Labs Link Pack


I believe we established that we love lamp. This week’s lamp is a wonderful device that simply reflects and redirects the sunlight, so the sunlight can reach the dark corners of your home.



We’re all big fans of the work of Bret Victor and while he’s gotten a little quieter later his colleague Toby Schachtmann has released his own set of tools for visual programming and manipulating graphics called Apparatus that he demoed at the Strange Loop conference in St. Louis. The video is a little lengthy but there’s some really interesting thought packed into a tool that you can try out today.



Smartphones are usually one of the sources of stress. Ustwo created a wonderfully soothing app called Pause that helps you relax for ten minutes and get an energy boost. It also looks like a lava lamp.



Typing on smartphones is still cumbersome. SwiftKey already did a lot to fix that and its new project wants to take it even further with a neural network system that predicts your typing behavior.



We are secretly still in our paint by numbers phase. Microsoft Research now shows how to turn this into live textures for augmented reality models.



When working on the Denny bike, we explored the idea of haptic feedback delivered to the handle bars. We quickly found that vibration from the road masked any haptic feedback. This shock absorbing handlebar could offer interesting opportunities for further exploration.



Some of us have been following the Dear Data project as it closes in on finishing the year-long conversation in hand-drawn visualizations between Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi. The hand-drawn nature of it gives it a really approachable, humble, and human feel that one doesn’t often find in data visualization works.



At TEAGUE we make things – and we often make prototypes. This car(dboard) prototype by LEXUS impressed us.



We think this could be the single biggest piece of automotive news in the last 3 years or so. Today Volvo announced that it will accept full liability for crashes when their autonomous driving system is active. This is HUGE! They’re not waiting on our legal system to figure out who takes the blame. Volvo says their systems are almost ready to be released and they have enough confidence in them to take on this level of responsibility. The impacts to the insurance business could be massive.

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Tap to Tweak


We made a lamp. Why?


For one, we like making things—sometimes just for the sake of making things. But this lamp was made to explore one of the many connected home hypotheses we’ve been wrestling with lately. Specifically, we wanted to address the unnecessarily large gap that exists between interacting with a connected product via its physical affordances and interacting with it via a mobile app.  We’ve found ourselves hunting through an app to manipulate  a nearby lamp and we think that’s silly.

Because we believe the design of all beloved products—for the connected home or otherwise— starts with the product’s most fundamental, common use case, we first focused on how someone would turn our lamp on and off without their phone. So, our lamp turns on and off with a simple, pleasant touch.


The lamp is turned on and off by touching the panel.

While this interaction allows quick access of the lamp’s basic functionality, the more advanced attributes (i.e. color control) are accessible through a smartphone app. instead of requiring people to hunt through the hierarchy of an app to fine tune the qualities of a single lamp, one can simply tap their phone on the lamp to fine tune its attributes. In other words, we’ve designed a deep link to a particular lamp based on a particular context.


The phone simply has to be tapped against the lamp to bring up the interface.

This “tap-to-tweak” behavior seems to work well for our lamp, and we feel it can scale nicely across other connected products. It can surface the range of settings that are too complex to be manifested in hardware but are not quite heavy duty enough to warrant diving deep into an app. For designers, it also creates an alternative to putting a screen on the connected device by using the screen in your pocket.


Tap-to-tweak can be used for various connected devices (sketches by Christina Wolf)


This might seem like more high geekery from the already-too-geeky world of smart home products, but we think this actually begins to address a significant issue that prevents wider adoption of connected products. This issue is rooted in there currently being basically two ways—a false dilemma—of interacting with the connected home:

  1. Traditional, direct interaction, like turning on a light with a physical switch.
  2. Less familiar, indirect interaction, like setting up an automation program of a group of lights with a smartphone app.

More often than not, most members of a household are either uninterested or incapable of managing the connected home ecosystem. This does not mean they don’t want to tweak the light of a connected lamp or change the schedule settings of a coffeemaker. Nonetheless, they are left with basic, direct control, because adjusting individual attributes of a product are stashed in an app alongside other more expert features.

As a result of this disconnect, it is common for a member of the household to be deemed IT admin of the home, left to manage smart home administrivia (yuck). Or, the connected products are eventually ignored/retired/rejected by the household. In bridging direct and indirect interaction, this separation between person and product is made less. It also flattens the odd, enterprise-like control schemas that often arise in a connected home. In these ways, we believe tap-to-tweak helps humanize the connected home.

As it goes with explorations, we generated a few questions and issues with tap-to-tweak that require further wrestling. If you have your own thoughts on how these issues might be addressed (or if you have more questions to throw on the pile), we would love to hear them.

  • What is the right interaction to pair your phone with your device? Tap to pair or hold to pair?
  • Is there a proxy for tap-to-tweak for objects that are out-of-reach (eg. a lightswitch)?
  • Are there any hard-and-fast rules, precedents, or metaphors that can help draw the line between what (core) affordances should be on a connected product and what (advanced) affordances should be abstracted into software?



Labs Link Pack


Following in the footsteps of giants we admire like swissmiss and berg, we’re going to assemble Friday Link Packs from now on — and here’s our first batch! The content that we are going to share here are things that inspired or provoked us this week, or simply made us laugh.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more packs to see what we found.


[Glowforge] – We’re all excited about the glowforge not just because we all secretly want a laser cutter in the home but also because it’s a fantastic example of user centered design. Self registration using webcams, multiple materials on the bed at the same time and even cutting based on lines drawn by hand on the materials, it makes using this high precision device as easy as scrapbooking and that’s highly inspiring. Favorite feature of the “pro” model: a pass through for the bed so you can use materials that are physically larger than the bed area.


PrintPut gives you the ability to 3D print and drop resistive and capacitive input wherever you want into a model, meaning that your object comes off of the printer bed ready to be wired up to whatever micro-controller you choose. We love thinking about ways to prototype novel forms and screen-less interactions and adding channels for doing that right from a CAD tool would be great fun. The paper from Queens University in Canada gives more detail.


RePhone GSM + BLE features the world’s smallest System-on-Chip (SOC) for Wearables and Internet Of Things. It offers a wide range of communication protocols including GSM, GPRS and Bluetooth (4.0 and 2.1 Dual mode). It supports quad-band 850/900/1800/1900MHz, connecting onto any global GSM network.” Hard to see how that’s not tantalizing. We’re still excited for our Particle Electron of course, but having a few more tools in the toolbelt never hurts, especially after seeing this video about the Chinese phone market.


It’s official the Apple Car cometh and it now has a date: 2019. We can’t help but wonder not only what it will contain but also what this means for Googles car efforts and whether it will be made out of one piece of aluminium.


Health monitoring data is finding its way into the hands of employers and ultimately the health insurance companies they employ. Playing on the reality that for all their supposed sophistication most of these devices really are just an accelerometer, Surya Mattu and Tega Brain have cheekily suggested ways for anyone to trick their devices into crediting them with far more activity than they deserve. Or perhaps it’s all deserved.


Ramesh Raskars Camera Culture group at MIT has been working on and publicizing their trillion (no that’s not a typo) frames per second femtophotography cameras for quite a long time now but this NOVA video lays out an easily digestible explanation of why it’s so intriguing.



Mobile Speakers are awesome, pairing with them is still at times frustrating. Oaxis created a speakersystem that incorporates a “close contact technology” that captures the electromagnetic signal of the phone’s speakers. You don’t need to pair with the device in any network, but play the music on your phone and put it on the speaker to amplify the sound.


While we are talking about sound systems: HiddenHUB is yet another mobile speaker. This one packs a cool piece of technology, though. It detects its surrounding architecture and calibrates to let its sound perfectly bounce of the wall. A great example of how technology can adapt to the way you use it.


We spill our drinks from time to time. And especially with expensive hardware and precious prototypes on the table, this can cause a horrible mess. We are excited about this set of cups and mugs that don’t tip over.\


We like how material scientists and designers came together to harness the wonderful properties of this crystal to create lamp. We love lamp.

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jump out of bed

| Meg Geiman



Last month on Medium we’ve noticed a couple of articles [1, 2] on the compelling reasons to become a morning person. But like any change in habit, it’s difficult to make the switch. To make the change from a night owl to an early bird, the change must be gradual. Another theme we’ve noticed for a successful switch is to incorporate exercise.

A quick google search will reveal alarm clock apps that only turn off after you’ve answered a math problem, shaken your phone, or donate money to charity  every time you hit snooze. Interesting solutions, but all of which permit you to stay in bed.

We also uncovered some desktop alarm clocks with wheels, clocks in the shape of a weight to lift, and blocks that explode from a clock when the alarm sounds. We like that these make you move. They’re fun and silly, but they’re clunky.

We asked ourselves if there is a happy mix between the convenience of an app and the physicality of a desktop alarm.  The simple realization that the use of the accelerometer in the phone to measure force would be the perfect way to bridge the gap.

Because jumping jacks would require you to not only get out of bed, but also provide a large gesture to measure using the phone’s accelerometer, we decided to start there. We mocked up a few screens of a Jumping Jack alarm clock and prototyped an app to try it out.

Would this get you jumping out of bed or get you hopping mad?



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| joshua noble

We all know what a presentation looks like: a slideshow, someone stands in front of it and talk, the audience listens, the speaker finishes talking, maybe the audience asks some questions, then everybody leaves. It’s about as tried and true a format as we have in the design community, the bread and butter of delivering projects, viewpoints, ideas, and inspiration. And it’s not just the design community, we’re all living in a world of TED Talks and powerpoint showmanship. But what happens if you start to toy with the format itself? Lots of people take presenting as an opportunity to broadcast themselves and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I liked the idea of trying to make presenting an opportunity to riff on the very nature of presenting. Let’s say this is the model of the presentation:


The filled blue circle is the presenter and the un-filled blue circles is the audience. Is there a way to make the audience the more akin to the presenter, to level the playing field and engage the audience in the process of presenting and in the experience of being presented to?


Could we even make something like this?


One thing is for certain, you’ll never know if you don’t try. Here at Teague every Wednesday we have a Teague Talk that can be an personal get-to-know-me introduction, a talk on a topic that someone here has particular expertise in, or a guest. For my Teague Talk I decided to talk about experimentation and the wonder of not knowing what’s going to happen. I titled the talk In Praise Of Not Knowing and I decided to make the presentation a webpage hosted by a node.js server instead of the usual Keynote or Powerpoint presentation for a very particular reason: I wanted to give at least some control over the presentation to the audience and see what happened. I couldn’t really completely give over control of the content of the presentation itself to the audience but I could hand over control of the slides and the presentation itself and see what happened. And what happened was very fun, very silly, very frustrating, and an absolutely worthwhile exercise. I told anyone attending the talk that they could use the following interface to control the presentation itself:


As you can see it’s pretty simple but also pretty effectively everything you can do in a presentation. The tech magic (which isn’t particularly magic, to be honest) can be summed up in a single word: websockets. Light real-time communication streams between browsers that can reside on different computers or even just in different browser tabs. My presentation itself was actually just a webpage written using a library called Reveal.js that is made for building presentations out of webpages. You can control the presentation itself with a mouse press, a key press, or with a little Javascript in whatever way you’d like. The controller page allowed anyone to move the presentation forward, backward, to a random slide, and a few other silly additions. I gave out the URI to the audience before beginning the talk so that anyone sitting there could control the presentation. The node.js server used to route signals from all the different controller instances back to the main presentation instance. The code is pretty simple and is all posted here at our github.

So what worked? Well, it was certainly interesting to feel like you were basically doing a Powerpoint Karaoke with your own presentation with the added weirdness of wondering whether people were flicking around in the presentation because they were curious or because they were bored. In retrospect I shouldn’t have put a story together and instead have put together some loose slides that I could riff on. I was interested in seeing what people would make of the chat and (un?)-fortunately one of my co-workers was really excited by dropping whole iframes into the chat window with scripts running. That basically broke the presentation and was a little madness-making but was also educational: when you invite people to play around and leave the door open, don’t be surprised when they kick it wide open. What went really well was that it was different and unexpected and, well, fun. It was really revealing to have conversations about it afterwards, most of which started along the lines of “that was really interesting; why did you do that?”. And the answer was (and always should be) because I didn’t know what was going to happen but I wanted to find out.

Take a look at the code, drop us a line if you decide to use it, and think about what talking to your peers and clients might look like if it didn’t look like what you’re used to it looking like.

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Introducing Failbox

| John Mabry & joshua noble

Heard this quote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”? If you have any contact with the entrepreneurial world you’ve probably come across it either in full or in punchier more abbreviated form as “Fail again. Fail better”. There’s even a Twitter hashtag “#failbetter” to express this even more blithely. So then, here’s a question: why are we so obsessed with our failures? As designers, many of us tend to remember negatives over positives, failures over achievements. The things that haunt us the most, have us cringing when we remember them in the middle of sitting on the couch day-dreaming, are our failures. The unfortunate part of this is that since we tend to only remember the bad things and forget the good a single failure sticks with us longer than a whole day of filled with win.

The device market is filled with quantified-self devices to help us measure our health and wellbeing from a physical standpoint. They tell us the number of steps we’ve taken, how stressed we are, how much time we’ve spent sitting at a desk, the list goes on and on. The fundamental idea though is always the same: giving you a quantified number means you can understand and manage whatever it is that you’re tracking. So then lets ask a question: when it comes to the messy tricky metric of “win” and “fail” abstracted from anything easily quantifiable, how do we record that and help ourselves keep ? This was the thought behind Failbox.

The Failbox lets you easily keep track of your fails and wins with two buttons and a classic analog dial voltmeter to show you where your current fail-to-win ratio is living. We have some fine arcade style buttons that have a highly satisfying action and sound to them. Slap the green button for a win, red for a fail. After a few iterations we’ve gotten the form nailed down with a laser cut wooden box that has our motto inscribed on it and the feel of a console from a classic game console or TV gameshow.

Internally the Failbox is using a Particle Sparkcore to keep track of the button presses and drive the voltmeter. We went with a Sparkcore so we could hook it up to some internet services and log the data, broadcast it out, generally have a little more fun with our wins and fails. It’s not the most optimal controller but it gives us a lot more options and in the world of prototyping and thinking more options is generally the way to go.

The one tricky bit of the Sparkcore is that it’s a 3.3V controller while our voltmeter is a 5V. In order to get a clean 0-5V range we needed to get a way to turn a 3.3V PWM signal into a 5V PWM signal. Most of the usual ways of stepping up current aren’t fast enough for PWM. The components don’t fully charge before the PWM signal drops back to 0 so you often actually wind up with a range smaller than the original output from your microcontroller. You need something that responds fast and there’s nothing that’s both fast and cheap better than a MOSFET. The wiring is actually pretty simple because the Sparkcore can be powered at 5V meaning we had 5V around to drive our voltmeter, we just needed a way to control that 5V power source. You also need a diode to make sure that the current doesn’t flow back through your circuit and into the Sparkcore but all told that’s about $0.50 of parts and we’re off to the races. Here’s the entire setup right here:

Now, what to do with these wins and fails? Like a lot of other places we at Teague use Slack internally as a non-email way to communicate with one another. One of the best things about Slack is that you can script in pretty much anything you want, letting bots, other services, and even microcontrollers into your communications channel. In our case we used If This Then That aka to connect our SparkCore to our Slack install. The ifttt recipe is pretty simple:

“If CoreMan published fail_message, then post a message to a Slack channel”

CoreMan is the name of our SparkCore and we pick the channel we want to it to go to and we get a nice notification any time we want to let everyone know how it’s going.

The next step for this is, obviously, to get more Failboxes to more people and get enough data so that we can do something interesting with it. We’re also looking at setting them up with our MakerBot 3D printers to keep track of the quality (or lack thereof) in our printing setup.

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Hello (again)

| joshua noble

Why hello there, you have may noticed that there is teensy little gap in the posts here on Labs at Teague. After some discussion and planning we’ve recently decided to flip this blog back on and get our making, testing, playing, and thinking back out in the open.

Teague Labs is for the experiments and explorations that we at Teague have worked on in our internal projects, hacked around with in our time, or put together to uplevel our knowledge in areas with which we’re fascinated. Typically the labs section of a design firm focuses on hacking and making and while we are very enthusiastic hackers and makers we’re also designers with serious passion and curiosity about what it means to actually design (that is in the verb sense not the noun). That means this lab isn’t just making, it’s making and thinking and exploring what it can mean to design, communicate, and create. We want to explore our tools, our dreams, our processes, and our talents in the most open and honest way possible.

So, welcome to the rebooted labs at teague. Take a look back at what we have done and keep an eye out for the things that we will be putting up every week or so from now on.

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Make it! Better

| John Mabry

Design your own printable headphones. You can download the editable CAD files here and go to town on them. All the 13:30 pieces; the speaker drivers and RCA jacks are also included in the CAD so you can start from scratch if you wish. Make them better, make them awesome, make them yours! We’d love to see what you come up with! Send us your screenshots, or renderings of your version of 13:30!

Send your designs to John Mabry.
(5MB limit)


Prototype as Product: 13:30 Printable Headphones

| John Mabry

With 3D printers becoming more accessible we decided to have a think around the concept “life in beta” as a future scenario. What if printed prototypes could become actual products? Meaning, once off the print bed an object could be assembled without any tools and be made functional by readily attainable components. I decided to stress test the premise with the challenge of making electronically simple yet functionally complex headphones.

My first go resulted in a good-looking functional model created on a professional ABS FDM machine (Dimension 1200ES: print time 13 hours and 30 minutes, hence the name). It worked out well, but the machine we used isn’t accessible to the average maker, and two of the critical parts relied heavily on soluble support printing—a non-issue for professional 3D printers, a major issue for desktop 3D printers.

With that in mind, I started to adapt the 13:30 design to the Maker Bot Replicator last week. The main challenge: How to build to a similar level of quality without soluble support. With a bit of experimentation, I’m pretty sure it can be done. So, look for some updates on that very soon! In the meantime, I posted the current model(s), component list, and instructions on Thingiverse for you to make your own working headphones right now.


Doug Engelbart’s Chorded Keyboard as a Multi-touch Interface

| Adam Kumpf

Doug Engelbart’s contributions to computing and human-computer interaction have been phenomenal. In what’s been named “the mother of all demos,” Doug and his team introduced the world to the mouse, video conferencing, hypertext, multi-pointer collaborative interfaces, and dynamic file linking (all in 1968!). If you’ve never watched the videos of the demo, definitely check them all out.

However, what’s often left out was an equally-important input device opposite the mouse, the chorded keyboard. Using this input, the user could type and issue key commands using only one hand. This left the other hand free to navigate with the mouse. Unfortunately, since there’s a pretty steep learning curve to using a chorded keyboard, it never really caught on.


A chorded keyboard works by using combinations of finger presses to signal a keypress (for example, pressing both the first and second finger down simultaneously might send an “A”, while pressing the first and third finger down might send a “B”). With 5 fingers, there are 32 possible binary combinations. Leaving out the rest state (all off), and a drag state (all on), we have 30 useful mappings. With 26 letters, that even leaves a few for high level text commands (such as space, delete, and enter).

Engelbart Chorded Keyboard touch screen interface by Teague Labs

As designers, we all know that on-screen soft keyboards are cumbersome and rather slow to use due to their lack of physical texture and haptic feedback. And with the continual rise of touch screens on phones, tablets, and laptops, we got excited about giving the chorded keyboard another chance!

Here’s what makes this little keyboard so exciting:

  • One handed use.
  • Bring it up anywhere by putting down all 5 fingers.
  • Large hit area per key (since there are only 5 keys to press) allows for blind/touch-typing operation.
  • Contextual feedback to make learning easier (possible letters are shown at each level).
  • Drag anywhere by pressing all 5 fingers down and moving your hand.
  • Cancel a mid-phase chorded keypress by pressing all 5 fingers.
  • Issuing keypress on touch-up allows users to type at any speed.


Ok, enough build-up. :) If you have a tablet (android or iPad) handy,
give the chorded keyboard a try here!

Of course, this project is completely open source for you to play with and build upon. View the html and javascript source code directly in the demo to see how it works and incorporate it into your own projects.