Created: February 25th, 2019



Trying to intentionally forget certain painful memories isn’t as easy or as simple as clicking “delete” to get rid of a digital file on your computer. Through Connectivitea, users can both help one another cope with their past struggles and form new memories through new connections. By connecting people through the ritual of brewing and drinking tea, a support group of networked acquaintances could create a calm, relaxed setting for meditation and the process of focusing on the present. This approach to letting go of negative memories focuses on providing people a time and setting to talk about these hardships when they’re unsure of who or have no one to speak to.



By starting off each Connectivitea experience with a pre-recorded narrator, users will get the chance to ground themselves on the imminent conversation they’ll have through guided mindfulness meditation that can take as long as one needs. This process would be driven by a palette that connects individuals through a speaker and microphone. Additionally, the pouring of the hot tea onto the tea cup, which sits on the palette, will begin the connection to another tea drinker who has also activated their tea set and is available to connect. By pairing up two individuals who would like to communicate, this would allow for a digital connection with others through meditative and therapeutic means.



Connectivitea was inspired by Nettle, a tea set that also serves as a networked communication device, created by Audrey Fox, an interaction designer. The main objective of Nettle is to help senior citizens build social connections as a way to address the issue of retired, older people becoming unable to maintain social networks and connections in our increasingly more globalized world. Fox intends to spark conversations on the possibilities of thinking different about technology and social interactions: how can technology enable social connections differently, and what’s stopping us from making smart home devices that are as “surprising, beautiful and intuitive as making tea?” Because of the simplicity of the use of Nettle, the focus is on the space and time it creates for one to connect and talk to people in one’s local community.

We wanted to draw from this concept to create a “ritual of letting go” that would also create a space and time in one’s day-to-day to let go of a stressful, sad, painful, etc. memory by talking to someone else over tea. Sharing memories, stories, and feelings with others through talking can be cathartic, which makes it a way for people to deal with their negative memories and move on forward in their journeys to forget the pain, sorrow, stress, etc. that these memories cause. Centering these therapeutic conversations around relaxing tea breaks helps set the mood for a comfortable and safe space for one to become vulnerable through the sharing of memories one wishes to let go of.

In order to further foster a sense of calm within oneself and allow the user to feel more comfortable with opening up to a stranger about a past emotionally-packed memory, we wanted to incorporate a meditation aspect to Connectivitea. We utilized a similar approach to helping one become more mindful of oneself as Headspace does, a meditation and wellness app. While mindful meditation has been shown to “[increase] happiness, compassion, and better health and relationships”, it has the flexibility to be as personalized as one wants it to be. In other words, one can mindfully meditate for as long as one needs and is comfortable with. Through Connectivitea, we incorporated the Headspace idea in the beginning of its use (while the tea brews) in order to help set the mood and environment for the imminent conversation the user will have. This part of the tea ritual intends to allow users to gather their thoughts and feelings to better prepare for the possibly difficult conversations they’ll have.



Describe how you arrived out the outcome. What iterations, refinements, design decisions and changes were made?

      Initially, we wanted the device to have several options for the themes that would be addressed in memories, as well as the ceremonies that would be used in order to encourage the creation of a ritualistic, and grounded interaction. However, this line of thinking was more complex and less feasible than something that could be accomplished within the timeframe that we had been given. There are multiple cultures with different tea rituals, each with different steps and implements. To what extent were we willing to interfere with the natural progression of a discussion, in order to force adherence to the limited interactions which we could foresee? Similarly, allowing more than two to be part of the interaction seemed like it would cheapen the purpose of the ritual. Having too many individuals would decrease the ability of individuals to go in-depth in their discussions during the duration of the tea ceremony. A social network of individuals connecting would detract from the purpose of intimate sharing, and introduce a huge amount of bias that would distract from the central purpose of the concept.

When it came to development of the final device, we thought about the addition of a screen which individuals would use to connect. However, we reasoned that screens might introduce even more distractions during the interactive process. Focusing on the central interaction was the main purpose; two anonymous individuals, only hearing each other’s voices, and going through a ritual of acceptance and forgetting together. This reduced the final function of the device to a few essentials.

A method of turning on the device would be necessary, so it has a switch. We added a small led to signal when certain arrangements had been made on the tea set, as well as to signal different stages of the interaction. For example, it would flash when searching for another user, and then show a steady light when it had finally reached a connection. Every tea ceremony involves the bare minimum of a cup and a kettle, so we included these two basic objects to minimize micromanagement of the process. To measure their arrangements, we added two thermistor sensors to record the temperatures at the designated kettle and cup locations. When the right amount of heat was detected from either device, a recording plays to introduce the user of the tea set to a proper calming mindset before they began connecting. Temperature recordings seemed natural, because actual production of tea is part of the interaction. We added a speaker to demonstrate how communication through the device would work, and to play a recording which would contain an example of the meditative moderator which would guide users through the ritual.


Open Questions and Challenges

With all technological or digital devices come unintended consequences that are just out of our reach or control. For instance, we can’t really control what people talk about or say, how they respond or react, when using the tea set. As such, they may have varying degrees of “success” at letting go of whatever struggles or painful memories they have. Certain conversations might only cause them to fixate more on the past and negativity, instead of helping them move on. The person to whom you’re connected might say things you’re opposed to or disagree with, and conflict may arise in the conversation, leading to more stress and negative experiences. From our part, there is a degree of “trust” we need to place on the users of Connectivitea to use it for what it’s intended to achieve, which prompts us to ask to what extent this method of digitally-mediated forgetting, or ritual of letting go, can truly help a great majority of its users.

Through this tea set, we explore an alternative to how we connect to others around us and explore how we could incorporate technological objects in our daily lives slightly differently than we’re used to to help us with our personal, emotional struggles. However, would enabling physical, face-to-face interaction with someone or limiting social connections to only audio interactions be the best way to help people share negative moments with others as a way to let go of those painful memories? With physical interactions, one could more easily feel connected to another person due to the close physical proximity; seeing someone in person can give people a safer sense of trust in them, since, in a way, it “verifies” their existence and reality. In other words, not really knowing who you’re talking to and having technology limit how much you can see/know from a person could make people feel less comfortable to share things about themselves, especially if those things are very personal. And yet, having some degree of anonymity when talking about personal issues may also provide more safety and comfort. There is therefore a lot that can be explored with social therapeutic methods of letting go of painful memories.

There is also the possibility of having the users actually be able to see each other and connect beyond auditory communication. How would a digital screen projection change this dynamic? Are there other physical means that could enhance (or detract from) the experience of connecting to someone else through the sharing of personal negative memories? For instance, the project inFORM from MIT’s Tangible Media Group explores ways in which people can interact and display information three-dimensionally and physically. This expands the possibilities people have to interact with reality and make intangible things tangible. Further exploring this aspect of the social interaction in Connectivitea would be interesting to see how it could affect the way people let go of their negative experiences. 



While making this tea set, we wondered how much intervention from our part there should be to avoid as much conflict among users as possible and provide for the most helpful method of letting go as possible. Our use of a Headspace-like facilitator voice is an attempt to focus the conversations more on sharing experiences to let go of painful memories. There is also the idea of having a set of questions to help instigate more interaction or a more guided conversation. Jubilee’s “Tea with Strangers” Youtube series is an interesting approach to building social connections with strangers. They used 36 questions that psychologist Arthur Aron wrote, hypothesizing that it could lead them to fall in love. Based on this concept of having guided questions for conversation topics, it could provide Connectivitea users with more conversation topics through which they can connect more intimately. However, controlling or interfering more than is necessary in the way users connect could be more detrimental to their rituals of letting go. It could be more beneficial to the users if Connectivitea allowed them to connect at any point in time during their tea ritual, or if they were allowed their own way to emotionally prepare for the imminent conversation.

Moreover, our project idea has a lot more that can be explored to further develop the concept of letting go of painful memories through sharing experiences with others and creating new memories with them. For instance, one could look into different tea ceremonies, from which we could draw further inspiration to develop how Connectivitea could work differently. The possibility of a more calming mood-setting tea ritual could come from an existing tea ritual from a particular culture.


Attribution and References

Chaykowski, Kathleen. “Meet Headspace, The App That Made Meditation A $250 Million Business.” Forbes, Jan 8 2017,

Fox, Audrey. “Nettle.” 2018,

Ishii, Hiroshi, Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, Alex Olwal, & Akimitsu Hogge. “inFORM.” MIT Media Lab, Tangible Media Group, 2013,

Jubilee. “Tea with Strangers.” Youtube, 2018,

Koumaris, Nick. “Arduino MP3 Player Project.”, 24 Oct 2018,

Puddicombe, A. (2010). Headspace (v1.17.3). Retrieved from

“Student Notable Interaction Award: Core77 Design Awards 2018: Nettle.” Core77, 2018,   


Code for the Tea Set Demo

 * 2 thermistor circuits
 * 1 switch circuit
 * 1 led circuit
 * 1 speaker & mp3 as in example above

/***********************DO NOT TOUCH***********************/

#include "SoftwareSerial.h"
SoftwareSerial mySerial(10, 11);
# define Start_Byte 0x7E
# define Version_Byte 0xFF
# define Command_Length 0x06
# define End_Byte 0xEF
# define Acknowledge 0x00 //Returns info with command 0x41 [0x01: info, 0x00: no info]
int buttonPrevious = 4;
boolean isPlaying = false;

bool is_on = false;
bool is_lit = false;
int last_flash = 0;

int flash_val = 300;
int state = 0;
int tru_volume = 25;
int kettle_input = A0; //thermistor pin
int cup_input = A1; //thermistor pin
int button_input = 2; //button pin
int led_output =  4; //led pin

int timer = 0;
int last_timer = 0;
int last_button_read = 0;

int temp_val = 480;

bool kettle_print = false;
bool kettle_present = false;
int kettle_count = 0;
int kettle_period = 2000;

bool cup_print = false;
bool cup_present = false;
int cup_count = 0;
int cup_period = 2000;

// setup() runs once, when the device is first turned on.

void setup(){

  pinMode(kettle_input, INPUT);
  pinMode(cup_input, INPUT);
  pinMode(button_input, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(led_output, OUTPUT);
  temp_val = analogRead(cup_input);
  mySerial.begin (9600);

void loop(){
  // this is a skeleton, choose when to play your mp3 files, make sure that your miniSD is 100% empty
  // before you use the functions
  if (digitalRead(button_input) < 1){
    digitalWrite(led_output, HIGH);
    if (isPlaying == false){
      isPlaying = true;
  if (cup_present){
  last_flash += 1;

bool cupDown(){

    if (analogRead(cup_input) >= temp_val){
      cup_count += 1;
      if (cup_count > cup_period){
        cup_present = true;
    else if (analogRead(cup_input) < temp_val){
      cup_count -= 1;
      if ((cup_count) < 0){
        cup_present = false;
        cup_count = 0;

bool kettleDown(){

    if (analogRead(kettle_input) >= temp_val){
      kettle_count += 1;
      if (kettle_count > kettle_period){
        cup_present = true;
    else if (analogRead(kettle_input) < temp_val){
      kettle_count -= 1;
      if ((kettle_count) < 0){
        kettle_present = false;
        kettle_count = 0;
void playFirst()
  execute_CMD(0x3F, 0, 0);

void setVolume(int volume)
  execute_CMD(0x06, 0, volume); // Set the volume (0x00~0x30)

void play()

void pause()

void execute_CMD(byte CMD, byte Par1, byte Par2)
// Excecute the command and parameters
// Calculate the checksum (2 bytes)
word checksum = -(Version_Byte + Command_Length + CMD + Acknowledge + Par1 + Par2);
// Build the command line
byte Command_line[10] = { Start_Byte, Version_Byte, Command_Length, CMD, Acknowledge,
Par1, Par2, highByte(checksum), lowByte(checksum), End_Byte};
//Send the command line to the module
for (byte k=0; k<10; k++)
mySerial.write( Command_line[k]);

/********DONT TOUCH**********************************/
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48528 Responsive Mobile Environments

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This 15-week course introduces students to responsive mobile environments and encourages them to explore speculative terrains that intersect art, technology and design and space. Iteratively, intro...more

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