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Apprehensive Box

My Role


Team Members


Interaction Designer

Electronics Designer

Prototyping Lead


Rapid Prototyping

Julia Persche

Nic Raiser


Design and build an interactive box that evokes the emotion of apprehension in the user. This is not about what’s in the box, but about the properties of the box and the experience of opening it.

Apprehension: you feel hesitant or uneasy about something unusual or perhaps dangerous.



To start out, we brainstormed various experiences that make someone feel apprehensive. Our approach was to make the user feel like the box was alive, unpredictable, and something bad could potentially happen. We also brainstormed a wide range of sensors, actuators, and materials we could utilize to build the experience, such as movement using servo motors or ultrasonic distance sensors to detect when the user is approaching the box. By using visual, auditory, and haptic elements, we would be able to evoke apprehension. 

Screen Shot 2020-12-11 at 5.25.13 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-11 at 5.25.13 PM.png

Design Direction

Our approach was to make the user feel like the box was alive, unpredictable, and something bad could potentially happen. As the user walks up to the box, different movement and sounds are actuated. As they get closer, the sounds get louder and the movements get more rapid and exaggerated.

Screen Shot 2021-12-22 at 2.12.20 PM.png


I prototyped each of the electronic elements separately in Arduino to ensure they were individually working properly before putting them together. I then was able to play with the timing of the actuators as a person approaches the box. We also created a foam core box to test the dimensions and placement of the electronics before constructing the final version.




Our final box features a combination of engineering elements that work together to make the user apprehensive about approaching and opening the box. These are listed below, along with how they shape the experience of apprehension.

  • Aluminum sheet metal

    • Metal with sharp edges adds a visual element that makes the user uncomfortable and a little stressed. Aluminum is also cold to the touch, creating a sense of discomfort when user open the box.

  • Ultrasonic Distance Sensor 

    • Detects when person is approaching. Different elements are activated depending on the distance the person is from the box.

  • Servo motors

    •  2 servo motors at the base of the allow the entire box to move back and forth. Another servo also pops open the lid slightly as the user approaches.

  • Vibration motors

    • At a distance, user hears noise of motors rattling against the lid. When user touches box, they feel intense vibrations.

  • Speaker

    •  Animal growling noises warn the user as they approach.

  • Neopixels

    • Shine yellow and red light, signaling to the user that they should proceed with caution and danger may be present.

  • Dry Ice

    • Fog from dry ice and water adds an eery element to the experience.

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