Toast and Jam

— 2009 / CIID

The toaster has its own language that we all intuitively follow. We studied this common routine of the toaster: inserting the bread, waiting impatiently for it to toast and perhaps popping it manually when we can’t wait any longer. Keeping all the interface elements the same but completely changing the function, we introduce surprise and curiosity in the mundane.

The revamped toaster plays a selection of music depending on the bread you put in to “toast”. 125 songs covered 5 genres: Reggae, Country, Rock, Electro and Latin within 5 categories of moods: party, melancholy, obscure, chill out and feel good. Choosing a rye bread with a wheat bread might give you a party Bob Marley track, or two white breads give you a melancholy Dolly Parton. In any case, the music is a surprising interaction from a seemingly ordinary kitchen object.

Main components are an Arduino microcontroller and Adafruit waveshield, which allows playing music tracks from an SD card on a small speaker. Simple but effective “bread detection” is achieved by using white LEDs and photoresistors to measure the darkness of the bread. Additional LEDs are included to retain the familiar orange glow of the toasting cycle. We also retained all of the original toaster parts [except the heating element]: the timing knob became the volume control, and the original electro-magnet in the toaster “pops” the toast once the song finishes. All components were built into the casing, and it operates from a standard plug to wall power, upholding the impression of a working toaster.