Chatterbox is an interactive installation that allows audiences to communicate with it through proximity. Chatterbox plays on the idea that voice communication is possible, even in times of social distancing, but that it can be unclear—especially when technology is involved. We are increasingly used to interacting with technology through voice ‘commands’ but this work reinforces the fact that these interactions are often awkward or misconstrued, thus revealing their artificiality. Chatterbox is also fun and entertaining, often surprising passers-by by calling out to them.

Chatterbox was commissioned by and premiered at Curiocity festival and was installed at Brisbane’s South Bank from March 12-29 2021. Chatterbox was also exhibited as part of Designing Culture, at the Pop Gallery in Brisbane from May 25 – June 4 2021.

Chatterbox was designed and built by Andrew Brown, Daniel Della-Bosca, John Ferguson, David Harris, Timothy Tate and Jason Nelson.

Chatterbox is an interactive audio-visual installation that allows the public to ‘play’ a bespoke sculptural instrument by approaching and moving their bodies nearby the human-sized sculptural form. The Chatterbox sound world consists of abstract speech-like utterances that vary from ‘calls’ to ‘whispers’ according to the participant’s distance from the instrument. Electronically controlled illumination acts in concert with the sounds to produce audiovisual behaviours. Drawing on a century-long tradition of interactive sonic devices, starting with the Theremin and Russolo noise machines in the early 1900s, Chatterbox reimagines these gestural-mechanical experiences as public art for a new century using digital electronics and renewable power.

Designing and making Chatterbox involved a range of technical processes including 3D modelling, computer programming, audio editing, power management, and PCB manufacture. These processes were conducted in the service of the interaction design and to ensure a robust and safe installation. Below are some images from these making processes. The project was a true integration of creative arts and science. For a more detailed overview see: