Find Your Way About with a Pair of Spatially Aware Marbles

Find Your Way About with a Pair of Spatially Aware Marbles

BrAInfu is a GPS device that contemplates a future where use doesn't mean dependency

Ido Lechner, Home Editor
  • 8 september 2015

Conceived by 23-year-old designer Sara Vrbinc as a thesis for her visual communication studies at Aalto University, Helsinki, brAInfu might look like an ordinary pair of marbles, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Imagine two small marbles in your hand. One shows where you are right now, and the other marks the location of where you want to go. They would accurately roll regarding the direction you are facing, and through the movement give you hints, to make your way there easier.”

BrAInfu is a ‘design attempt to rethink the relationship we have with smart technology,’ an undoing of dependencies we’ve grown comfortable with having as technology incessantly advances— specifically technology’s replacement of our spatial orientation.

The project essentially looks to reflect on and reverse cognate ‘stupidity’ brought on by ‘smart’ devices by approaching the matter with tangible learning backed by foundational research.

“Interaction with familiar objects in an unfamiliar way supports learning. Tangibility engages all senses and activates memorization.”


The marbles activate in pressing against each other, wherein voice command initiates and prompts you to declare a destination. Once registered, the marbles will roll apart to map the ‘here’ (you) and ‘there’ (end point) coordinates and perform GPS functionality. A ‘Vulcan Salute’ (the Spock) gesture serves to activate or deactivate skin adhesion, allowing the marbles to roll on one’s hand, in accordance with their path, without falling off.

Another gesture (the ‘ok’), achieved by tapping your index finger to your thumb, animates the larger marble—the one that represents your destination—toward a suggested direction. As you near the set location, the marbles will heat up to indicate that you’re ‘getting warmer.’

These functions speak to “insight, planning and decision; in [the] control of a person, and not taken over by AI.”

Utilizing an electrodic surface for the collection of data (excitement signals put forth from our brains) handled by a bio processor, the marbles project schematic representations of locations we’ve visited on our skin, achieved by bending the pinky finger. For additional control over the amount of info layers visible at a time, bend more fingers simultaneously into a paw-shape. Zooming in and out can be achieved by spreading fingers apart and joining them together.


With interest in customized learning and data protection, the design is built upon a concentration on psychometrically generated data rather than an algorithmically predicted model. In this way, bio processing that serves to transmit hasn’t a capacity for storing data, meaning the information gets lost the moment the marbles lose contact with your skin.


Needless to say, this is neither the most intuitive nor efficient way of finding your way around—but that’s the point. The interface facilitates interaction intentionally so as to recall a time when information was serviceable, not overabundant, in preparation of a time where certain information is unavailable at all.

“Imagine your phone dies, you don’t know how to carry on, you don’t actually remember how you got there, and you have absolutely no idea where you are…”

Well, at least you didn’t lose your marbles.


+Aalto University
+Market Research

Capsule Is Reimagining The Pharmacy As A Patient-First Experience

Brand Development june 23, 2017
Gaming & Play june 23, 2017
No search results found.