Lovers' Box

The Lovers' boxes are four tangible boxes designed as digital real world artefacts that people can relate to in an emotionally meaningful manner. Each box resembles a wooden jewellery box. When opened, a screen becomes visible on the left half of the box and a PC with an integrated RFID reader is hidden under the wooden board to the right. Placing a unique RFID tag on the box's right side triggers specific content, which is then displayed on the screen. Each box can be locked with a physical key to further its tangible impact.

In its original context, the boxes were designed for couples in new romantic relationships to engage them in reflections about this particular technological artefact, and also on their loving relationship, through the exchange of individual video messages. A video message of a beloved person can be triggered by simply placing a specific RFID tag on the right side of the box (here: the RFID tag is included in a black key fob).

The role of reflection through the use of a non-traditional digital artefact is examined in this work and how it acts as a site for enduring attachments to the artefact. Results show how technology can be applied to allow individuals the embedding of important personal experiences, and how a regular positive exchange of intimate and personally meaningful content through the interaction with the artefact can support people's emotional wellbeing.

Further Read

Thieme, A., Wallace, J., Thomas, J. T., Chen, K.L., Krämer, N., & Olivier, P. (2011). Lovers' box: Designing for reflection within romantic relationships. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 69(5), 283-297. LINK PDF

Thieme, A., Wallace, J., Olivier, P., Meyer, T.D. (2012). How to Support Meaningful Social Relationships through Digital Design? CHI 2012 Workshop "Interaction Design and Emotional Wellbeing", May 5-10, Austin, TX. PDF

Thieme, A. (2011). The Lovers' box. BSC HCI 2011 Interactive Experience, July 4-8, Newcastle, UK. PDF

Thieme, A., Wallace, J., & Olivier, P. (2011). Design and Appropriation: Studying a Digital Artifact in Different Contexts. CHI 2011 Workshop "Appropriation and Creative Use: Linking User Studies and Design", May 7-12, Vancouver, CA. PDF

Thieme, A. (2010). The Lovers' Project: Designing for Personal Emotional Significance of Objects with Incorporated Technology - A Case Study. Master Thesis, University of Duisburg-Essen, GER. PDF

Press, 28.04.2011 - Article: 'Lovers' Boxes' Keep Romance Alive in the Digital Age (by Nic Halverson)., 27.04.2011 - Article: Lover’s Box to Enhance Romance Digitally, 26.04.2011 - Article: Wooden Box Contains Digital Sparks For Romantic Relationships., 26.04.2011 - Article:Lover's Box: Reviving romance in the digital age (by Steven Hondrogiannis).


This research was a collaborative project between the University of Duisburg-Essen and Newcastle University with Jayne Wallace, Nicole Krämer, James Thomas, Ko Le Chen, and Patrick Oliver. It was funded by the DAAD German Academic Exchange Service (D/09/40237) and the EPSRC (EP/G066019/1) Digital Economy Research Hub "Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy" (SiDE).