“From Mind to Reality” Workshop

The week of May 2nd we experimented a new workshop format, engaging students with different backgrounds – Communication Design, Product Design, Design & Engineering – asking them to design and prototype an object able to make live data streams “tangible”.

The aim of the workshop was to experiment the potential of combining rapid-prototyping techniques with information visualization knowledge, trying to go beyond the “flat” nature of information visualization.

Each students team identified a live datasource (e.g. personal social network feed, real-time environmental data, personal services…) and created a tangible experience of the data exploiting the potential of materials, structures and shapes.

Students had at at their disposal the Polifactory space and machineries (3D-printers, CMC laser cutters etc.).

Despite the short time at disposal, all the groups managed to create a working prototype connected to a data stream. Below you can see the results.

I would like to thank Fondazione Politecnico for having made possible the workshop, and Polifactory staff for their active support to students, and for the spaces. Finally i want to thank Monica Bordegoni and Marina Carulli who co-tutored the workshop with me.


Each group developed a working prototype, and we asked to create a shor video presenting the project. below you can see the results.


BeWave is a weather station that literally shows sea conditions in real time. It’s a design product made for surfers from all around the world: thanks to its dedicated app, it is possible to turn on the device and set the location and if you want real time data or forecast. Using a live stream of data from www.magiseaweed.com, a portal for surfers, BeWave shows wave height and period (paddle movements), wind speed and direction (neopixel ring) and tide height (neopixel strip).
Chiara Riente, Kacper Pietrzykowski, Lorenzo Positano, Maria Elena Besana, Marius Hölter


Our product helps to find the most popular and crowded party-club in real time exploiting the tracking of the tweets that contain the name of the locals.
The object is composed of:
– A wooden base that contains the circuits and the cables;
– A wooden map of Milan, produced with the laser cut;
– A 3d printed scaled buildings placed on the real place on the map, and inside of them there are the leds;
The number of tweets is visualized through the blinking of colored leds: the more a club is tweeted, the more the leds blink fast.
Carlo Colombo, Erika Inzitari, Hanife Hicret Yildiz, Maarja Lind, Piero Barbieri


We created SpotiLights, which is inspired by classic disco balls. It is designed to make house parties more engaging by exploiting actions people are used to do during parties: SpotiLights changes its behavior according to what people do on Spotify and Instagram during a party. House owner just creates a Spotify playlist and shares it with his friends. After that, every time someone adds a song to the shared playlist, the leds’ color changes, based on the color assigned to that person. The more songs added to the playlist, the faster the blinking of the leds. In addition, everytime somebody posts a photo on Instagram using the hashtag “#SpotiLights”, the spinning speed of the inner solid increases.
Ghazaleh Afrahi, Jennifer Monclou, Lucia Cosma, Pietro Cedone, Sebastian Forero Hernandez


Twogethere is a clock, made for any couple of people living in the same house, that works thanks to geolocalization. Following the distance of the connected mobile phone, it shows the transfers of a person, who is moving from home or coming back, by the hands. The maximum angle is 180°, that stands for a fixed distance, that could be defined as a city area.
While on the right half the clock marks distances, the left side is a lamp. Its intensity increases when the person is coming back home, meaning that a further distance from it corresponds to less light. When the hand is getting closer to 0° it emits a sound in order to catch the attention.

Carola Barnaba, Chiara Bonsignore, Delin Hou, Eyleen Carolina Camargo, Qiji Ni


Historically, personal finance could be a matter managing the cash in one’s wallet or purse and withdrawing more from an account when it was depleted.
With the advent of the credit card, debit card, paypal and other electronic payment systems, personal finance has become less and less tangible as it becomes more integrated with digital communication and online commerce. It is quite simple to now spend more then intended or have transactions go unnoticed. Our aim is to reconnect the physical world to one’s sense of their personal finance.
We hope to do this by visually and physically demonstrating for an individual their expenditures over the course of one week. to achieve this we will us thousands of small spheres to represent the funds in one’s budget. 1 sphere = 1 euro. A large reservoir of “budget” will be allowed to flow out according to the rate of one’s spending. Not only will one’s expenditures be demonstrated for the seven days, but each day will be individually quantified in “daily” vials and made available for relative comparison at the end of the week. To do this we will use some of the same technologies that helped to remove tangibility from personal finance.
The process begins when our user makes an electronic transaction of some kind. A data stream is created beginning with the users bank, which is configured to provide notifications of any banking activity. This notification contains information related to the time of the transaction, the amount withdrawn and the balance remaining in the account. The message alert is configured to arrive at a web-based mail parsing service hosted by mailparser.io . A rule parses the email for the amount withdrawn and makes it available through an API along with a unique ID code that is used to identify the transaction.
Our device will consist of a reservoir of spheres positioned above a carousel of 7 vials, one representing each of the days of the week. Between the reservoir and carousel is positioned a customized “valve” that precisely controls the deployment of sphered from the “budget”. The carousel motion is actuated by a servo as is the valve. A third servo acts to agitate the spheres and aid in operation.
A NodeMCU running the arduino boot loader provides direct control of all three of the servo motors. Upon powering, the NodeMCU attempts to connect to it’s familiar wireless network. Once a connection is established it immediately connects to a NTP time server to establish the current day of the week. Once this is complete the carousel’s position is set. At this point an Http library and GET function are used to connect to our API at mailparser.io. If a new transaction is detected the value of the expenditure is read and the appropriate number of spheres are deployed. Once complete, the day of the week and API are continually monitored for any updates.


Davide Pedone, Lorenzo Piazzoli, Michael Barocca, Oliviero Spinelli, Pietro Tordini


@the_polifactory NIDO’s LED lit bulbs represent friends on #socialmedia. Colors are set according to their feelings based on hashtags.

Andrea Lacavalla, Beatrice Gobbo, Jelena Milutinovic, Karen Rodriguez, Michele Invernizzi


Unstable is a domestic object designed to help people, who daily spend a lot of time working on laptop, to control their working sessions.
The idea came from a personal and daily experience, all of us is used to stare at the screen for many hours losing the track of time, but for our health, especially for our eyes, this is not good at all. In fact, there are work policies that say you should have a 15 minutes break every 2 hours of work.
Unstable has the aim to make you realize when it’s time for a break, making you impossible to keep working, because after 2 hours it automatically turns unstable.

Giulia Piccoli Trapletti, Laura Toffetti, Maddalena Bernasconi, Matteo Montecchia, Riccardo Gualzetti


Sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity and it’s a growing problem in our society.
In order to fight this bad habit, we connected a stool with personal movements data: if the user doesn’t reach a defined amount of steps, the stool will react by changing shape.
Lazarus, our smart stool, changes it’s flat surface into a series of solids with different heights, this uncomfortable configuration both shows the user that he’s moved too little and forces him to stand up and move.

Carlo Alberto Giordan, Lucrezia Lopresti, Luobin Huang, Mauro Abbattista, Xiaoqian Liu


Pollenair is a pollution awareness lamp.
The product alerts who owns it about the condition of a city’s air.
The lamp portraits four distinct emotions. Its mood swings are represented by different positions and colours.
Pollenair allows you to know if your city is being eco friendly without even opening your window.
From the data source, the information is collected and transmitted, in live streaming. With the keyboard you can choose a city and compare the numbers of pollution around the world.

Camila Borrero, Chang Ge, Chiara Cirella, Inês Filipe, Prateek Chopra

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