Scroll to top
Get In Touch
c/o Green Garage
4444 2nd Ave
Detroit, MI 48201


Radio Robot

THR_33 – Tea House for Robots (2010)

Plywood, synthetic paper, ABS, aluminum, steel, Arduino microcontrollers, LEDs, speaker, audio, servo motors, sensors, video camera, PC.

9′ (L) x 9′ (W) x 6′ (H)

THR_33 (Tea House for Robots) by rootoftwo and PLY Architecture is comprised of a responsive environment and a group of robotically-enhanced domestic appliances. It was made for the exhibition: ‘Trouble in Paradise/Medi(t)ation of Survival’ at the The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan. This exhibition reflected on developments since the Kyoto Protocol (that in 1997 set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

Imagine if your radio could tune into any frequency that had ever been broadcast. What would we hear?  Imagine if your toaster could remember how you liked your toast, or your entire family’s preferences.  What if your kitchen mixer could prepare ingredients based on downloadable techniques and recipes where you just choose the recipe/technique, add the ingredients and it does the rest?  What if household appliances in the future recharged at solar powered light wells and required time to play in order to learn?

THR_33 imagines all this and proposes that as our appliances become smart we will change the way we live and come to think of them.  In the manner of Jonathan Chapman’s ‘Emotionally Durable Design’ (2005) perhaps we would cherish these products more than the throwaway gadgets we currently create.  In our speculative ‘home of the future’ appliances have evolved to become part of the family.

THR_33 questions how we will relate to these autonomous and responsive environments and appliances.  THR_33 mixes the sophistication of contemporary smart and super phones, with the design aesthetic of iconic industrial products to produce appliances we want to live with. The ‘Robots’ (TST_003, RDO_002, and MXR_011) all have unique traits, behaviors and interactions.  The interactions move between user and object, object and space.

Tea House Skin

The ‘tea house’ structure conforms to the traditional dimensions of a Japanese tea house of 9′ x 9′ x 6′, the space provides a series of interactions between user and space, space and robots.  The tea house “eyes” are driven by the OMRON Smile Scan. The Smile Scan uses OMRON’s OKAO Vision face-sensing technology. This technology relies on facial data gathered from over 1 million people, accumulated through over 10 years of study of the human face.  The system measures the degree of a persons smile from a camera-recorded facial image based on key point movements from 0% to 100%.  In THR_33 this percentage controls how much the tea house “eyes” open.  The tea house skin was laser cut and ‘stitched’ together.  The skin is made from 2 layers of precisely cut synthetic paper pieces that interlock with each other.

Visitors to the Museum checking out THR_33 (Tea House for Robots).

When someone approaches the tea house they are visually scanned by by the OMRON Smile Scan. In THR_33 the degree of a persons smile controls how much the tea-house “eyes” open – so if they are smiling the “eyes” will allow for a direct line of sight between the visitor and the robots. TST_003 is a toaster, RDO_002 is a radio and MXR_011 is a stand mixer. They all have been conceived as sense-enabled robots with speculative features.  All 3 robots are hybrids of vehicles and products: TST_003 = Dualit + Airstream; RDO_002 = Bush TR82 + GM Futurliner and MXR_011 = KitchenAid Mixer + Dymaxion Car. When TST_003 (the toaster) “sees” someone with its passive infrared sensor it will initiate its toasting cycle – it stops roaming and both its toasting drawers extend. Also, the inside of the robot illuminates.

Toaster Robot

When RDO_002 (the radio) “sees” someone with its passive infrared sensor it will play a randomly chosen sound sample from a library of samples of robots from science fiction movies. When MXR_011 (the mixer) “sees” someone with its proximity sensor it will spin away from them (we figured when it is in regular use it would have to mix in one direction only – so in the tea house it would spin whichever way takes its fancy).

Kitchen Mixer Robot

By rootoftwo (John Marshall and Cezanne Charles) and PLY Architecture (Karl Daubmann and Craig Borum).

With help from Osman Khan, Chris Johnson, Westley Burger, Robert Yuen and Taisuke Murakami.

1 comment

  1. To whom it may concern;

    I am contacting you on behalf of Lane Crawford which is the top luxury specialty store in Asia. I am the senior buyer for home and lifestyle area; we have 4 stores in Hong Kong, 1 in Beijing and next year we will have our largest store in Shanghai with an area of 150.000 sqft.

    I am really interested in your project and would love to know in which status you are now.

    Would you mind updating me please?

    Kindest Regards

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.