Interactive Cutlery 

Creating new eating experiences with soft robotics

Design‭ /‬‭ ‬Jimmy Jian
Material /‬‭ ‬Janie Chu‭, ‬Jimmy Jian
Year /

Setting a timeline in the alternative future of post-scarcity and approaching it through speculative design methods, Interactive Cutlery is an experimental project that creates a new human-robot relationship in an eating scenario. A series of future eating utensils were created in this project, including various inflated spoons and plates.

Soft Robotics
Robotics has been used in our daily lives in many aspects. How will this evolve in the future? And how would people perceive this trend? This project imagines that in the future of Post-scarcity, robotics has been integrated into all aspects of our lives, that we even use it to enhance our eating experience. This project aims to create new eating experiences by applying soft robotic technologies in food design fields.

Material & Structure Exploration
This project started with the exploration of soft robotic technology. The thinking-through-making process was adopted to develop the project theme. To know more about the basic structure of soft robotics, several actuators were made using different silicones, including Ecoflex, which is very soft and elastic, and Dragon Skin which is more stretchy.

form finding

final molds and silicones
first working prototype

Arduino Air Pump
One or two actuators can be controlled with a simple setup consisting of an Arduino microcontroller equipped with a motor-shield and pneumatic solenoid valves, air pumps, and a battery pack. The components are assembled, as shown in the photo. All wires are connected by using the screw connectors on the motor shield. With the Arduino setup, the inflation and deflation of the actuators happen by switching the pumps and valves on and off.

Inflation Mechanism
The prototypes at this stage aim to test the mechanism. The structure of the interactive objects was 3D printed, and the silicone part was made though laster-cut acrylic moulds. At this stage, the form and shape of the object and the texture on the silicon parts were not decided yet, but objects can already be tested and iterated through basic mechanisms.

Inflated Spoon 01
Inflated Spoon 02

Inflated Spoon 03

Inflated Spoon 04

Moving Plate left

Moving Plate right

Design Story
This project challenges the status quo that design is about problem-solving. By creating unconventional objects with a design approach, this project created a platform for the audience to discuss important social, political and technological issues.