You've "built your own" appliances and gadgets as part of your degree portfolio, what's the driving force behind your work?
The project started with my fascination of how people emotionally react to products. I wanted to use technology to choreograph interactions which exaggerated the reaction for a positive means. Products to me have the potential to be a tool of communication between the designer and the user. I want people to use my work as a form of utopian communication.
The huggable toaster sounds both practical, and a little bit silly - is this indicative of your style?
These products are the outcome of a focus on interaction in a proposed near future. They are the outcome of a focus on designing for positive interaction. There is of course some humour in the concept of hugging or smiling at an inanimate object, but there is deeper psychological and physiological aspects to the interactions.
I notice a strong emphasis on positive thinking and reinforcement in your work - is there an element of mental health awareness to what you do?
The products are designed to have a positive chemical change in the brain of the user:
The Hugging Toaster uses pressure sensors with its body to tell if it is being hugged or not. The user has to hug the toaster for the duration of the cooking time. The act of hugging increases levels of dopamine and serotonin in the user’s brain whilst reducing heart rate, whuch increases feelings of comfort and happiness.
The Victory Alarm Clock only turns off once the actuators have been held in the victory pose for two minutes. Inside the actuators are accelerometers which bluetooth their position back to the base unit. This posture increases levels of testosterone and reduce levels of cortisol, making the user feel more confident and less stressed.
The Smile Telephone requires the user to smile at their own reflection in order to make or receive calls. During the call the user must also register a smile every 20 seconds. The telephone uses facial recognition and metrics analysis to monitor the user's facial expressions. The telephone forces the user to engage with a positive self image, and causes an increase in levels of serotonin in the brain.
The Reflective Mirror uses a Microsoft Kinect Camera to track the user's right hand, which translates to the distortion in the mirrored surface. This allows for the user to distort their reality and body image. It gives a moment of meditative reflection to remind oneself that the world is always experienced through a level of perception.
Build Your Own is all about skill sharing and working within a community - did you conduct any social research before embarking on these projects?
For the project I read many research papers on the psychology of products. I conducted workshops to test the theories and used the results of these to fine tune the interactions and in turn the form of the products. Designing products is a process that to me cannot be done alone; one has to observe the world, research, talk to people, test protoypes, interact with others.
What do you love most about the possibilities of being a designer?
Being a designer to me is creating objects which communicate to others. This project it all about positive interaction, but this type of communication can exist on many levels. We are surrounded by an ocean of products which appear passive, but shape the way that we are and feel. Being a designer is an opportunity to tailor this sphere of influence.
What's next for you - do you have any more projects lined up?
At the moment I am setting up my own studio and workshop in London. During August I will be over in Switzerland with a group of designers collaborating on a large scale exhibition, and when I return I will be exhibitiing at London Design Week.
Follow Ted on Instagram @ted_wiles or visit his website for more information about his work. Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing continues at FACT until 31 August.