Principles and practices

The past months I have been collecting some ideas for a final project. This week I had to figure out what idea would work best.

So to eliminate some ideas I made a selection using the following rules constraints. Fabacademy:

  • a final project shows what you’ve learned during the Fabacademy

Dieter Rams:

  • a good design (or idea) is innovative
  • Makes a product useful
  • Is aesthetic
  • Makes a product understandable
  • Is unobtrusive
  • Is honest
  • Is long-lasting
  • Is thorough down to the last detail
  • Is environmentally friendly (as much as possible)
  • Involves as little design as possible


  • The final project should make me happy.
  • Is representative of my skill level.
  • Is finished, too often I lose intrest before finishing.
  • The final project inspires me to continue working on the concept.

After crossing of about 20 ideas I ended up with only two that would fit the bill.

  1. A ‘meditation’ tool that helps the user calm down using light.
  2. A ‘barista’ that poors water in a smart way using specific recipes (yes, i am a coffee snob).

After this I did some research to figure out what idea had the highest succes rate. I pitched both ideas to some people and looked into the technical difficulty – no clear winner. After that I looked at the most scalable idea and there was the clear winner: the ‘meditation’ tool. A pensieve.

If you are a big Harry Potter fan like me you might recognize the pensieve. It is described in the books as a wide and shallow dish. The Pensieve is enchanted to recreate memories so that they become re-liveable, taking every detail stored in the subconscious and recreating it faithfully. Even more difficult than the recreation of memories is the use of a Pensieve to examine and sort thoughts and ideas, and very few wizards have the ability to do so. Making a real pensieve is maybe a little bit far fetched but I would love to make a ‘thing’ that can change the way you experience a moment.

One of my big inspirations is a project named Sensiks. They build modular experience cabins (Sensory Reality). In these experience cabins various experiences can be simulated. It is possible to recall memories from the past, to create new stress reducing events or present experiences that provoke a euphoric state of mind. A nice application of these cabins are for people with PTSD.

Pensieve application

The cabins are huge and pretty expensive. What if there is a smaller, cheaper and less invasive way to change experiences. I see a lot of people (including myself) being consumed by everything around them. Sometimes it’s nice to get a little bit of help becoming more mindful & zen. There are a lot of meditation high tech tools that can help you achieve this. Most of them are really expensive (brain wave control), funny (headbands) or invasive (apps). There are also a lot of low tech options but those mostly rely on us being in a relaxed space and taking time out of our day (think guided meditation sessions). I want to make a non invasive, low cost, tool that helps us change the way we experience a moment. Let’s call it the Pensieve.


By holding the Pensieve the heart rate and/or breathing rate can be measured. This is the “stressed” state of the user. Using different feedback the user can be persuaded into a new experience and/or calmer state. For example a fast breathing can be slowed down with a light that starts fading in and out at the current breathing speed and than slowly dims to the relaxing breath.

Outputs that can be explored are: movement, colours, scents, visual, textures.

Different shapes can be explored: household objects, bowls, cauldrons, wall mounted objects, chairs. And also think about the possibilities for different contexts and people. For example: kids, elderly, people with hearing impairments, people on the autistic spectrum. Or: in public spaces, in classrooms, at the dentist.

Scalability (from easy to difficult)

1.0 a object that senses being held and responds with a ‘breathing’ light that slowly calms down.
2.1 a object that measures how the user is feeling (for example heart rate, breathing, stress) and interacts with light.
2.2 a object that senses being held and interacts with ‘breathing’ light and scents.
2.3 multiple objects with same functionality.
3.0 a modular device that can feel in different ways how the user is feeling and can interact triggering multiple senses.


The first sketch explorers different shapes for a pensieve that can be placed on a a table. The shape should dictate how it’s being held. There are multiple ways to achieve this. For example parts or dents that fit the hands. Also the bottom could be made in a way that it MUST be held otherwise it would fall over.

For now I really like this simple design. With lights comming from the top. Surrounded by other actuators. Also a stand or docking station is needed for charging.


I am horrible at planning but I tried to make a to do list:

  • Figure out actuators I want to use.
    • light
    • aroma
  • Learn more about what biometric sensors can be used during electronics weeks. Preferably measured from fingertips or enviroment.
    • GSR
    • Heart rate
  • Research of it can be modular.
    • Since it’s likely that I have more ideas than time it’s nice if the project is made in a way where I can add new modules later.
  • Decide on the shape & material of the bowl.
    • Will it be a bowl or a wall mount or ….
    • Where would I use it?
    • What would others use it for.

For now I will continue to work on this project on the final project page.

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