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Tassiopeia – Interface for long distance rituals

Interaction Product

Tassiopeia – Interface for long distance rituals


Tassiopeia is an communication device for long distance relationship. Using a mug as a vessel for a joint morning ritual it transfers touch patterns from one mug to the other. A subtle and haptic solution for creating an intimate relationship when actual physical touch is not possible.


Our journey began like many projects in the last two years with the current pandemic situation. Many of us are distant and miss close contact. To prevent the spread of the virus, communication forms like video and writing became essential for our social interaction. Therefore, we developed a solution to support real human interactions and relationships.  Long distance communications were mostly audiovisual, while it is common knowledge that we need physical contact with other people.

Our initial question was straightforward: can tactile stimulation enhance the emotional and intimate connection between people?


We were inspired by tactile projects and products like “inFORM” by Daniel Leithinger*, Sean Follmer*, Alex Olwal, Akimitsu Hogge, Hiroshi Ishii, the “Friendship Lamp” by LuvLink, “Mobile Feelings” by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau or “skinofon” by Márta Csige that either connect people over long distances or enhance some kind of physical interaction.

We discussed ideas and bigger questions we wanted to tackle. We then boiled it down to a concept we could focus on. For example, we asked ourselves questions like: What is a good hug? How can we maintain eye contact in videocalls? Does touch always bring intimacy? And which rituals do we use that are connected to touch?


With 10-second GIFs as pretotyping method we explored first prototypes. Some were related to existing products, such as smartphones. Some others proposed using a flexible “skin-like” material like silicone or rubber to achieve an organic feel and flexible interface.

The initial situation

Just picture this: Anna and Luis are having a distant relationship as many did in times of Covid 19. Anna has just woken up and is still lying in bed. The mug, always placed on her bedside table, suddenly awakens. Luis has just started their morning coffee ritual. Anna accepts the invitation and prepares herself a coffee. Afterwards, they can enjoy their coffee together without being in the same place physically.

So how can they enjoy it together?
Let’s find out!

The User Flow

The user flow is straightforward. Luis initiates interaction by touching the mug, which provides him with tactile feedback. Anna’s mug is activated (Lightsignal), and Luis fills the coffee in the mug with a wavy motion pattern. He tilts the mug to drink from it with a motion pattern simulating the tilt. As soon as Anna touches her mug, Luis gets a signal as well.

Technical Prototype

Version 1

Our first prototype was build on the basis of a plumping pipe in which we cut holes for our pistons. That was the easiest solution to solving the space we had left just to get the interaction right. Although you cannot drink out of this prototype it might be just a first step towards this and shall stand for a more talkative approach. It had also the idea of flexibel material surrounding the prototype to make it more pleasing to touch.

Version 2

In the second prototype, we returned to the initial concept and considered the optimal shape for the mug. A model was created in Fusion 360 and the various components were assembled to produce a more integrated prototype. This required the involvement of two prototypes.

The recently developed prototype now incorporates different outputs.

  1. Tilt display – When the other mug is touched, the mug displays the tilt of the first mug
  2. Wake Up – When the other mug is touched or used in any other way
  3. Direct Translation – It transmits the touch intensity to the other mug


The design team was inspired by matte-finished products that have some kind of story or character. Simplified Animal Faces, for instance, would contribute to the pareidolia effect, which describes the effect of humans seeing faces in nearly everything.

A turtle shell was chosen as the base material, and a prototype was formed and evenly bulbous, as seen in prototype 2. The hexagon shapes were inspired by the shell.


The outcome of the project “Tassiopeia” was a prototype with functional an aesthetic aspects. The body of the mug was designed in CAD and 3D-printed

Key Takeaways

1. Split tasks for each team member and set small, actionable goals to achieve.
2. Conduct early user testing to identify any issues.
3. Online settings can be challenging for a project, so plan ahead.
4. For further progress, combine quick experimentation with syncs with tests.


We would like to conduct user testing with prototypes to gather valuable feedback on the future outlook for the project. This feedback will inform the refinement of the prototype, focusing on improving usability of the concept. Iteration will be key, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation to better meet user needs and preferences.


Credits: 3D Visualizations by Leon Moehring


Creating an absurd automation for an everyday thing

  • Date

    January 15, 2021

  • Skills

    Interaction Design, C#, Prototyping, Arduino

  • Client

    Köln International School Of Design

  • Tags

    ai, headphone, loud, machine-learning, sound, trigger

  • Team:

    Leon Moehring, Ronja Preuss

Tassiopeia - The UX flow
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