John Kestner

Tableau

Physical email

2010

Remember when we made a connection by handing someone a photo? As our social circle spreads across a wider geographic area, we look for ways to share experiences. Technology has reconnected us to some extent, but we fiddle with too many cables and menus, and those individual connections get drowned out.

I built Tableau to stay connected to my aunt Olga. She was a great letter-writer but not on email, and I unfortunately was the opposite. Tableau acts as a bridge between users of physical and digital media, taking the best parts of both. It's a nightstand that quietly drops photos it sees on its Twitter feed into its drawer, for the owner to discover. Images of things placed in the drawer are posted to its account as well.

Tableau is an anti-computer experience. A softly glowing knob that almost imperceptibly shifts color invites interaction without demanding it. The trappings of electronics are removed except for a vestigial cable knob for the paper tray. The nightstand drawer becomes a natural interface to a complex computing task, which now fits into the flow of life.

Heirloom electronics

The table's physical and electronic components are already on their second lives. The table is constructed from reclaimed materials and "obsolete" electronics saved from the landfill. And to make its current life longer, a basic interface is accessible and extensible through Twitter so that it may be reprogrammed and repurposed, unlike typical consumer electronics. Tableau’s construction and software make it functional for a long time.

paper drawer

Technology

Tableau is an Internet-enabled photo printer and scanner. The only consumable is Zink paper, which requires no separate ink and is placed in a back paper drawer. Pictures can be sent to it via Twitter or SMS. Its other functions, such as the color of the knob and the state of the drawer, are also accessible through Twitter.

I built this prototype with a reclaimed nightstand, Arduino, a Symbian smartphone and a Zink printer.

Exhibited at the Saint Étienne International Design Biennale.