Modus Cube


March 2018
(2 weeks)


Andrew Shiau
Kristina Rakestraw
Brian Nguyen

My Role

Interaction Design


Adobe Premier Pro
Laser Cutting


An ongoing trend has been to develop open work environments in order to increase collaboration in the workplace. Open working environments are great for sharing ideas, but can be challenging when it comes to effectively getting meaningful work done.

Design Challenge

How might we create a non-verbal communication tool for teams in order to address the cost of interruption and ensure collaboration happens effectively and efficiently?


Modus Cube is a collaborative IoT work tool to visually communicate a
person’s working status to their team.

In a collaborative working environment, each person has a cube that corresponds to a cube that is mounted in a wooden container that is placed in a visible area. When one rotates the cube on its axis, the cube will change color to indicate their working status. This allows for those around you to see your working status, both at your current location and a common area. This streamlines communication by minimizing unwanted interruptions and facilitating productive conversation. By explicitly declaring this information in a fun and non-invasive way, an individual’s availability is mediated through the cube thus leading to a better working environment.


We began ideation by generating a set of ideas that for how to visualize useful information in a passive way. This included weather, work status, artistic expression, etc.

We accomplished this by doing a braiding exercise where we each brainstormed ideas separately and joined together after a period of time to share and critique each other's ideas. The goal of the exercise was to have as much quantity as possible.

Lo-fi Prototyping

After completing the brainstorming activity, we built six lo-fi prototypes on the ideas that we felt were the most compelling. We examined the desirability of each idea through user evaluation and narrowed down to two prototypes.

Six lo-fi prototypes for our idea of visualizing information passively.

After a comparative analysis of our final two prototypes, we determined that visualizing one's working status to their team in collaborative workspaces provided for the most compelling, desirable, and useful idea to build upon further.

Final Prototyping

The two components created were the grid mount that would be placed in a public, visible space and the actual cubes themselves.

Laser Printing

Laser printing was the method used to give form to Modus Cube. Laser printing was necessary to cut the plywood veneer of the grid and the plexiglass cubes, as precise measurements were used to create finger joints for both of these components. Teammate Kristina Rakestraw used her prior experience in architecture to model and laser cut the mount.

Physical Computing

For the physical computing component of our design, I used the MPU6050 gyroscope and the ESP8266 Internet WiFi Development Board. The gyroscope was able to give values of the roll and pitch of the cube, allowing us to determine its orientation.

The core interaction in Modus cube is conveying one’s work status remotely from their current location to the grid so that another person can see this status without actually having to go to that work station. This is accomplished by rotating the cube and sending that color to the grid. In order to achieve this wireless communication, we used ESP8266 WiFi modules communicating with each other. By using a client-server model, the remote module is able to send requests to the other module and change the colors to correspond depending on the orientation.