Inner Ear
Jan 2022–Ongoing
The Inner Ear is a ceramic device that captures vibrations within participants’ homes. Once captured, the Inner Ear becomes a 3D printed porcelain physicalization of the vibration data. In this pictorial, we describe the design and fabrication process of the capturing device as well as the data physicalization workflow. In contrast with ‘always on’ data collecting devices in home environments, like smart home cameras or voice assistants, the Inner Ear allows home dwellers to intentionally capture vibrations of their choice, for only short durations. The final form of the Inner Ear memorializes only one significant instance of data capture. In this pictorial, we contribute insights on the development of the capturing device and the data representation schemes we have prototyped, as well as design decisions involved in balancing legibility with leaving room for meaning making during the transcription of home vibration data.
Audrey Desjardins
Timea Tihanyi (Slip Rabbit Studio)
Brock Craft
Arthur Derksen
Freesoul El Shabazz-Thompson
Bailey A. Heller
Miguel Monserate
Jonnie Narita
Wyatt Olson
Julia Saimo
Yuna Shin
Blair Subbaraman
Aichen Sun
Ocean Vu
Melanie Wells
Bill Xiong
Janey Yee
In this project, we invite participants to focus on invisible and often unfelt vibrations in their own homes.
What is the Inner Ear?
The Inner Ear is a portable device that participants can use to capture and represent vibrations. First, participants can collect a series of vibration captures (15 minutes each) over about a week. Second, they select one vibration capture to be materialized. Then, our team generates and 3D prints in porcelain the data. We glue the newly printed data rings to the central module and give it back to participants.
Press the surface to start capturing the moment. The light turns on. Wait 15 minutes for the capture to be completed. When the capture is done, the light turns off.
What are examples of vibrations?
It is possible to capture a range of vibrations with the Inner Ear. Over the course of the project, we saw vibrations such as the rain on the skylight, kids getting ready in the morning, late night conversations with friends, putting dishes away, the soundscape of making a floral arrangement, a pet cat’s constant movement.
In developing the Inner Ear, our goal was to create a ceramic shape that could transform mid-way through the project: from an object capturing vibrations to an object representing vibrations. Our development process balanced considerations around working with clay and electronics, as well as the logistics of fabricating and deploying these pieces with six households.
We purposefully asked participants to choose only one data capture for us to physicalize. Our intention was to move away from large—almost infinite—IoT data archives. Instead, we wanted to celebrate one capture and to build a physical object that would invite curiosity and contemplation. We resisted the desire for direct legibility of data in favor of building a broader, perhaps more holistic experience, of the data.
Audrey Desjardins, Timea Tihanyi, Freesoul El Shabazz-Thompson, Brock Craft, Julia R. Saimo. (2023). The Inner Ear: Capturing and Physicalizing Home Vibrations. In Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems. DIS’23. ACM Press.
Wyatt Olson, Freesoul El Shabazz-Thompson, Melanie Wells, Janey Yee, Julia R. Saimo, Bill Xiong, Brock Craft, Audrey Desjardins. (2023).  Exposing Tensions in Documentary Filmmaking for Design Research: The Inner Ear Shorts. Extended abstracts in Designing Interactive Systems. DIS’23. ACM Press.
Next Project
Data Bakery