the Futurator

photo credit: Lance Shows

The futurator is a discarded 1950's refrigerator, reincarnated as a hopped-up, high-tech super appliance: a video-capture device designed to elicit and record stories about our future and the future of technology. Large American appliance manufacturers are trumpeting the arrival of "smart kitchens." The Futurator is going to give them what they are asking for. . . well, sort of.

The futurator, at its grandest, seeks to realign the visions of the large organizations developing the technologies of the future with the visions and desires of the people who will actually have to use them. The futurator, at its most humble, provides people with an opportunity to play and tell stories.

The futurator uses a combination of state of the art technology and sandbox play therapy to encourage people to play while telling their stories. The refrigerator was chosen as the form factor of the unit because of its familiar quality as food storage container, family nerve center and its enigmatic position in the future of technology development. Large American appliance manufacturers are trumpeting the arrival of internet appliances, in the literal sense, to a mix of rave revues and ridicule. The 50’s represent idealism about the future and injects an element of critique into the vision of a technology driven utopia.

The refrigerator is a comfortable, human scale device. People already have a relationship with the refrigerator so they are more likely to approach and explore the futurator and leave their stories. Its electronic augmentations are subtly integrated and, where possible, the refrigerator’s original controls are augmented and repurposed. The futurator doesn’t need to showcase all of its technological wizardry, it needs people to feel comfortable so that they will stay and tell their stories.

The futurator creates multiple levels of interaction between device, user and the public. When idle, the futurator acts as an oracle playing back previously recorded stories about the future. Stories are weighted so that newer stories are more likely to be played than older ones. When the door is opened, the futurator engages the user and briefly explains itself. Simple operating instructions are also displayed on the small monitor inside the futurator. The mood of a story can be set by adjusting the thermostat wheel that changes the color and location of the stage lighting as well as the tone of voice in which the futurator speaks to you
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