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A new way to store memory and share it in a tangible way

The Tangible Memories project introduces a new way to store memory and share it tangibly. It aims to encourage reminiscence and storytelling with objects, as a tool for sharing experience and strengthening friends' connections. We mapped the ambient sound to the different motion of a paper by actuating it with shape-memory alloys. Through using a metaphor of bookmarking to record and sending a memo to share, we designed interactions to improve the device’s affordance and introduce using case scenarios to show the potential applications of our invention.


Digital artifacts are not enough to support reminiscing

Even though the digital devices such as a smartphone have improved the way to capture the moment as the mean of taking a photo using a digital camera and recording a voice or video and recall it whenever we want. It still lacks triggering various human perceptions that we use every moment, and its reminiscing effect is always incomparable to a physical object. Imagine we went to a beach and soaked our feet in the sea so could feel the wave and temperature of the water, and could hear the sound of the wind and tide, and feel with your skin. All these complex of feelings are hard to be captured in a picture trapped in a flat 2D screen of the smartphone. Sometimes a physical artifact such as a seashell we took from the beach which maintains the smell of the place would evoke the memory of the moment we felt the wave of the sea. 

Translate memories into a tactile medium, privileging the sensation of touch. We want to create a device that exploits the power and beauty of haptic memory, not through a 1:1 translation, but rather an abstraction of ambiance.​


Present a new physical object as a form of the notebook

It can record the ambient sound to capture the mood of the moment and translate it into a different motion of a shape-changing paper, and it’s geometry pattern. We introduce the affordance design process and use case scenarios that show the potential application of our proposed device.​

Concept Idea



Creation, storage, and retrieval

The main idea of the project is to have an object that can be used to record and store ambient sound, translate it into motion on paper objects, and have the user interact the object through the paper in a tangible way. Additionally, the user can record his/her mood of the time through the selection of papers in an array of paper patterns that combines origami crease patterns and its resulting paper motion.


Based on these, we also wanted to integrate this remembering process and consideration of memory cues onto our device and the recording process. Four necessary design requirements are essential to this project:

  • Design an object that can record the ambient sound of the moment, translate it and recall it as moving through the medium of a patterned paper.

  • Have a variety of different paper patterns that have various visual cues.

  • Allow users to share or replay their stored memory through the playback function.

  • Highly portable and fits well in the palm, akin to a small notebook.

  • Provide seamless and organic interaction to users so that not make them feel use any digital devices.

Affordances: Bookmarking

There are two main affordances in the project: the folding motion and the ripping motion. The folding action is used to actuate the recording of the microphone and have it stored on the device. This movement is used for the recording purpose is because it is frequently used as a way for one to bookmark pages in a book. Similarly, one would fold a page of our project to bookmark a moment in time that is precious to them

Affordances: Sharing

The ripping motion in this project used as a way of sharing memories with other people. Akin to how classmates used to rip out notes and pass folded the paper around the classroom to communicate with one another, the ripping motion in our project allows our user to share their memories with others in tangible and reminiscent in ways that can be limiting in screen pixels. 

Additionally, the detachment of the paper will also allow the user to ship their memories, like a postcard, to their friends, family, and significant others.


We cut polypropylene sheets (YUPO Original, YUPO Corporation) to make the inner layer of the REMINISCE notebook. To create different types of crease pattern of the sheet, we used the laser cutter to grave the pattern. For this first version of the prototype, we categorized the pattern in three different geometry: wave, spiky, and zigzag. Based on these geometry pattern types, we varied the parameters of the patterns to make all the sheet have slightly different designs and motions.

Electric components of the REMINISCE prototype. Microphone, power sources, and microcontroller are integrated into the back cover of the book, and the SMA control circuit is embedded on the back surface of each sheet.

Each page has copper taped- line on the top and tip to make a switch for the microphone. When the user folds the tip of paper, the copper line makes contact, and it triggers the microphone to record the sound. The copper switch on the paper is connected to the microphone amplifier board through the copper coil used for winding all the sheet of the notebook. When the system records the ambient sound, the microcontroller performs a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to extract the amplitude and frequency data of the sound. Based on this FFT result, it generates Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to control the shape-memory alloy placed on the back side of each page. The amplitude controls the driving current for the Shape-memory alloy (SMA) actuation, and the frequency mapped to the duty cycle of PWM. This relationship calculated on the microcontroller, and the final PWM data is transferred to another microcontroller chip (ATtiny 44, Atmel Corporation) soldered on the copper tape circuit on the paper through I2C and saved. Once this recording process is done and the user rips off the page, he/she has to plug the external power source (3-5V) to the coper tape circuit on the paper to recall the memory as a mean of paper motion actuated by SMAs.


Bridge the gap between past and present

Today, we take photographs and souvenirs, pin these precious keepsakes to our walls and prop them on our desks. Reminisce functions in a similar, but the far more personal manner, because of the special inscription in the creation process and the aura of the memory it generates. Once these archived moments are displayed, they serve as haptic, shape-changing souvenirs that are reminiscent of precious memories past. These interaction scenarios also can be found in the video.


A new paper-like material 

To meet our ultimate goal, we look forward to developing and apply a new paper-like material that can automatically deform its shape without need of pre-defined crease pattern on its surface.
By performing the user study to evaluate the effect of the different patterns of a sheet and the motion in a quantitative way, we could find the clear relationship between the ambient sound and the movement and improve the recording and recall functions. Also, as one of feedback we have got, integrating a function of replaying the recorded audio to the origami sheet with the synchronized sheet motion would improve the user’s reminisce experience. Moreover, to achieve a better performance of evoking a reminisce by the sheet motion, the relationship between the ambient sound and the sheet motion should be investigated. Since we applied a shape-memory alloy to actuate the sheet motion, there was a limit in making a fast and responsive movement. Study- ing and developing other efficient mechanisms for sheet actuation would be our potential work. Also, developing a computational software to vary the origami crease pattern based on a different mood is remained to be our future work. 

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