Interaction - Bachelors

The Tipping Point

trophy Awarded

‘The Tipping Point’ is an interactive textile, that aims to draw attention to the fact that we are at a tipping point in history, that will determine the fate of our Great Barrier Reef. This textile piece detects the users proximity and changes from coloured to colourless when approached, visually representing both climate data, and the physical process of coral bleaching. The intention of this Design is to create a conversation and call to action, to reverse the ‘tipping point’ and save our precious reef.

The Design – A timelapse

The Design Concept

Climate data tells us that as of 2023, 50% of the great barrier reef is bleached as a consequence of climate change. If we continue on the same path we are on now, we will be past the ‘tipping point’ and unable to repair the damage we have inflicted upon the reef. The research predicts that we risk losing the Great Barrier reef completely before the end of the century, which is an extremely harrowing and devastating thought – one that I aim to draw attention to through my design.

THEN – 1900

On the floor space directly in front of the Textile, is a graphic timeline laid out with 3 ‘stages’. The first stage reads ‘THEN – 1900’, referring to a moment in history before climate change had impacted the coral reefs. At this particular point, the textile is completely colourful, representing a vibrant, healthy reef.

NOW – The Tipping Point

When the user moves closer to the textile, to the next point labelled ‘NOW – The Tipping Point’, 50% of the textile bleaches to white, representing the current state of the Great Barrier Reef.


As the user reaches the final stage in the timeline, labelled ‘TOMORROW – 2100’, the remaining coloured elements of the textile also bleach, leaving the once coloured textile, completely bleached – a warning of the future to come.


Thermochromism is a property that certain substances possess, that allow them to change colour, due to a change in temperature. This textile utilises thermochromism to facilitate a change in colour when heat is applied. The yarn used was hand-dyed with thermochromic dye pigment, which changes from coloured to colourless at a temperature of 31C.


To trigger the thermochromic yarn, heating wire was strategically attached to embroidery fabric, in order to create the intended data visualisation element and align with the proximity timeline. The Insualted heating wires were removed from a pet heating pad, and have an automatic shutoff feature, to prevent overheating.


The textile itself was created by intertwining the thermochromic yarn with the attached heating wire, using traditional textile techniques, such as hand embroidery, punch-needling, crochet and latch hooking, all with the intention of creating organically shaped and textured elements that represent the reef.


In order to the control the interaction, a proximity sensor was incorporated to detect how close a user is to the textile. The Proximity sensor then sends the data to an Arduino Microprocessor, which controls a power relay, switching the heating wires on/off depending on where the user stands in relation to the timeline. The combination of the computerised/electrical elements and the tangible thermochromic textile make both a colourful and interactive piece.


In order to align with the sustainability message behind this piece, and also to my own personal values, all of the yarn used in this piece is recycled scrap wool and recycled mill ends. This is to minimise the environmental impact of the textile, and lead by example, taking the sustainability action, that this piece calls for.

FuTure Developments

This Interaction Design Project, falls under the relatively new niche of ‘Smart Textiles’. This field is somewhat unchartered, as it requires passion, interest and expertise in both the field of artistic design, and computer science/engineering. As I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interaction Design, with a minor and all elective subjects within the faculty of computer science, I believe I have the rare opportunity contribute to the research, exploration and development of a new industry as a woman in both STEM and Design.
I believe this project can be explored and developed further in many different ways. My ultimate goal would be to create a complete exhibition collection, exploring alternate elements of colour changing pigments, such as multi-colour thermochromism, photochromism and richer thermochromic pigments. Additionally, I would like to explore alternate technical interaction elements, such as tactile and conductive sensors, and how the use of these could potentially create more engaging and accessible interactions for a wider range of users, such as those with neurodiversity.

“We can now destroy or we can cherish, the choice is ours.”

David Attenborough

Alanah Jane Farr

Alanah Farr is a graduating Interaction Design student who is passionate about sustainability, particularly in drawing attention to climate change. She has particular interest in the intersection between art and science, and how interaction design is able to bridge the two worlds together, in new and exciting ways. Alanah hopes to develop this project further and intends to pursue the the field of interactive art and smart-textiles in future.