting no-glasses 3D displays into new smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, big screen TVs, as well as both VR and AR products. The third dimension will be added not only to photos and videos, but also to a user interface.

A combination of no-glasses 3D display with motion and gesture sensors in a smartphone, tablet or digital media advertising medium may bring a three-dimensional holographic-like interface controlled by touch and gestures.

No-glasses 3D displays are available, but how about a 3D content? Here comes the most important innovation, that may break existing barrier inhibiting an adoption of 3D displays on the market.

VEFXi illustration
A conversion of 2D and 3D glasses-based content into no-glasses 3D products requires a device integrated with VEFXi’s microchip and a lenticular or parallax barrier lens built into a screen. Naturally, a viewer can switch off the 3D effect anytime he or she wants. Source: www.vefxi.com

American company VEFXi Corporation demonstrated at Mobile World Congress a prototype of their new microchip technology that converts any 2D image to no-glasses 3D for mobile and desktop autostereoscopic displays up to 4K UHD. This new technology is the first in the industry to be able to turn ordinary 2D video into no-glasses 3D with only about one frame delay.

At MWC were shown not only different size no-glass 3D displays, but also – and this is the most important innovation – a prototype of a chip that instantly converts 2D photos, videos and games to 3D.

Instead of the conventional approach which requires an army of software programmers develop algorithms, VEFXi applied power efficient logic that even more closely models functions of the human brain neuron cells and associated synapses. To create the depth position of each pixel that results in 3D output, VEXFi uses its patent-pending technology named NeuralBrainTM Depth Synthesis.

To learn more about VEFXi chip technology – how it works, how it may change future of interfaces, and what is an extreme virtual reality (E VR) – watch the video interview with Craig Peterson, CEO and Founder of VEFXi, recorded at World Mobile Congress 2016 in Barcelona.


Craig Peterson worked at Intel for 29 years where he led the development of various microprocessors and chipsets. He retired from Intel in 2003 and then created two new startup businesses in Shanghai. In December 2010, he founded VEFXi based in Hillsboro, Oregon. The company has already shipped products to more than 30 countries. The newest, third generation 2D-into-3D converter technology was learned from professional customer feedback of first two generations of products.

If you have any questions regarding VEFXi and no-glasses 3D, you can contact Craig Peterson at craig@vefxi.com.


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What will you thINK?

Is the era of print over? Nothing could be more wrong. The golden age of print has just begun. Though, the meaning of the ‘print’ notion will significantly expand in the next ten years. The reason is simple: printed electronics are entering the mass market right now. An example: Milbox Touch VR cardboard set with touch screen printed with conductive ink that contains silver.

The most basic virtual reality goggles such as Google Cardboard have at least two advantages. Firstly, they are available to almost everyone thanks to the low retail price that should not exceed twenty dollars. Secondly, they are produced and sold as a flat pack. VR goggles made of cardboard are so cheap to produce, yet light and easy to transport, that in November  “The New York Times” sent free Google Cardboards to over a million subscribers of the printed edition of this newspaper.

When you assemble the flat cardboard into a three-dimensional box, and then insert a smartphone into the front pocket, open a dedicated app, and experience some virtual reality animations and 360 pictures and videos for the very first time, you must be enrapt how immersive this content is. But at the same time, you feel confused, because cardboard goggles are the exact opposite of the concept of ‘intuitive interface’. To navigate through the menu of VR app, you must hold your eyes for few seconds on virtual buttons. This approach excludes a quick scroll through the virtual environment and makes it impossible to derive pleasure from any game.

Does the cardboard VR headset work only as a disposable sample that encourages users to purchase a much more sophisticated – and much more expensive – VR device from Samsung, Oculus, Sony or HTC? Not necessarily. It could be a full-value product, if only it was integrated with a touch interface. On the other hand, the upgrade can not cause a serious change in the retail price of the hardware.


Even though it seems impossible, Tokyo-based designers from WHITE studio who specialises in IoT and VR projects, have found a way to achieve the above-mentioned goal. Japanese produce cheap touchpads using screen printing and a special conductive ink. Their first project based on this technology is called Milbox Touch.

Milbox Touch zoom credits Trend Nomad
Round panel placed on the right side of the Mailbox Touch goggles transfers touch commands to the smartphone’s display. Photography by Trend Nomad

Mailbox Touch is affordable virtual reality goggles that are integrated, in the contrast to other cardboard models offered by competitors, with a touch user interface. So-called Extension Sticker, the patent-pending technology implemented into this project, was developed at the University of Meiji.

The printed electronic circuit transfers touch commands from the side panel of the cardboard VR goggles to the smartphone. By changing the touching way, it is possible to make various input operations such as tap, scroll and swipe.

In other words: by touching the pattern on right side of the box printed with conductive ink, the user can operate the app displayed on a smartphone that is being closed inside the box, without touching the screen directly.


The conductive ink used in the printing process of the touch panel contains silver particles. Designers from WHITE studio promise to launch the Touch Milbox goggles at an affordable price, but it is worth noticing that the silver-based inks cost £1000 or more per kilogram. The real revolution of printed electronics will begin on a massive scale when the conductive ink will contain graphene instead of precious metals. According to the news published by the EnergyHarvestingJournal.com, the new graphene ink formulation would be 25 times cheaper.

Milbox Touch cartridge credits Trend Nomad
The cardboard cartridge comprising the Extension Sticker. Photography by Trend Nomad

Prototypes of Mailbox Touch headsets and the VR version of the iconic “Packman” game were presented at the Tokyo Design Week festival, which took place in the capital of Japan from 24 October to 3 November this year. In 2016, Mailbox Touch goggles will be available at one of the crowdfunding platforms. If you have any questions regarding this project, you can send them directly to the WHITE studio team at milbox@255255255.com.


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PROjected future

New models of kitchen appliances will differ from its predecessors not only in terms of styling and parameters of energy and water consumption. According to Grundig, their main feature will be an integrated virtual interface, operating on the basis of projectors and sensors that recognize gestures.

Are kitchen appliance buttons superfluous? When we look at the prototype of Grundig VUX (Virtual User eXperience) control system, it is easy to have been convinced that the answer is „Yes”. Fortunately, it is not about controlling kitchen devices with a smartphone. The VUX system including the hood, hob and dishwasher, completely dispenses with fixed knobs, buttons, and a mobile app. Instead, it uses intelligent projection technology and gesture recognition to control household appliances.

Grundig VUX control panel credits Trend Nomad
In the VUX system, digital buttons are displayed only when a user needs them. Among many advantages, this solution improves the design by underlining the purist look of a modern kitchen with uncluttered surfaces and makes cleaning easier. Photography: Trend Nomad

A miniature projector installed on the hood projects the controls for the hob, dishwasher and hood onto, or next to, the cooking surface. That allows the appliances to be controlled as normal: they can be turned on and off, programmes can be selected and temperatures and cooking times can be adjusted, but in a different way. The controls are used in a similar way as a smartphone touch screen, except that VUX uses its projector to recognise commands.

Unlike traditional knobs and buttons, the virtual buttons can be moved around when you need a surface to put something down or prepare ingredients. They even move automatically: if you place a pot on a virtual button, it will move to a free space.

To fully understand how the system does work, please press play and watch a short movie embedded below. Software developer Pedro Batista, one of the members of the Arçelik SW Innovation Centre team, explains all details.


The cooking surface in the VUX induction hob is divided into eight rectangles. It can be heated exactly where a user places their cookware. If a pot or pan is moved, the heated surface will follow it. The system also indicates where a pot should be placed on the stove and whether or not it has been positioned exactly in the centre of the heat source. VUX recognises when something other than a pot or a pan is placed on a hot area and switches it off immediately for increased safety.

Grundig VUX baby cam and phone credits Trend Nomad
Grundig VUX system includes Baby Cam view and incoming call notifications. Photography: Trend Nomad

The VUX system can also connect with a Baby Cam. That allows you to watch your child sleep while you cook. If you pair your smartphone with the system by Bluetooth, the hood will also notify you about incoming calls and allows to answer them without reaching the phone. A microphone and a speaker are built-in into the hood.

Grundig VUX credits Trend Nomad
The Grundig VUX prototype was presented at IFA 2015 fairs in Berlin from 4 to 9 September 2015. Photography: Trend Nomad

The VUX control system is far more that just a prototype shown to attract media attention. The system including the hood, hob and dishwasher is expected to go on sale in the second half of 2016.

P.S. I wish the final, consumer version of the VUX hood will include a home security camera that could be activated remotely on a mobile app. Due to safety reason it should be compatible only with smartphones with a built-in fingerprint sensor.


Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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