As the world is confined with COVID-19, our daily lives have become more ingrained in the digital space. Instead of spending time with loved ones or reconnecting with nature, we have become even more reliant on digital devices where we constantly move from one device to another. This project explores new ways to use our senses to interact with the digital world, specifically on how we might help one disconnect from the digital realm and invigorate the senses around us.

Inspired by Japanese rock garden (Zen garden), the team explored areas around balance, improving focus, and developing a sense of well-being. The team created Ishi (Japanese for ‘stones’), a heat sensitive device that brings awareness to how much time people are spending on their digital devices and reminds people to disconnect and refresh their senses. 

Once Ishi detects an imbalance of time spent on the computer, the user’s screen is distorted. In order to ‘unlock’ the screen and get back online, the user has to warm the “rock-like” device with their hands. This brings a sense of being present and feeling grounded to its users. Once Ishi is warm enough, it triggers the screen distortion to subside. Users can then re-enter the digital realm, hopefully feeling refreshed and in harmony with their surroundings. 

Rocks were chosen as the basis of the concept for its metaphoric representation of being grounded. Together with warmth as a haptic feedback, the team wished it would give users the feeling of security and comfort. Screen distortion was generated on p5.js to create the feeling of being “lost in the digital world.” Arduino was used to prototype for heat sensing and further communication with the digital devices around us.