Collaboration with Lara Avram
Professors: Allen Sayegh and Humbi Song
VIS 2223 | Digital Media: Telepresence | Final Project
Harvard Graduate School of Design | Fall 2020
Our project started with a simple inquiry: how do you make a tele-periscope at a global scale? How do you ‘peek around the corner’ when the corner is the Atlantic Ocean (as in our case, since Lara lives in the UK and Erin in the US)
Mirro (with a double r) is a playful take on two 2 realities of today’s remote setting: being on Miro all day to communicate with peers and seeing too much of yourself in the Mirror while in home isolation. So it’s about turning an everyday object we all have, into a tele - communication device - something that feels imbued with someone else’s presence.
Mirro is a mirrored surface that reflects the orientation of someone else – in a metaphorical sense, it is like a periscope at a global scale. Peeking on the other side of the world was never simpler – you just need to rotate Mirro and a tunnel to the other side will appear.
Mirro has 3 basic states: 
1. Reflective (the portal is closed): Mirro acts as like a normal mirror in your room.
2. Infinity Tunnel (the portal is pending connection): Once you touch the box, the mirror becomes see-through, revealing a tunnel that shows the orientation of the other side.  A play of rotating and peeking around the tunnel to see its end culminates in the final state – when the two tunnels align. 
3. the video connection is enabled – allowing the two sides to enjoy each other’s telepresence.
The simple design of Mirro is not immediately intuitive, but its affordances gradually reveal themselves. The delight comes from the process of exploring its responsive interface – a tunnel that actively reacts to your and the other person’s actions. 
As you touch and rotate the box, the tunnel gives an immediate response.  On your side, rotation of the box allows a better view into the tunnel. On the other end – your rotation moves the tunnel’s direction to the side – prompting the other person to adjust the rotation of their box as well, in response.
Video Explanation 
The degree of rotation of the interior servomotor (the one connected to the back mirror) suggests increasing degrees of privacy through the perceived tunnel depth. Therefore, by rotating the box to a certain position you can communicate in a subtle way whether you want or not to connect. The images show an analysis of the rotation range in relation to the visual tunnel effect. This was the result of a long process of prototyping.
We started with prototypes of the periscope movement using mirrors, lasers, and servomotors. This mechanism was later incorporated within an infinity mirror box to create the periscope ‘tunnel’. Each box uses 2 mirrors – one fixed and one movable, in the back.
We then investigated ways to coordinate the two servomotors’ positions – the one connected to the mirror and the one connected to the box. 
On the left, you can see the basic interaction between the two servomotors. As the box rotates on one side, on the other side the back mirror rotates the same angle. With Firefly, a Grasshopper plugin for serial communication, a visual simulation was created which allowed both the virtual and the physical motors to be actuated by the same slider.
An infinity mirror system was used to create the tunnel effect. This is a configuration of two mirrors with a lighting element in the middle. The first mirror is one-way and becomes transparent when the light is on, the second is fully reflective and makes the light bounce back. This created a series of smaller and smaller reflections that appear to recede to infinity, creating a ‘tunnel’. The rotation of the back reflective mirror connected to a servomotor creates the effect of the tunnel moving to the sides.
We both constructed our own portals. This is Lara’s portal. She made her prototype of form core with Lego rotation bearings for the movable mirror. She started to explore what the inside of the box could be in future iterations, by modeling a tiny, paper hidden room within the infinity bounds.
Erin's physical prototype was composed of 100 lbs paper which was cut with a vinyl cutter.  Two circuits were used an LED and a servomotor. The LED lit the infinity mirror while the servomotor rotated the mirror’s angle to distort the portal.
These are the two physical prototypes side by side. Despite using different materials and light sources, both portals successfully show the tunnel effect and orientation.
This is an image of the prototype without its back cover to show the electronics hidden within its interior.
Mirro is a responsive interface that allows you to ‘peek’ inside the other person’s room. The infinity tunnel is a negotiation between a metaphor (of a global periscope) and its affordances (simple rotational movements) – these combined form an element of delight and surprise, as one takes part in a playful game of matching movement and orientation.
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