28/03/2018Comments are off for this post.


This modular structure can provide an alternative to storytelling with picture-books. Images as cards are placed in the frame to form a sequence, a storyline. These illustrations can be readymade (e.g. Snow White in 20 pictures) and completed with live narration – or anyone can insert their own stories. Papercut (or woodcut, like the frame) illustrations can be even projected on the wall with a flashlight. It can be a tool to create and tell stories alone or in small groups. The structure can be assembled according to the number of illustrations.

17/08/2017Comments are off for this post.

Shenzhen: the work part–CHIC, episode 9

The PCB's from Genève

When we started the work in Shenzhen, we made a quick planning about where we wanted and could get with ShuQi. And even though life happened, we advanced well enough. Our dedicated workplace was x.factory, sometimes Seeed Studio (mostly for the engineers), and we also used the hotel room, which seemed as huge as a ballroom after experiencing the matchbox-like spaces of Hong Kong.

Very similar!

Our product is a lovely bird, ShuQi, that helps forgetful individuals to stay on top by making sure they have everything they need for that day. ShuQi can check when called whether all the necessary objects, marked with an RFID-sticker, are in the bag, and can tell what is still missing from the list. The UI is a smartphone application communicating with the device via Bluetooth. You can see more at this link.

Loïc’s first task was to finish and print another 3D model, testing different materials and coatings. After finishing the files, he rushed to help the engineers because there was much to do. The engineers have ordered a new version of our PCB from Seeed Studio, which was there upon our arrival, but was missing some holes and components, so they had to start over. However, the pick and place machine was only for orders of at least 50 pieces (although they only disclosed this information to the head organiser, Marc Laperrouza, our team was left to believe there is no machine and no solution.) Placing the 94 components on the 40x90 mm PCBs by hand is not something our team was expecting or prepared to do.

You can read a non-engineer-friendly and more detailed account of this incident from Tabea here. In the end, a Chinese worker with an impossibly steady hand saved the day.

This issue, and some other unfamiliar/not working equipment was our biggest challenge during the trip, causing a headache in addition to the one in some stomachs. (About half of the whole group came down with food- or AC-related issues at some point, justifying our stay at an expensive hotel.) And then it was a great Sunday gift to pick up the (only partially mixed up) final prints. The alert came on WeChat of course.

As for the interaction design, we (Camille Scherrer & me) deleted a not-so-important function and also pushed the app’s visual language in a clearer direction, which I will finish back in Geneva. I was sorry that no capacity was left to connect the UI to, well, anything, as our team had no software engineer. Somehow CHIC was not very popular among students of HEPIA. Maybe our new poster will help for next year!

During the trip, our presentation deck also had a makeover. The storyline for the strong brand got clearer and we could insert the new renderings of the object. The technical drawings also got a visual upgrade so the audience can now actually decipher it.

Part of the work was trying out different presenting situations, some turned out even more adventurous than intended by our organisers. Once we found out when stepping on stage that it’s just 2 minutes and no slides, which was sad as it would have been the first time to test the new slides. Apparently, the already set up projector was just for the event organiser’s self-marketing.

Everyone in the team had to be on stage at least once, which we completed the first time. However, 5 people and visuals were too much, so for the rest, only 3 of us took the microphone. Tabea was always there, because she is a natural and the business person, Axel enjoyed presenting and I did it because I am still scared of presenting. I can also totally blank out and not remember anything that I wanted to say, which got better as our pitch got more and more familiar also to us.
Pitching at HAX

The first pitch (after the one only for CHIC) was at Makerbay. The most formal one was at the Sino-Swiss Industrial Parc, the most dynamic at HAX, and we got the most questions at x.factory. And the most relaxed was the last one, when we showed the (mostly) finished prototype to the other groups, knowing the work in Shenzhen was over.

Instead of some grand conclusion which I don’t have, I will close this post and the whole series by saying thank you everyone who took part in the project.

To Gordan Savičić and Camille Scherrer and the supervisors of the others for the opportunity, their help and feedback during and between milestone presentations and for the last sprint in Shenzhen. To Lysianne Léchot Hirt for making the organising appear smooth and carving out space for CHIC next to other HEAD projects.

To EPFL, especially Marc, Pablo, Bérénice and Damien for realizing this project and minimizing the organisational chaos that we would inevitably encounter in China. To Elle and Violet, our local contacts at x.factory and Seeed who made navigating in the makerspaces and in the city so much easier. And even though we only met the EPFL teams for a very brief time, it was nice to see them too.

To Team Fribourg and Team Ticino, because the more the merrier, and for all the ‘us too!’ moments when we were blocked by this or that.

And to Team Geneva: Axel Collet, Tabea Estermann, Loïc Fankhauser and Adrien Taboada Cid.

Even though we were a randomly assembled group thrown together in stressful situations (like the ideation and not finding each other at various malls in Shenzhen), we stuck it out until the end and had fun while also meeting the goals. And especially to Tabea whose energy level will never cease to amaze me or motivate us to keep up the good work. And also for feeding us on both continents.

Good luck to all of us for graduation now or next year!

06/07/2017Comments are off for this post.

Bangkok — CHIC episode 2

Bangkok–CHIC episode 2

The greatest trick to Thailand (anywhere, but here it’s absolutely vital) is to treat each part of our day and our stumbling around as part of the sightseeing and not try to get from one place to the next.

Because we won’t, surely not how and when we imagined. Public transport is still a mystery, and the distances are huge, bus stops are rarely signed, and no itinerary or timetable is to be found. Uber was so far the most reliable, as the price was clear and the car had AC, even if that meant giving up consumer ethics for this week.

Real planning is not efficient here, so our days are mostly series of images and moments, like when the history museum was already closed (it was open, but there were no more guides), which left us snacking and talking about how stupid are passports and borders (imagine M.I.A. — Borders in the background). Or when we found a lovely bookshop, run most probably by someone who lived for a while in the US based on his accent. 3 monks were peacefully and quietly drinking their coffee there, which seemed like a good recommendation.

Our biggest luxury spending here is coffee, which equals to our lunch meals, as it’s approximately the same price as in Italy. There are some local variants of course, but I reserve my experimentation for the numerous street food places where we usually eat, the spices probably disinfect us too.

The evenings were spent either at the couch surfing meetup (where are the girls?), the evening market for tourists with blasting music and cheap clothes, or a high-end bar with live music and local guests, who did not appear to be of legal drinking age.

And we had our first huge rain that got us stuck at Jim Thompson’s House, which is a museum. Thompson revived international silk trading in Thailand. He seems like a beloved figure, if a little eccentric. As a businessman, he sticked to cottage-based production, mainly by women, and as an architect, he built his home here to live among his Asian art collection.

After the formidable rain, we also had our first success with public transportation: we took a boat — we already got soaked, it couldn’t get much worse. The canal gave a view of backyards and half-open rooms of haphazard construction, which clashed with the view of the skyscrapers behind them, which was how I visually imagined Bangkok. What I did not see before was that almost everyone operating the boat would be a woman. They were effortlessly jumping-gliding in flip-flops between the shore and the boat at stops. And how we found a boat? A nice gentleman in military uniform helped us out, as Google and local signs failed us, though I still love the Thai alphabet’s typographic rhythm and pattern.

Don’t show your feet to Buddha — or don’t ride? We will never know

Of course we went to the Grand Palace, it would have been really awkward to come here and miss it. Due to the intense heat and the even more intense crowd we just followed the short version with crowds of Chinese tourists, while avoiding the mourners of the king. Next to the palace there were places of real prayer and worship, and the Emerald Buddha (from jasper) also drew real believers, but I hope to find places that still feel sacred and I don’t have to navigate between so many selfie-sticks.

They had an interesting business model at the entrance of the Palace, where they sent back nearly all tourists to buy some more clothes to cover up: a shirt with longer sleeves, long skirt or pants, hats, etc, and some stores were conveniently located just there. Apart from the sarcasm, we could have thought of this ourselves beforehand if our heads were not melting off our necks in the sun, and this gave some kind of uniformity to the crowd.

Chinese and Thai Buddhist temples

And there were other places where Buddhism is still practiced. Amid the noise and easy-to-follow beat of Chinatown we found a Chinese Buddhist temple where people drop by to pray to a massive amount of cheap-looking Buddhas in different sizes and shapes, some still from the ascetic period of the prince.

In a Thai Buddhist temple an extended family was taking pictures with a distinguished-looking monk, in different group settings and alone, with 2 professional cameras. The temple was beautiful with an authentic look and soul, and it’s still used apparently.

The touristic Golden Mountain’s main attraction was definitely the view of the city. The altar did not command silence, did not feel spiritual, however the mountain itself was impressive. The first time we accidentally tried going up the wrong way, so we also saw the tiny cemetery behind it, which turned out to be a dead end (pun intended, sorry). Also I’ve met the biggest insect of my life, the Godzilla of centipedes.

My biggest question though: what are the mirrors for in the temples?

The Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace was, among many other things, placed between two huge mirrors. Instead of being a tool for vanity and more at home in palazzos than churches, does it stand for self-reflection here? Anyone?

03/07/2017Comments are off for this post.

Geneva–Bangkok — CHIC episode 1

Today, I’m leaving the 'Western world' for the first time. I have been across the ocean in the US, but never on other continents— after 25 years it’s about time. With some fellow students, we had the amazing opportunity to develop a prototype for a connected device (smart object/gadget/talking plant/flying giraffe/just kidding) in Hong Kong and Shenzhen (http://chi.camp/). We prepared, planned, and now it’s here. Although not yet, as us girls leave a little bit before (thanks EPFL for the flexible plane dates!) to stretch out our sore keyboard muscles in Thailand before the last sprint.

Looking back, there were probably many things we could have done better during the year, the teamwork, timing, quicker iterations, more testing, etc, but I feel we did a pretty good job nevertheless. Throwing together 5 random people with no fixed idea is a rocky start, and we handled it pretty well. Also a big thanks to our supervisors and coordinators at HEAD and EPFL — we have no complaints. And of course to the team members, who did their best not just for themselves, but for all of us.

All we want now is some extra confidence and energy (about 120%) so we can fully take in and enjoy the crazy ecosystem that is Shenzhen, the pitches, the iterations, no sleep, no English. And we will. Have fun, Team Geneva!