The Common Touch

The Common Touch is a project being realized jointly at ENSAD in Installation & relational devices research group, at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology in Ubiquitous Interaction Group and with Teesside University as a partner. It is part of the CALLAS european research project.

The Common Touch was presented at the Pervasive 2010 workshop on Designing for Crowds (position paper).


The Common Touch draws on the analogy between political revolt and advertisement in their use of the affective engagement of crowds.

The Common Touch - i.e. figuratively, the ability to appeal to ordinary people - is a large interactive wall that is meant to be installed in a street as the window of a shop. Common words of an incomplete sentence are displayed in a conspicuous way on the screen. It appeals to the passer-by, who lightly touches the wall and notices that the touch not only reveals hidden words, but also makes another sentence appear. Seeing this person interacting with the wall, other passers-by stop and begin to touch the new sentences to reveal hidden words. They are soon overwhelmed by slogans and trying to touch them all. To drive the type of slogans displayed, the affective expressions of the group - derived from multimodal tactile, video and audio inputs - are exploited by the installation like in an advertisement or a charismatic oration. Both the crowd and the installation contest for the control of the display.

Scketch of the display Users raising hands during experiments

As they are compelled to interact by their curiosity, passers-by form a group of engaged people with their hands raised, revealing advertising slogans conveying an idea of demonstration, protest or revolution, e.g. "Be the revolution of you" (Nike and Foot Locker), "Impossible is nothing" (Adidas) or "Think Different" (Apple). The group becomes part of the scene of controlled demonstration that is presented to the passers-by, bringing The Common Touch to its meaning.

Latest prototype

Making Of

First prototype

Touching anywhere on the white surface reveals the black surface underneath. Sometimes touching also reveals slogans. Revealing a part of a slogan makes a new slogan appear.

Second prototype

Here the display is more uncluttered than before. Also it deals with larger number of slogans, in french and english. Touching the hidden parts of slogans reveals a word. If possible, it also makes a new slogan appear, everytime away from the initial touch and mostly above it, in order to coerce people to raise their arm.

Third prototype

In this version, another level of interaction has been added for exploration: events, e.g. touching with several fingers and hands revealing the whole slogan, make the slogans movable but still attracted to the top so that people are coerced to raise their arm. In addition, the size of a slogan is function of its altitude on the screen.

Fourth and latest prototype

In this fourth version, the system's speech recognition and output text are made to work with the english language. The screen is also significantly bigger and can accomodate more people. Moreover, the affective side of the installation is fully functional, e.g. when the group show more positive affective expressions, slogans displayed are more positive.


The Common Touch on the CALLAS website

The Common Touch on EnsadLab website