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Maker profile: Jenny Dorsey's Augmented Reality Ceramics

An interview with Jenny Dorsey, Chef + Ceramicist.                                              

A few years ago, Jenny quit being a consultant and put down all her savings as a deposit on Culinary school. Since, she's become a talented chef, a host of boundary-breaking supper club dinners, and a ceramicist. She envisions not only creating your food, but the plates you eat on. With a twist: she is creating a line of Augmented Reality tableware, so that as you eat, you can go on a journey she leads, provoked by images or songs or videos - all summoned by the augmented reality stamp on her pieces.  

Tell us about your line of AR ready ceramics. What’s your vision and how would you describe it?

Imagine a complete visual image that supplemented whatever story you’re trying to tell with the plate of food. If you’re using your phone or an AR headset, you look at the plate itself, and it has something called a “target,” and that will trigger the app that you’re essentially using to showcase some other visual that would overlay on top of the food. That’s what I really want to do with this AR ready ceramics.

I would like to be able to plate all my food on all my own dishes so that I can have complete creative control. I’d also like to partner with other people to be able to tell their vision in a new way and create something for them - a plate that will help them showcase whatever idea or story or visual. So all of those things could be triggered with the target - you could even have it start playing a song, for example. 

The target would trigger the same thing every time?

It would trigger one thing, but you can change what it triggers. You can have it trigger something one day, but then just change the app so that it triggers a different visual but using the same target.

Is the target something you put in the clay?

I’m going to experiment with two different things. I have a stamp of the logo of Wednesdays, which is the dinner series that I run here in New York. I have a stamp made of that - so I’m going to experiment being embossed in the clay body as well as using an underglaze - like you put the underglaze on the stamp and you put it on the clay before I bisque it. I’ll see which one works better.

Walk us through what you want someone to experience when they sit down to one of your supper club dinners?

We have been playing with the concept of how do you get people to lower their guard and talk to strangers? You’re asking people to be vulnerable in front of people they don’t know. We realized that you can’t just throw people in a situation and hope for the best. Like - “Look, I got you here, I’m going to give you food, go forward!” How do you make them feel more comfortable and provide all the tools so that they can be comfortable and open up without forcing their hand.

We have asked people a set of questions before they come. The questions range from “if you were to go to an alien planet, what’s the first thing you would tell them about the human race besides that you’re coming in peace?” to “if money was no object, what would you do tomorrow?” And we put that occupation as that person’s actual occupation on their name card on the table so people engage with you on the occupation you want, not the occupation you have.

What I think is special about AR and VR is that - well VR literally takes you to a new world, but with AR, you can add a lot of texture to the world we currently live in. How do you promote more introspection, more thought, deeper feelings, how do you challenge people’s default settings?

What’s the feeling at the end of a night that has gone well?
There’s an awesome din of people talking. There are lots of conversations happening, and people don’t move and are really engrossed. We started having people write something they wanted to achieve in the next month and we would mail it to them after a month. It’s a nice way to close the circle.


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