Connected Living

Finding calmness at home with smart wood

Most smart devices found on the market are designed to make life easier, more convenient and safer - by also becoming complex. But there is also a counter-development. 

Mar 15 2021

The development of smart devices often goes towards more and more functions and the logical linking of devices with each other. The Japanese company mui Lab has now rethought the interface between man and machine and developed the mui Board, a product that lives up to the claim of "Calm Technology". 

Calm Technology: Talk is silver, silence is gold 

Even before the mass introduction of mobile devices, technologists and designers were already thinking about how to design technologies in such a way that constant distraction by one's own tool is avoided.

It is not uncommon for a quick glance at the e-mails on the smartphone to lead to further actions on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, to the use of apps such as Weather Online, Google Maps or the Play Store, a scan of news portals such as Stern, Spiegel and FAZ or even a short shopping excursion on Amazon and Co.  

Only many clicks later does the user realise that he has again spent countless minutes or, in the worst case, hours on actions that were not actually the reason for reaching for the mobile phone. This kind of light distraction often not only has a negative effect on the user's wallet and well-being. It also has an effect on social life. 

This is contrasted by the approach of "Calm Technology". The trend describes what technology must be able to do, but should not do. For example, modern technology should require as little attention from the user as possible. It should be smart, able to communicate, but not continuously "talk" to the user. It should inform the user, but otherwise be "quiet". 

This is also the approach taken by the Japanese start-up mui Lab. They have rethought the relationship between man and machine and developed the mui board, a product that promotes calm and togetherness, but at the same time integrates the advantages of the smart home.

The mui board was launched via a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter. Currently, the board is available in two shades of wood in Japan and the US. However, the mui Lab team is already working on a worldwide shipping system. © mui Lab

mui Board: the quiet interface technology 

At first glance, the mui Board looks like a piece of wood mounted on a wall. But appearances are deceptive: the mui Board is the first intelligent touch panel display system made of wood. It serves as an intelligent "home control hub" and not only enables the linking of various smart home devices, but also has functions such as notifications, light control, messaging or calendar sharing.  

The start-up mui Lab from Kyoto is behind the very minimalist design. In developing the mui Board, the founders were inspired by the Taoist philosophy of "mui shizen", which means "being in a natural state". With their design approach, the young company has conceived a "calm" device designed to create a relaxing, distraction-free digital environment so that every user can enjoy quality time with their family and friends. 

How does it achieve this? Among other things, through the material wood. Wood as a material is present in almost every home. It is natural, radiates warmth and has a special feel. It doesn't feel cool to the touch, has beautiful aesthetics, blends almost seamlessly into any home and is not an optical disruptive factor like the odd black display on the wall. It was not easy for the mui Lab team to turn wood into a touchscreen. 

The founding team around Kaz Oki experimented for a long time with different types of wood and processing techniques before they found a solution that has the advantages and feel of wood, but is just as responsive and clearly readable as a conventional display. The result is the interactive wooden mui board, which is activated by wiping a finger across the surface and, when finished, returns to sleep mode looking like a beautifully polished piece of wood.

Customers can also work on their board themselves: With the special developer kit, which includes a Raspberry Pi, new and original UI/UX services can be developed for the devices. © mui Lab

Hashira no Kioku: size marking on wood 

Since the launch of the mui Board, the start-up has pulled off another coup: the collaboration between mui Lab and Wacom Co, a leading supplier of pen tablets. Together, the companies have lifted a family practice shared across generations into the digital world - measuring the size of one's own children on the wall.

The mui board has been linked to Wacom's technology for this purpose. Parents can place their children on the mui board at regular intervals and mark their child's height on the board using a pen. The board then calculates the height directly after the marking, shows it in a display field and saves the measurement together with a time stamp in the cloud.

Kaz Oki, CEO of mui Lab: "The Hashira system takes data, decodes a wonderful human experience and the emotions behind it, and translates that into a piece of art that highlights the beauty of family life. It aims to enrich the user's memories." A feature which certainly underlines the sense and meaningfulness of "Calm Technology".

Size measurement made easy: Japanese start-up mui Lab has pulled off another coup with

Author: Bernadette Trepte

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