What if your seat grumbled in displeasure when you sat down, giggled when you tickled it, or tweeted at you when it was lonely? Talking furniture is the fodder of children’s cartoons and science fiction, but a team of Finnish gaming researchers is trying to make it a reality.
With an aim of exploring the intersection between work and play, The University of Tampere’s Game Research Laboratory created MurMur: five individual cushioned seats fashioned out of IKEA products with five distinct personalities. Mur is grumpy, wise but easily frustrated. Mus is goofy, always happy and social. Muh is a mellow daydreamer lost in thought, while Mut is sensitive and easily frightened. Mum is the shy one, silent and modest but always kind and friendly.
When they get bored, they’ll begin talking to each other, maybe send a tweet, and then drift off to sleep, each dreaming in a theme corresponding to its personality — Mum, for example, dreams of blue oceans and waves. They contain a number of sensors to track sound and movement, along with a wi-fi connection to access social media.
MurMur wasn’t conceived as a toy, but that didn’t stop kids from jumping at the chance to interact with the fuzzy things at last week’s Maker Faire in Rome. The furniture complained of dizziness.
One researcher involved in the project said there was interest in commercializing MurMur at the Maker Faire, but no firm plans have been discussed. Frans Mäyrä, a professor who runs the project, explained that the workplace of “gamer generations” cannot separate digital services from physical environments.
The productivity-oriented monoculture of work is obviously also at the end of its road. … According to some previous research, playfulness reduces the effects of stress, promotes creativity and social bonding. We consider this to be a really important aspect to implement in the workplace of the future.
Photos via Game Research Laboratory.