D) 5 Connected Objects

A project developed by Lucien Langton

5 Connected Objects consist in a physical implementation (among many possible) of the Cloud of Cards Processing Library and exemplifies its use, client side. Linked to the 5 Folders Cloud (both server and software sides), the five physical objects work exclusively as its complements and have no independent digital functions of their own. They seek to propose a form of natural gestures interface (“clients” for the cloud) to locally access, monitor and manipulate ones data or files in the distant cloud, with a Cloud of Cards twist…

Indeed, directly linked to the results of the design research, as well as the ethnographic field study on the uses of the cloud, the purpose of the 5 Connected Objects is to materialize in daily environments the “ghostly” presence of one’s distant data. It is to incarnate as well the “digital anxiety” caused by various problems that can occur to personal files and data when dropped in a distant cloud (fear of losing one’s files, apprehension of erasing versions, of wrong sharing or access rights, of having private files being openly published, of undesired updates, of hacks, etc.)

As a consequence, the objects, and in particular their physical manipulation, can trigger automated procedures linked to these potential problems…

A “Home Cloud Kit” (evolution)

Note: the purpose of a “Home Cloud Kit” (working title) has been described in a previous post. It will be composed by four artifacts which will become the main outcomes of the design research Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s), along with one book about the ethnographic field study and another one about the design research process.

Below are four links leading to four posts describing and analyzing the current state of evolution for each part of this kit. We expect the research and the “kit” to be finished by the end of March 17.

The “kit” will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


The final phase of our research consists in the prototyping of artifacts which relevance have been identified along the process. Tools, infrastructures and services are therefore addressed and will constitute a “Home Cloud Kit”.


This final phase is organized into the four following lines of work:


A) A Personal Data Center (evolution, models)



B) I&IC’s OwnCloud Core Processing Library (evolution)



C) A Personal Cloud (evolution)


D) My Data Controllers (evolution, models)


My Data Controllers (evolution, models)

Note: “My Data Controllers” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


Continuing our design process, we milled the first prototypes of the five connected objects, which consist in tangible versions of the five main folders present in our alternative version of Owncloud (“A Personal Cloud”, working title as well).

As explained in this post, each object is based on the same elementary brick which brings and manages a natural interaction between the connected object, the personal cloud and its contained data, files and folders –therefore becoming a controller–. This elementary brick holds the Raspberry Pi, sensors and hardware necessary to physically interact with Owncloud. This interaction will be slow and discrete.

Furthermore than the identified objectives through the ethnographic field study and design sketches we’ve lead along the research, our approach to these networked objects was fueled by complementary meaningful references. The first one (image below) consisting in a different approach to the behavior users adopt in their interaction with the “technological home”, Shaker furniture:



A Personal Cloud (evolution)

Note: “A Personal Cloud” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


The “alternative version” of the cloud (client, interface) and the way we interact with it is still under development.

Strongly connected to the ethnographic field research that was achieved earlier during the research process regarding cloud usages, the purpose of this project is to exemplify a different way of handling or even playing with one’s data and files in the cloud, as well as to demonstrate an implementation of “I&IC’s OwnCLoud Core Processing Library” that will also be part of the final delivery “cloud kit”.

“A Personal Cloud” is also in tight connection with the objects controllers project, “My Data Controllers” (working title as well), because these networked objects will directly interact with the files and data contained in it.



A version of OwnCloud developed with the help of “I&IC’s OwnCloud Core Processing Library” and containing five root folders, each with a singular automated behavior.

“A Personal Cloud”: a home cloud kit for personal data (centers) / “reappropriate your dataself”!

We’re entering the final straight of the research project Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) and we can give at this point a first glimpse of the four design artifacts we are working on at the moment. They will constitute the main outcomes of our joint experimental effort (ECAL, HEAD, EPFL-ECAL Lab) and a kind of “personal cloud kit” (explained below). These creations will be accompanied by two books: one will present the results of the ethnographic research about “the cloud”, the other will present the design research process and its results – both in pod/pdf.

We already pointed out in the recent post “Updated Design Scenario” where we were heading. Since then, the different projects were better identified and started to get shaped. Some got eliminated. Prototyping and further technical tests are running in parallel at the moment.



From the original “final scenario” sketch to …


… a “Personal Cloud Kit”, composed of various physical and digital modular artifacts.


What emerged reinforced from the main design scenario is that we seek to deliver four artifacts (some physical, some digital, some combined) which themselves will constitute the building blocks of what we’ll call “A Personal Cloud Kit”. All four parts of this kit will be openly accessible on a dedicated website (e.g. in a similar way to what OpenDesk is doing).

The purpose of this “home kit” is to empower designers, makers and citizens at large who would be interested to start develop their own cloud projects, manage or interact with their data or even to set up small scale personal data centers at their places (homes, offices, garages …)

From design research wrap-up to final artifacts, updated design scenario (in scribble mode, #2)


This post consists in an important update to the previous note “From design research wrap-up to final artifacts, a design scenario (in scribble mode, #1)“.

It’s main purpose is to narrow down the previously sketched scenario and become more precise about the possible artifacts we will develop. In doing so, the present description shows a likely path and tries to keep some coherence within the overall design that is segmented in four different areas, often combined (software, hardware furniture, responsive objects, visualization). Yet and even so several objects and functions are described and named in this post, it will continue to serve only as a general blueprint for the last phase of our I&IC joint design research, while the final outputs could still largely evolve, based on the same ideas and plan.


These ideas keep their importance though:

Based on the graphic “Motivations <-> Usages <-> Problems” and its description of procedures, based on our “Design Learnings” too, we’ve tried to translate and objectify these into “natural language” of actions (and problems). At this stage, this is still a trial, but we’ve listed five pairs of words that work in opposition (verbs vs. past participles) and that cover the spectrum of functions and procedures: To Care (vs. Neglected!), To Accumulate (vs. Vanished!), To Multiply (vs. Shrinked! ), To Freeze (vs. “Melted!”), To “Pimp” (vs. “Jumbled!”) — all these corresponding to a set of cloud actions and explained with more details below, after the break —

These 5 pairs of terms will drive the development of an alternative, domestic and hopefully objective Cloud (“Our Cloud”), built upon the open source software OwnCloud with the help of our own I&IC OwnCloud Core Processing Library (which will be further edited and editable therefore). This personal Cloud will have the opportunity to be hosted into a new type of diy (and domestic as well) 19″ Cabinet.

The 5 pairs of terms will further drive the implementation of 5 Controllers or Network Data/Bot Objects (“Smart Objects”). The aim of these “controllers” will be to give an everyday physical presence to each user’s personal Cloud, to its 5 main folders, contained files or data and the processes they undergo. The manipulation of some of these objects will include the idea of “natural interface” or “gestures”.

In addition to these 5 physical controllers, 1 or 2 “root objects” could help monitor and possibly moderate the overall behavior of “Our Cloud”.

For the development of these “smart objects”, we’ve decide to take into account the kind of objects or infrastructure that are already present in a domestic environment, things like single functional objects (i.e. lamps, electric plugs, consoles, mirrors, clocks, etc.) and revisit them with a slight sculptural approach. We’ve also decided to consider a “language” that takes into account “invisibility” or “immateriality” (i.e. electricity, electrostatics, magnets, light, reflections, air currents or temperature, dust).

Finally, all of the above should be distributed as open source.