Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group


a total submersion telephonic experience

James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, Stefan Agamanolis

The Iso-phone is a telecommunication device providing a service that can be described simply as a meeting of the telephone and the floatation tank. By blocking out peripheral sensory stimulation and distraction, the Iso-phone creates a telephonic communication space of heightened purity and focus.

The user wears a helmet that blocks out all peripheral sensory stimulation while keeping the head above the surface of the water. The water is heated to body temperature, dulling the sense of touch and blurring the physical boundaries of the user's body. The result is a space providing a pure, distraction free environment for making a telephone call. The only sensory stimulus presented is a two-way voice connection to another person using the same apparatus in another location.

Only a couple of decades ago our primary means of telecommunication was the telephone box, which essentially provides a contextually neutral space for remote conversation. Entering a telephone box equates to a cessation of all other activities, allowing the individual to concentrate solely on the conversation. The growth of mobile telephone usage however has led to telecommunication being practiced in an efficient rather that a qualitative manner. The mobile phone decontextualizes conversation. It extracts talk from specific social context, offering the user freedom to communicate from virtually any social situation regardless of the suitability. It is down to the sensitivity and discretion of the user to decide if the circumstances are suitable for communicating.

The Iso-phone attempts to redress this awkwardness and imbalance by providing a space totally dedicated to telecommunication. Going against the grain of mainstream design, the Iso-phone trades contemporary preoccupation with efficient, ubiquitous and multi-functioning products for quality and depth of a singular experience, requiring total immersion into the telecommunications media.

We wish to thank the Guinness swimming pool for their assistance in early Iso-phone trials. Thanks to Brian McDonald for his assistance with the audio electronics for the helmets.

Publications and Links

  • Iso-phone received an Honorary Mention in the "Interactive Art" category of the Prix Ars Electronica 2004 competition and was installed during the Ars Electronica Festival in the Hauptplatz of Linz, 2 - 7 September 2004. More than 50 people used the Iso-phone to make a telephone call to anywhere in the world of their choosing.

  • Iso-phone was presented at eQuiliBristas Design Week in Valencia, Spain, 26 - 30 April 2004.

  • Iso-phone was exhibited at e-culture fair 2, Amsterdam, 23 - 24 October 2003.

  • Iso-phone was featured at Experimenta Design 2003 in Lisbon in October 2003.

  • James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, and Stefan Agamanolis, Iso-phone: a total submersion telephonic experience, ISICT 2003 International Symposium on Information and Communication Technologies, Dublin, 24 - 26 September 2003. (PDF)

  • New Iso-phone demo movie (Quicktime, 8 MB).

  • Old Iso-phone demo movie (Quicktime, 5 MB).

  • A first prototype of Iso-phone was exhibited at Mobilise: Exhibit 2 at the Digital Hub, Dublin, 13 March - 12 June 2003.

  • James and Jimmy's web site about their work.