The Interaction Research Studio have recently launched Yo-Yo Machines, a project developed with UK Covid 19 research funding to support people separated from friends and family and help them maintain connections while they are physically separated by pandemic restrictions.
The devices are very low cost (around £25 a pair) and people can build them at home by following simple instructions (like a recipe) to assemble off-the-shelf components. They can be made with paper plates, cereal boxes, jam jars and other household items.
Three adaptable designs have been released so far:
- ‘Light Touch’ lets you send slowly fading coloured lights to each other over the internet.
- ‘Speed Dial’ is like a mood barometer that you share with a friend or family member. Move the pointer to indicate your choice from a set of options, and your partner can respond with theirs.
- ‘Knock Knock’ allows the user to send tapping sounds between devices. Knocking on one causes an identical knocking sound on the other, even if it’s halfway around the world.
Bill Gaver, co-director of the studio, has been using a pair with his 92-year-old mother for about a month now. “They’re surprisingly compelling — when she sends me a light from California it feels like she’s right next to my desk in London. It’s also really nice when I wake up or return home and find a light she’s sent earlier, and she says she looks for a light from me particularly when she gets up at night.”