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Audio controls that live on your refrigerator.

At their most basic, Frijlets are a set of audio controls that attach to your refrigerator with magnets. Individual blocks perform specific functions such as play/pause, volume, skip/previous, shuffle, and playlist selection. To work, these blocks must attach to a central Hub, either directly or in chains. Flexible to arrange, they integrate into any refrigerator magnet configuration.

But Frijlets address ‘higher order’ challenges, too.
Like many generations previous, our team was curious about how to reconcile the past with the present. More specifically, we were curious about how to reconcile our analog past with our digital present. This aligned well with a desire for “texture”, which several interview subjects expressed early on in the process. These were folks who appreciated the utility and ease of many digital offerings, but were sometimes turned off by slick casings and the lack of personality in a lot of what is out there. We decided to design for this audience and their kitchens.

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Using the modularity of fridge magnets as a model, we designed Frijlets to be configured and reconfigured in many possible arrangements. We achieved this by drawing on the metaphor of children’s building blocks. Individual functions and groups of closely related functions each take shape as a Frijlet block. The form-factor of each Frijlet echos its function: play/pause/volume is both button and knob; shuffle is a globe that actually requires shaking; and skip/previous is a bobble you push forward or backward.

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  frig_4  frig_3 frij_9


Frijlets connect to each other through an I2C protocol: the Hub is the master and other Frijlets are slaves. Each Frijlet currently contains an ATmega328 microcontroller to facilitate this. The Hub contains an Arduino and an Xbee module that it uses to communicate wirelessly with a laptop running audio-playing software we created. If Frijlets were to go into production, we envision they would be a stand-alone product requiring only wireless speakers.

This project was completed during a one-month Tangible User Interface course at CIID. The brief was to reimagine the home audio experience. We were immediately drawn to the kitchen as multifunctional space conducive to both passive and active listening.

concept design and prototype with Andrew Stock, Umesh Janardhanan.

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