Ixlab Midterm Project: Old Shanghai Encounter, by Tracey Lan

Ixlab Midterm Project: Old Shanghai Encounter


Old Shanghai Encounter, is a project designed in pursuit of recalling old Shanghai memory and history. Old Shanghai Encounter means the encounter with a lady in the scenario we created in our project, and also the encounter with Old Shanghai style and culture.


Crawford wrote in The Art of Interactive Design, interaction is “a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak”. And the definition inspired us to create a story set with two “actors”. We were inspired to design a storytelling process also by active participation games, such as escape room. Our project is more meaningful in terms of culture awareness and protection, providing the experiencers with an outlook of a certain culture (in this case, Old Shanghai culture), instead of just a sense of achievement after escaping the room.

Encounter (https://www.creativeapplications.net/openframeworks/encounter-suspiciously-curious-robotics/), suspiciously curious robotics encouraged me to simulate certain parts of human body to represent the whole. Similar ideas can also be found in Pablo Picasso’s abstract paintings. Therefore, for our project, we used only a hand and a head picture to form our actress.

The Drawing Machine project that we made during one recitation suggested that we should give up on moving the hand which was our original plan, for the hand was heavy and inflexible. It led to a new design: a movable tray, using 3D printed “arm” underneath it to support. It turned out that a smart and swift tray made our project more interesting.

During our user testing sessions, we were leading our users along the testing, telling them where to look at and what to do. But later, I found the article Making Interactive Art: Set the Stage, Then Shut Up and Listen, in which Tim Igoe emphasized that, “Your task in designing an interactive artwork is to give your audience the basic context, then get out of their way. Arrange the space, put in the items through they can take action, suggest a sequence of events through juxtaposition.” Therefore, we decided to go off the original path and work on a totally user-centered design. What we did was adding lights when the user approaches to get his / her attention, creating colorful boards to guide the user, and also shutting up. Of course, our users enjoy the project more after the adjustment, for they accomplish a process of discovery on their own.

To summarize, the research shaped my idea of interaction and what a successful interactive project is like. It gave a bigger picture toward which I was working and also inspirations and encouragements.


Old Shanghai Encounter is a project that invites the users to start a story in an old shanghai bar with an elegant lady. When the user approaches the project, the distance senor will track it and when it gets a fixed number, the fancy neon lights and chandeliers will be turned on, inviting the user to interact with the project. At the same time, one of the two boards will switch from “OLD SH” to “See the lady there? Get her a drink!”.

Then a bottle of wine will be sent to your hand. As you pour the wine to the wine glass, the degree of moisture will be sensed by the sensor. Once it reaches a certain number, the stepper motor will bring the tray on which the wine glass is to the lady’s hand. When the lady “gets” her drink, the other board which is displaying the lady’s face will be switched to a board with “Thank you! 谢谢侬!Come and tell me about you. 顾赖刚刚侬自噶。”.

This is how it works:


We started with the symbols of old Shanghai, elegant ladies, fancy bars and chandeliers against the dark of the night and lighting up the city. We first set up our stage using the printed materials and LEDs, because I’m always more inspired when I have a certain context or several materials to work with. Then we went on to design a scenario: an encounter with a lady in an old Shanghai bar. We bought a hand online and wanted to use motor to move it. But it didn’t work because the hand was too heavy, so we thought of moving a tray. There was still another problem: our 3D printed wine glass was not dense enough and “wine” leaked. We solved the problem by simply putting transparent adhesive tape inside and outside of the glass. However, it led us to another serious question: where to put the moisture sensor so that it’d be invisible but working well. We didn’t solve it quite well, in fact, we hid this problem. I left a small hole un-taped where it was the bottom and let the wine leak along the stem which was placed in the middle of the sensor (the sensor has two feet between which the stem was perfectly fit. And then I used a piece of cloth I found in Cardboard Room to cover the sensor, the foot and part of the stem of the glass.

In all, the path we followed was process-centered and problem-orientated. We improved by solving the problems coming in our way one by one.


Gentrification brings about rapid development in Shanghai but also endangers old Shanghai cultural practices and historical items: they are disappearing every day. Not just culture lovers, but everyone may be worried. We believe a series of projects like Old Shanghai Encounter can be the new and effective means of culture preservation for now and the future, considering that it provides fun interaction with the users. And I would never say our users are only culture lovers, for, cultural preservation is a necessity to every one of us.





The Art of Interactive Design, Crawford. http://s3-ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/ima-wp/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/08/05164121/The-Art-of-Interactive-Design-brief.pdf


  1. Making Interactive Art: Set the Stage, Then Shut Up and Listen, Tom Igoe. http://www.tigoe.com/blog/category/physicalcomputing/405/


One thought on “Ixlab Midterm Project: Old Shanghai Encounter, by Tracey Lan

  1. I only wish the ultrasonic sensor was hidden somewhere.
    You should have also posted the Shanghai inspirational photos you showed us during the presentation. Anyways, I love the aesthetics of the project and the idea is beautiful.

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