master thesis project —


Enriching remote communication using mobile technology

one semester, full-time

In response to the consequences of social distancing caused by the pandemic, we looked for new ways of creating a sense of “togetherness” with another person whilst in social isolation. The findings of this search manifested itself in a product called Azalea.

Azalea is a smartphone-based design that consist of a bespoke app and a tactile cushion which envelops the phone. A pair of Azaleas can be used to remotely connect two people through an enriched phone call. Azalea differentiates itself from a conventional phone or video call by immersing the user in an environment diminished from distractions, creating space for a co-experience that focuses on tactility and motion.

The inanimate cushion is brought to life by sliding in the phone. Doing so, the user ‘sacrifices’ the phone, which becomes the driver behind the communication. The app automatically activates, initiating the call and enabling the flashlight which projects light through cut-out shapes into the user’s direct environment. Azalea adapts its colour, shining through a pattern, according to the user’s speech, and enables its users to steer a soundscape of natural sounds driven by motion. Our users affirmed that hearing the other person move added a sense of presence to the conversation.

Through Azalea, we aim to inspire the public and fellow designers to creatively leverage the – often untapped – capabilities that can be found in each smartphone.

soma design
interaction design
mobile technology


Simon Mare


Mafalda Samuelsson-Gamboa


Interaction Design - Chalmers University of Technology

In collaboration with

RISE Interactive Institute
Mehmet Aydın Baytaş - Design Researcher

Exhibitions and publications

Dutch Design Week 2020

CHI 2021 Paper

Sjoerd Hendriks, Simon Mare, Mafalda Samuelsson-Gamboa, & Mehmet Aydın Baytaş (2021)
Azalea: Co-experience in Remote Dialog through Diminished Reality and Somaesthetic Interaction Design
In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21)

MobileHCI 2020 Demo

Simon Mare, Sjoerd Hendriks, Mehmet Aydın Baytaş, & Mafalda Samuelsson-Gamboa (2020)
Azalea: Co-experiencing Embodied Information in Remote Communication
In Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI 2020)

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