I want to work on the problem of over-connection I experience in my life. I'm interested in the fusion of technology and organic-feeling design, so I'm building a digital checkpoint for the home: a place to put your phone down and visualize all the information you might need until you pick it up again, in a aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive package.
I'll be using a combination of concrete casting for the main shelf and wood veneer to shine an LCD display through to display text, like time, date, weather, notifications, and calendar.
I'm pretty happy with my prototype so far; it's turned out to be extremely usable and a nice piece of decoration as well. I think I'll look into ways of making it easier to produce next. I'm planning on mocking up some 3d models of the carriage that hold the tablet and see if I can make one on a 3d printer.
I also want to experiment with the interface. It's capable of touch control, but I haven't really taken advantage of that yet. I'm a crappy coder, but hopefully over the next few months I can teach myself enough to add some features, like switching between a clock and a calendar function, or dismissing an alarm. Some kind of google home or alexa integration seems like a logical future goal as well, but I'm gonna take this a one step at a time.
Put it all together and hung it on a stud with a big-ass deck screw. Fun surprise, the touchscreen actually works through the veneer! I'll have to explore the possibilities in future versions. The cable management underneath is kinda a mess, but from unless you go underneath it it's not visible
I finished the concrete slab with a fine grit sand and a light matte clear coat finish. I also put a copper leaf marker on the surface where the charging pad is hidden; it's pretty hard to line it up right without it
I wiped the block with danish oil and finished it with shellac. I put a little color tag thing on the bottom right corner- it started as a way to cover up a little crack in the veneer, but I actually thought it looked pretty good and stretched it halfway around the block
I cut a thin plexiglass panel and attached it behind the front veneer with some clear epoxy. By clamping the surfaces together I was able to stop the front veneer from warping, but I definitely lost some definition and brightness from the display. In a future version I'd like to experiment with other methods of stabilizing the veneer.
I also installed magnets on the inside of the box; these matched opposite polarity magnets on a wooden construction that holds the tablet in the right position against the front panel. This way the display is exactly where I want it, it's easy to remove if I need access to the tablet, and it snaps back in.
I also epoxied some picture hanging hardware into the slots I made on the back of the concrete cast; they're sized to fit a normal screw head so the shelf can hang with a few screws and a wall stud.
The concrete shape I need was tricky to make; it needed to look clean and smooth on top of the shelf, but hollow underneath to accommodate a wireless charger and manage the cables. I used an instant concrete mix called Quikrete, and made a lubricated plywood mold. I suspended a block into the mold to create a cavity, and used wood biscuits to create openings for hanging hardware.
I got the cast out of the mold pretty cleanly, but it cracked in half when I took out the space to make the cavity. There's definitely a way to make an intact cast, but I decided to repair the original with black dyed epoxy. I actually like the marbled look.
I picked up a cheap Qi wireless charger and ripped out the board. A few dots of epoxy fixed it inside the shelf. I couldn't find a standalone circuit to buy, but I sure there are some wholesale options like Alibaba. The one I got charges very fast through about 0.5 cm of concrete; I use an iPhone 8 with a thick plastic case and can get from 20% to full charge in about an hour.
I'm a woodworker primarily, so I decided to start with what I know best. Last summer I built a 4-sided plywood box and fixed some curly maple veneer to the sides. The surface was especially tricky. I tried to stretch the veneer over the front like a drum initially, which worked well at first. The plan is to use a rooted amazon fire tablet to start; I downloaded a magic mirror app to test the concept. The display at maximum brightness shone through clearly, and the only times I couldn't see the letters was in direct sunlight.
After shoving the tablet in and out a few times the veneer cracked, and a couple days later I noticed the wood start to stretch and warp in the humidity.
I'm also not a huge fan of the way you can see the backlight shining through the edges where the text isn't. A dot matrix display would probably better, but I definitely don't have the arduino and programming chops to do that yet.