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The Incredible Machine

The Day the Doorbell Rings You, or the Day Your Alarm Clock Makes You Coffee, were just some of the enticing slogans used to lure visitors into The Incredible Machine exhibition.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 25-10-2012

Finding design in unusual and unexpected places is what Dutch Design Week is all about. To reach ‘The Incredible Machine’ exhibition, visitors needed to walk through a skate park while its usual visitors practiced their tricks.

About Internet and the Design of Things, says the subtitle of The Incredible Machine, an agency devised by a group of designers with a healthy interest in technology. A number of prototypes are on show in the exhibition, inviting visitors to play, interact or simply ring a door bell.

Technology has brought design far over the past few years, introducing us to a world full of rapid prototyping, 3-D printing and robot arms that make chairs from recycled plastics. The internet has made the world smaller and productions line quicker, our phones have become extensions of our bodies thanks to apps such as Nike Running and interactivity is a key theme in many of today’s design processes.

But what if we could interact with our user products? This is where The Incredible Machine comes in. “The term ‘Internet of Things‘ has been around for over a decade, and despite the anticipated influence on everyday products it yet lacks iconic examples that define the product category,” says the website of Marcel Schouwenaar, Aernout Peeters and Harm van Beek.

The designers devised a number of user-activated products which are connected to, for example, a phone. Take A Doorbell That Phones You, a simple yet very convenient application that sends a message to your phone whenever the doorbell is rung. Or an interactive table tennis table with bats that record serves and scores. Not just a gimmick but a devise that could be used to train athletes.  

And what about a clock that shows more than the time. “This clock is linked to our Google Calendars,” explains Harm van Beek. “Now we can easily track when each of us have meetings or free time.”

Inside a skatepark is the ideal place to test yet another of the team’s inventions. A sensor is attached to a skateboard and connected to a series of camera’s that record the skater’s movement. “The camera’s follow the user around the skate park and automatically chooses the best views. At the end of the day, people can take home a video of themselves in action.”

Although some of these prototypes may seem a little frivolous at first sight, they really demonstrate how technology and the internet can be put to better use by product designers in the future. Internet can ultimately be connected to almost anything and help make our lives “a little easier, better or just more fun”. Now let’s just hope we can start using that interactive doorbell very soon!

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