Objects Sandbox: cultural applications of the Internet of Things

According to recent ABI research, there will be over 30 billion devices all connected to the Internet by 2020. The phenomenon increasingly referred to as “the internet of things” will see a movement away from screens to objects for sharing data and communicating content. The future will not only be connected, but embedded into our physical surroundings.

Objects is the current theme of REACT’s latest round of commissions, a four-year programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Earlier themes addressed Heritage, Books & Print and Future Documentary since 2012.

Six teams made up of academics, creatives and tech entrepreneurs from across the UK have been awarded £50,000 each to develop a prototype of a connected object over the next three months. The REACT Objects prototypes will be completed over the summer and showcased to the public in the autumn.

REACT Executive producer Clare Reddington, said that

“The Internet of Things is a growing rapidly, but a lot of the work in this area has been for the technology and services associated with it. We are interested in working with brilliant academics and creatives to explore how people will interact with connected objects – what will make them useful, magical or beautiful? It’s a brilliant opportunity to break free from the constraints of screen-based content and explore a new language of design that will allow us to consume and share stories in new and physical ways.”

The six selected REACT Objects commissions are:


University of Bristol archaeologists Alex Bentley and Mark Horton and Design Week top 100 agency Uniform, will work with everyday archaeological objects associated with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which affects Bristol to this today. The team will explore how technology embedded in objects rather than screen devices might open up new ways to contemplate and share the stories and culture of the time, making archeological material more accessible while maintaining museum authenticity.


Most relatives who live long distances apart share time with loved ones over what can be flat and broken up video calls. University of Bristol’s Victoria Bates and Kirsten Cater, along with award-winning Product Design Company Kinneir Dufort, are setting out to create a physical story portal, a magical and playful object that will use multi-sensory technologies to link teller and listener through sound, light and touch, giving long distance bedtime stories and family catch ups a whole new magic.

Breathing Stone

Around the world the numbers of people with stress and anxiety is increasing, yet the number of non-medical options to support their needs remains small. University of Bath’s Paul Leonard and Chris Clarke, composer Joseph Hyde and entertainment and healthcare startup, Adaptive Media will create a hand-sized stone that senses heart rate and breath to generate music that reflects and adjusts to the user’s physiological state.


University of Bristol’s Merle Patchett and Andrew Flack and the multi-disciplinary, technology and creation studio, Play Nicely, will bring dusty taxidermy, often consigned to the back of museum spaces, back to life. Curpanion, will assist in curating your own visit and will unlock augmented taxidermy exhibits and enablng you to create your own online menagerie of amazing animals and beautiful beasts.

Fans On Foot

Did Sherlock ‘die’ on this street? Has the Tardis touched down here? Fans regularly travel to the places where their favourite TV and films were made but rely on forums to share location details and plans. Embracing the loyalty and collective power of fan communities, Cardiff University’s Naomi Dunstan and Ross Garner and Technologist Tarim of Media Playgrounds, will develop specially designed jewellery that alerts users to nearby hot spots, guiding them to locations and creating a secret talisman only others fans will know.

The God Article

The Ney is a traditional wind instrument, first played around 4500 years ago in Turkey. It is notoriously difficult to play and few around the world can teach it. Ethnomusicologist John O’Connell, Sonic Art Scholar Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos and User Experience Designer Anthony Mace will develop Ney replicas augmented with breath sensors to enable connected distance learning. With potential for breath sensing and notation in entertainment and healthcare, this unusual project fuses one of the world’s oldest instruments with cutting-edge technology to break new musical ground.

Find out more at: http://www.react-hub.org.uk/objects-sandbox

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