A Relaxed and Gestural Communication Medium Emphasizing Connected Presence

Zenchronous “禅調” is a personal and shared space for honest and ephemeral messages. Users are able to communicate with each other by drawing with the rake and placing rocks to show remote presence. Instead of focusing on increasing the speed and quantity of information delivered as done with our current communication improvements, we focus on delivering the emotions and gestures with a broad scope of visual representations i.e. drawings, symbols and text, thereby recovering the nuances that are lost with texting and emailing. Zenchronous has the affordance to deliver messages with gestures of face-to-face communication: drawing accents and subtle meanings from the speed and depth of strokes, which embody the users’ intent and thoughtfulness towards the receiver. It invites people to step away from more hectic digital communication into an inherently more focused and relaxed medium.

Our concept borrows from that of the zen garden, which is to create the sense of water without its physical presence. We create a deep sense of connectedness even when one cannot physically be there for his/her loved ones. The synchronicity and reflectiveness are at the core of our interaction.

MAS.834 Tangible Interfaces | 2014
MIT Media Lab
Instructor: Hiroshi Ishii

Collaborators Xavi Benavides, Paola Mariselli, Ana Torres, and Luke Vink

Brainstorming Session: Our Concepts

We propose three ways of communicating with each other.

Ghostly Presence

Drawings performed with the rake are mirrored on the other end to inform the presence of the sender to the other side. These traces remain to be discovered and responded to by the recipient.

Connected Presence

A rock placed on one garden produces a corresponding ripple on the other side at the same location. This is how people get in contact in real-time and subtly say “I am here”.

Interpersonal Communication

The rocks represent separate individuals in a small tangible group chat. Touching a rock while interacting with the sand can be used to send secret whispers to specific individuals in the group.