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This project is inspired by how chameleons and fireflies use color and light to communicate. We developed this new way of non-verbal communication for long distance relationships. Drawing on the touchpad and seeing through the hologram, we tried to create a feeling of togetherness for couples who are separated by distance through this collaborative interaction.


3 Weeks


Davon Larson

Tao Zhang

Raksha Ravimohan




Laser Cutter






User Testing

Design Process

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This is the final project for the class Ideation and Prototyping. We work in a group of four to explore biomimicry and invent a physical prototype that users can interact with. The final deliverables include 2 early prototypes and 1 final prototype, a 15-min presentation at The New York Times (where our professor works as a product designer), a 2-min process video and a 2-page paper. 


Since the project is about biomimicry, we started from brainstorming animals and their interesting traits. Among them, we all agreed that chameleons and fireflies, color and light, are the areas that we wish to further explore. 

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Preliminary Research

We didn't come up with an exciting idea right away. Therefore, we decided to go back and do more research chameleons and fireflies. Then we found that 'chameleons change color' and 'fireflies make light' are both emitting social signals, one to reflect mood, and the other to mate. This helps us to achieve a direction, social communication, to apply color and light with biomimicry.


We then started ideation how we can do to use color and light in social communication. We then organize our ideas according to how excited we are about the idea, and how feasible it is according to our time, skills, and the project requirement. 


Pepper's Ghost

We also discovered Pepper's Ghost which is a illusion technique used in early theater. It creates a hologram effect through projection. We found this very interesting and decided to integrate this into our idea.

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Initial Idea

Therefore, we decided that we are going to make pepper's ghost light where long-distance couples each have one. Then by touching the light, they can send messages such as "I love you". Depending on how they touch the light (number of taps and long-hold), they can send different messages, and their partners will see the message through their pepper's ghost light and know their partners are thinking about them.

First Prototype & User Testing

First Prototype

We created the pyramid in different sizes and shapes to try out the measurements. For the messages, we used the gif of heart, firework, and fire, multiply and transform for the pyramid hologram projection. 

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User Testing

We asked users to interact with the prototype by tapping and observed how many times user tapped the prototype. Then our teammate who was controlling the server changed which gif to show on the page. 

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However, users can hardly understand the idea, why it will help long-distance relationships, and what gifs are trying to express.

Second Prototype

We aim to make what is shown in the hologram more expressive, engaging and interactive. Therefore, we went to and checked out different particle systems and drawing machines. We then changed the preset gifs into a canvas where users can create their own patterns. Also, we decided to increase the size of pyramid and use it on iPad to have a better projection. 

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Final Prototype

After we had a trial on the measurements of the pyramid, we moved to acrylic. Also, we further set up the server using Node.js and p5.js to allow multiple users to draw on the canvas at the same time. 

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The pink and blue stroke each stands for one user.


1) Art VS Product 🎭

In this project, we received many questions such as "why don't just send your partner a message?" and it was a question we were concerned and struggled along the  journey as well. Then I start to think about more about the difference between art and product. I have to say, right now our prototype is more 'artistic' than 'useful'. However, I am positive that it has much space to explore and to benefit people.

2) More expressive content 🎨

In the current version, we can only create very simple patterns due to our timeframe. As Google Tilt Brush and more and more  AR/VR applications are developing fast, I am looking forward to see more complicated, meaningful, expressive paintings to be created and viewed. 

3) Sociability 🙌🏻

Right now we envision it to be used for long distance relationships. However, I can see a broader possibility in to convert it into a co-production social media. 


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