100% interface-free media player

It’s always a blast to be at Mediamatic. I could only attend the first day of their RFID and the Internet of Things workshop but i came back with several stories for we make money not art.

Yesterday afternoon, Andy Smith made a demo of the Symbolic Table developed together with Willem Velthoven. It’s a very simple-looking table that works as an interface-free and tactile media player, no screen, no button, no mouse required.


The first table is audio only and can be used by kids to play: as they put on the table small plastic toy animal tagged with RFID transponders, the sound made by the animal can be heard (sometimes quite loudly as in the case of the elephant!). The second version of the table has a beamer built-in and can be used for projections. Put something on the table, then the table will play the video that goes with that object. In both cases, the object is a symbol for sound or image. If you take the object off, the video will pause or the sound will stop. If you put something else on the table, something else will play.

Each symbol is linked to one or more AV files in the built in website of the table.

To make it even more human and non-threatening for the technophobes, the technology is “hidden” under the table: in the tabletop there are a compact Linux PC, the RFID reader and loudspeakers. The image tables also have a beamer. The software is open source and can be operated from a distance via internet. The table also works without an internet connection.

The table can be used as learning tool, to add new elements to games such as “Guess & Check”, etc.

Another application for the table is to use it in an Arduino environment. Old immigrants have many interesting stories to tell but when their menory needs a little help, postcards put on the Symbolic Table would trigger videos and also jog their memories of past events. Other ideas for applications include interactive photo albums, interactive art, etc.
A few images on flickr.

Related: RFID video player, With Hidden Numbers, video of artists from the RFID-Lab in The Hague demonstrating a piece featuring hats rigged with RFID that triggered Flash animations (via Wired).