Tesla Says

Tangible interaction which you cannot see.

Eniarof workshop @ Moscow Polytech Festival'16

Where and when:

Eniarof workshop for Moscow Polytech Festival - May 2016

Project team:

Ksenia Voronova
Sergey Komardenkov
Mikhail Panfilov
Grégoire Delzongle

Special thanks:

Alexandra Khazina
Grégoire Lauvin
Antonin Fourneau
Guillaume Stagnaro
Manuel Braun

My contribution went to:

brainstorming facilitation
sound design
physical prototyping


Tesla Says is a wearable arcade machine which invites its players to immerse themselves into a science experiment. The player puts the machine on her shoulders and hears the voice of a scientist which is, apparently, wirelessly connected to the machine. The scientist, presumably Nicola Tesla, asks the player for help in conducting an experiment and gives out tasks that need to be performed on the machine in order for the experiment to succeed.

The main trick of the game is that all of the tasks are to be completed on the outer surface of the machine, so the player is essentially blindfolded. Inside the machine, there are only a few gauges and lights which help Tesla to direct the player towards the goal of each task.

The tasks include pushing inconveniently located buttons and switches, changing wirings, doing some jumping and a bit of movement. The machine is created uncomfortable on purpose, as one of the keywords for the design brief was "Brown Box" - one of the very first TV consoles famous by its unergonomic design.

Tesla Says was designed as part of a 10-day workshop facilitated by Eniarof - a group of designers and creatives from France. Eniarof was invited by the Moscow Polytech Museum to help workshop participants create from scratch 6 different arcades to be exhibited at the Polytech Science Festival in May 2016.

Design Process:

All the participants of the workshop were divided into 6 groups to mix various skill sets and experiences. Each group then received several kinds of play cards which were to help in ideation to come up with totally new game concepts. Among other cards, our team received "Brown Box", "Nicola Tesla", "Suprematism", "Cord", and "Arcade Button". These cards eventually led us to the "Tesla Says" concept, yet we had many other good ideas originating from our brainstorm session.

Prototyping and Building:

We began with rapid prototyping with cardboard and very soon into the workshop were able to produce a nice prototype of the game in full size. Although the only piece of working electronics in it was a regular cell phone to allow for giving commands to the player, this prototype convinced us that our idea was not only achievable technically within our workshop time frame, but, more importantly, will result in fun and extraordinary experience for its players.

We then proceeded with dividing construction tasks between the four of us. We were often signing up for tasks we had less experience with to extend our personal skill sets by getting help from other team members. There were three large group of tasks - frame design, interior of the box design, and electronics, and in one way or the other, each one of us took part in all these activities.

The final solution is a wooden frame with plywood inner and outer shells. The inner shell has engravings that resemble circuit board and several gauges and LEDs to keep the player entertained with some visual effects inside the arcade. The game is run by Arduino Mega and has a total of 8 buttons, knobs, and switches outside, coupled with three audio jacks and a long guitar cable to be used with them. The audio messages from the scientist are pre-recorded and stored on two MP3 shields inside the arcade - this gives a fun surround sound experience inside as we use three different speakers.


So far Tesla Says was exhibited in the originally intended Polytech Science Festival and in TEDxMoscow event that followed soon after. Altogether, more than 100 people played the arcade, half of them children and adolescents, and only one player decided not to finish the game. On average it took players around 5 minutes to complete all 7 tasks of the game.

We look forward to showcasing this idea even more during 2016 and have a few ideas on how to make the game experience even more fun. We already have the code made so that the game can easily be translated into different languages, so exhibiting it outside of Russia is also in our plans.