By Louis DiPietro 

A playful, interactive installation fostering togetherness and play among strangers has arrived to Gates Hall.  

Designed by Serena Ge Guo, a doctoral student in the field of information science, SocialStools is a research project that combines Guo’s affinity for human-computer interaction and architecture.  

Three interactive stools on wheels generate sound and images depending on their proximity to one another. For instance, when three participants are oriented toward each other, an overhead projector casts warm, glowing bubbles onto the floor, a visual cue intended to encourage interaction and embodied play.  

The project’s goal is to bring people together, particularly after extended separation due to the pandemic, Guo said.    

“More and more people recognized that we need physical interaction in the physical world, not only to meet in-person with others, but also because our bodies, our gestures, and interactions with the environment are critical in social interaction,” she said. “Plus, as an architect, I'm interested in the physical world and how people interact with their environment.”  

SocialStools can be found in Gates G03 until Friday, Oct. 28.   

The socio-spatial interface and corresponding paper were presented at the Association for Computing Machine (ACM) CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May.  

A second-year doctoral student, Guo explores ways of bringing human physicality into the digital world and fostering empathy in our living environment. She received a bachelor’s degree in architectural design from Hong Kong University and a master’s of architecture from Columbia University, where she received the honor award for excellence in design upon graduation.  

She is advised by Keith Green, director of Cornell’s Architectural Robotics Lab and professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Gilly Leshed, senior lecturer of information science.   

“I hope participants see that interaction in space and in-person is important because there’s so much more information we miss when meeting online,” she said. “Even some eye contact with others or a smile, it lightens my day. I hope [SocialStools] can help facilitate that for students.” 

Cornell students interested in mixed reality, spatial interaction, and social interaction may reach out to Serena at 

Louis DiPietro is a writer for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.