tokyo or the city as a mirror: tengu and other stories

(Stefano Mirti interviews Crispin Jones, published on Specchio, July 2007)

– Mr Jones, can you explain us what is this Tengu project?

Tengu is a little character who responds to sound – you plug him into your computer and then whatever sound is around he responds to – if you play music for example he looks like he sings along with it. If Tengu hears a loud sound then his face changes into a different type – each one had seven different faces which he can make. Tengu is a little companion who keeps you company while you work at your computer.

– Nice… And… ….why did you do it?

I designed Tengu with the Japanese company Solid Alliance in mind – I think that they are quite an interesting company: their first big success was the “USB Sushi Drive”, a novelty USB disk drive which is shaped like a piece of Sushi. They invested a lot of the profits from “USB Sushi Drive” into producing a device called the “Ghost Radar”, this is a handheld device which tells you if there are ghosts nearby. I thought that a company which released such a bizarre product must be quite interesting! I decided to develop something which combined “USB” with “ghost” and eventually the little character of Tengu emerged. Then on a trip to Japan I arranged a meeting with Solid Alliance (I had met a couple of people from the company once before) and showed them the prototype, they liked it and are taking it into production.

– And… …how do you get such a strange ideas?

A Tengu is a creature from Japanese mythology who is extremely capricious and always playing tricks on people (especially monks). the Tengu prototype which I developed had a lot more functionality – it would interrupt your work on the computer and try to play tricks on you in a Tengu-like way. Of course in order to make the first version simple to produce and affordable we removed a lot of this functionality, but what I hope remains is the sense of a mischievous and playful character. I think that the computer is such a boring working environment that we need to do whatever we can in order to break the monotony!

– Is it in production?

It is in the final stages of development in the run up to production – we expect to have it in the shops in July and we hope to set the retail price around €25-€35.

– Where can I buy it?

At the moment we are identifying sympathetic retailers (we welcome communication from shops who are interested in stocking Tengu). If people are interested in Tengu then they can sign up for the Tengu mailing list at http://www.mr-jones.org/tengu which will keep them updated about availability in their area.

– What is your next project?

Well I have a lot of ideas for variations on the Tengu idea and hopefully if this first version is well received I can spend some time developing them.

– Any other relevant fact about your cute projects?

Humm can’t think of anything now, hope the above is enough for the article!

– Tengu on Youtube.

– Link to Crispin Jones webpage.

– Link to another (longer) interview to Crispin Jones.

(image on top: Crispin Jones, Tengu, 2007).

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