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Cups & Strings

Role: Creative Director, Interaction Designer & Prototyper
Timeline: 1 month


Cups and Strings is an interactive, speech-driven installation tailored for an exhibit at 3577 Studios which mimics emotional responses experienced by children when using a cup and string telephone.


People gathering around the installation at 3577 Studios

For this project our team was interested in mimicking a feeling of intimacy, of safety and trust. We wanted to create a curated environment, which would prompt conversations between two strangers, without using any verbal indications. 

We drew inspiration from interactions observed in childhood, namely the comfort that is generated when you cannot see the other person’s face. Examples of such scenarios are confessions in the darkness during a sleepover or the cup and string telephone.


Booth 1 & Booth 2 with silhouette

The installation takes the form of two partitions. Users sit on a stool behind the first partition and interact with the other person through a cup housing a Bluetooth enabled microphone and speaker. The fabric on the partition is illuminated with speech driven visualizations through projection, visible from both the inside and outside of the sheet. The audio input thus prompts a conversation between two strangers, physically invisible to each other, creating a sense of intimacy and trust.  

The animation’s form, speed, and palette were curated to create an environment which encourages intimate conversation. In return, the interaction informs the space, modifying it in response to the dialogue. The installation simultaneously intimate and public, seeking to activate a space whilst the users are not directly engaged with the bystanders. Partitions are placed in a way that providesa sense of enclosure, creating a comfortable space to have conversation with another person.

The verbal interaction between two users drives the visuals. The warm and fluid projections are influenced by the length, cadence and amplitude of the conversation, thus giving form to the nature of the interaction.

Visualizations of speech based off of cadence, amplitude, speed and length of conversation


Location within the 3577 Studio space 

IDEATION. Our team started the project with the intention of creating a single booth with two entrances, partitioned in the center (as seen below in preliminary renderings). In the first iteration of our idea, the audio-driven visuals were projected on a sequence of vellum sheets between the two users, generating depth within the visuals. We moved away from this idea because we wanted the installation to be enjoyable for the rest of the public, and found that physical proximity hindered intimate communication.

Preliminary architectural renderings

FABRICATION. We built the partition out of 2x2s and used PEVA liner as the projection surface, which stretched out surprisingly well. We had initially planned on using vellum paper, however after testing we opted to use the PEVA sheets instead.

PROJECTION & INTERACTION. Cups and Strings was set up so that the speech of user 1 affected the projection on the user 2 partition. This interaction required that we use two short-throw projectors, suspended from the ceiling between the booths. The visuals were programmed using Touchdesigner and GLSL, after having tried to implement text recognition in Processing. We chose to work out of Touchdesigner with a simpler speech analysis for optimal mapping and frame rate.

Additional sketches coming soon.


Chloe Desaulles: Concept, Graphics, Interaction Design, Construction & Team Management

Wonjae Kim: Projector Technician & Video Documentation

Sujan Das Shresta: Sound and Projector Technician, Architectural Renderings, Architectural Concept

Leo Liu: Graphics, Speech and Audio Interpretation

Zain Islam-Hashmi: Project Architect, Construction and Physical Implementation

© Copyright 2020 Chloé Desaulles. All Rights Reserved.