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Tessel Relatables

A relatable is an object that allows us to explore our relationships to machines or provides a means for objects to speak to us of their experiences. They attempt to move away from using information to either report on our activities or to motivate us to change our behaviors.

The primary goal of work like this is to mark out the lines of a practice that might answer questions like:

  • What if objects could be loyal? (Would that help with the cluster that is current security practice?) What if we could understand their lifecycles?
  • What if the internet of things could be more than a monitoring network and be an assitive technology for objects themselves? What would we find if we investigated the way we relate to objects?
  • Could this in itself counter some of the dystopian fears, by letting us imagine something else, something better; a direction for the tech we are capable of?

These Tessel-run relatable prototypes were created on the heels of Friendbot to embody different modes of object-human relationship: Friendbot’s primary mode is response; the objects below amplify an object’s voice, assist humans via reflection, and finally react to human presence.



Working to bring Timeline of Neglect into the real world, Neo-Neglect is powered when books on a shelf close one of the input switches. The switches connect to both the Internet and Neopixel LEDs via a Tessel. As books go ignored, their lights slowly go out.

Data writes to here; the history clears every few days.



Spiny was built to let the world know how you’re feeling, before you even open your mouth. Users can access the web interface, select their current feeling and then let spiny tell others whether its a good time to talk or if they should come back later.



Created for Art Hack Day, Deluge uses its motors to let you know when there is too much Bluetooth about.

The same code also powered No. 6, a video projection work created with Roopa Vasudevan.

See the code on Github »

Learn more about the theory underlying relatables in my ForwardJS keynote »

The link page from the talk is full of great articles »

Built with: Tessel microcontroller, Node.js, PubNub