Erika Marthins captivates with interactive desserts



Erika Marthins is a Swedish interaction designer with a playful sensibility. Her projects are explorative and communicate the sense of fun and curiosity the designer brings to her own interactions with the world. She has produced video and photographic work too, but her central passion and preoccupation is in exploring the ways in which design and emerging technologies can come together with the arts and sciences to meet the challenges of our uncertain future.

One of Marthins’ projects that is exemplary in combining expertise from three different areas — design, the culinary arts, and smart materials research — is Déguster l'augmenté. Here, the designer devised three different desserts that have been “augmented” with data to transform eating into a unique experience. In Dessert à l'Air is a creepy, crawly tentacular creature made from gelatin. She collaborated with with Dr Jun Shintake from Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (EPFL) and Chef Fabien Pairon to use the common confectionary ingredient as an actuator, effectively turning the jellied sweets into edible wiggling robot arms.

Lumière Sucrée uses a different approach. Here, a message has been algorithmically coded and moulded into an otherwise glass-like, transparent lollipop using light shaping technology developed by Rayform, with help from and Chef Fabien Pairon. When light is directed at the seemingly empty surface, a secret message projects onto the wall. A sophisticated and grown-up take on a kid-favourite candy. The third dessert, Mange Disque, is a chocolate record that produces a sound when “played” in the manner of a classic LP player. Marthins enlisted the help of Chef Fabien Pairon and Chef Julien Boutonnet from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne to create what must be a delicious record that may just be too fun to listen to to eat.

The three “augmented” desserts were recently exhibited at Mirage Festival in Lyon. While we don’t have much hope in tasting these treats, they might encourage more creative approaches to extending the enjoyment of sweets into a gateway to learning about what data can do. What the video for more background on the process of making these works.