Vaiva Kalnikaitė is a user experience designer / founder at Dovetailed, Cambridge and a senior research associate at University College London. She investigates people’s everyday habits and designs & builds technologies that support or change those. She is particularly interested in exploring behavioural change in the context of creative dining and café culture.
Cafés play host to a wide range of activities and social practices that could be supported or extended technologically. At the workshop, I presented my explorations of how people behave, what they consume and how they interact with one another in a café and showed a design and prototype of an icebreaker cup technology that could potentially make cafés more sociable and our interactions more delightful.
The consequence of the broadening of what people do in cafés now (e.g. Skype someone else in a remote location, work on a document, read a book) means that it is less clear how to engage in co-located socialising. Some cafés provide long tables to provide a ‘honey-pot’ shared space intended for those who sit there to spark off a conversation with others who choose to sit there. However, it is not clear how and whether these work in this manner. Here, I am interested in exploring how these and the other spaces in cafés are used and what role public displays or sound technology might have in facilitating more socialising in them.
At the workshop, Charles Spence shared his research of how sound can enhance taste and talked about people bringing own music tracks to restaurants to match their food and Caroline Hobkinson treated us to a chocolate sprinkled cake-pops and invited us to dial in, and ring one of the two numbers to hear either a bitter or sweet soundtrack in order to amplify those chosen properties in our cake-pops. It was absolutely fascinating to discover that chocolate tastes sweeter when listening to piano music and more bitter when hearing brass tunes.
I am now curious about how tiny sounds emitted in harmony from individually icebreaker cups could trigger conversation between strangers and create a sense of a delightful surprise. One could imagine the interactions that this could spark in places where people are open to social encounters and yet need that initial prompt to interact.
The food served by chef Ben Spalding and his team during the workshop was exceptionally inspirational!