The interactive coffee tables are a project that strive to promote collaboration. They do so by encouraging people to bring their tables together. As more and more tables come together, the colors that light the tables become more and more complex and interesting to watch.
For each number of tables put together there is a set lighting effect. When the tables are alone they fade between shades of pink. When paired, they cycle slowly through the rainbow. The lighting of the tables when alone is a balance between aesthetically pleasing and bland. This means despite looking good alone, people are compelled to bring them together.
Our project started based on the idea of making these coffee tables using wood, concrete, and acrylic. Along with this, the models our tables are based of used a core and LED strips to light the tables. The sensors in these models were magnetic field sensors placed along the bottom.
In our first iteration, we used a frame that allowed acrylic to be placed on all sides rather than just on the top like in the previous models. We did this in an attempt to make the tables more interesting to look at. Along with this, our first iteration did not use a core like the earlier models.
This allowed the light to diffuse well and made placement of the electronics simpler. It also provided easy access to the lights. At this point we were planning to make the top removeable as a way to access the electronics. Another key difference between our new design and the older model was the use of NFC sensors instead of magnetic field sensors. These are more reliable and easier to use despite being harder to program.
Our next iteration was similar to our first in that it continued with the frame idea but it did have multiple key differences. We increased the height to make the table easier to sit at and for other practical reasons. We also decided that rather than making the top removable, we would make the top and sides a shell that slipped over a base. The base would be where the electronics were placed. When pursuing this design we came back to using a core to house the lights and Arduino. We continued using LED strips for the lights. We prototyped a core and experimented with the lights we planned on using.
Preceding this design we made a prototype of a new model that would not use a core but would continue on the idea of using a removable shell. This would be achieved by using a wooden base that the frame would rest on top of. The electronics would sit on the base which would also have wheels screwed into the bottom. The lights would be placed on the side which allowed very even diffusion despite a few bright spots. The lights in this design would not be LED strips but rather single RGB leds. This allowed smooth fades between the colors of the lights. To make the lights easy to access, we would connect them to the Arduino using quick-release wires. In this design we also settled on a placement for the NFC sensors. There would be one on each side placed along the bottom.
Our final iteration is similar to previous one with only a few minor differences. It is made using steel pieces for the frame and wood for the base. Using the same concepts for design and electronics, the only difference between it and the iteration that it precedes is the cut out rectangles along the bottom. These rectangles are for the NFC sensors to be placed in. This was an important design feature due to the fact that the sensors would not work through the steel that made up the frame. Our final iteration also uses RGB LED lights.