ThingTank is an Internet of Things (IoT) research project that uses a combination of field studies, object instrumentation and machine learning to listen to what ‘things’ have to tell about their shared use, reuse and deviant repurpose, and it harvests these data to inspire idea generation, fabrication, rapid prototyping and business development generation.
The first phase of the project focuses on sustainable home practices. It uses data from instrumented and interconnected objects (such as devices for boiling water) to make design suggestions directly to the owners of these objects by means of in- home 3D printing. These suggestions will likely range from customized designs to unexpected forms and functionalities.
As the objects around us begin to make suggestions about what ‘might be’ desirable, ThingTank aims to interrogate objects to elicit new insights outside of a streamlined process of production still positioned within an industrial paradigm of mass production and concerned with increased efficiency and optimal design.
Instead, ThingTank is concerned with articulating design spaces that might be invisible to the naked human eye, according to a ‘meta-design’ approach where every situation in which things are used and performed is a potential design situation. To listen to the humans we are asking the objects. This comes with new user experiences, new research and design methodologies, and novel ‘thing-driven’ innovation and business models.
ThingTank is a project by the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE) at Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), the Centre for Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), the Active Intelligence Group at the University of Electro-Communications (Japan) and the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (USA).
The project was awarded by the MIT Skoltech Initiative after an international competition against top universities such as Yale, Stanford and Oxford and is funded by the Skoltech Institute of Science and Technology, Russia (2014-2019).