Knollbot™ Preproduction

Sketching the Design

Like Athena from Zeus, the Knollbot sprung, fully formed, from my head.

Photo Nov 04, 8 30 27 AM

I did take the time to do a sketch design exploration to work out potential other form factors and mechanics. Although it was apparent that the original form was the most likely the right one to proceed with.

Refining the Concept

Based on the feedback from play testing, it was clear that people liked the idea but thought it lacked a clear interactive element. True. The core concept is a silly bit of automation: knolling objects so you don’t have to. By definition it lacks a certain degree of interactivity.

I thought about the Knollbot’s user interaction/cycle and it occurred to me that while there isn’t an immediate feedback loop, there is a definite feedback loop over time. Say Knollbot is in your house. You get home from work, toss your stuff on the desk and go about your business. Now it’s Knollbot’s turn to get to work. The next time you go to grab your stuff, it’s perfectly knolled. You take your stuff, come home, drop it on the table again, Knollbot does its thing.

In this case, the “interaction” aspect of the object is purposefully subtle.

Project Plan

There are two major systems at work (and a few more sub-systems): the computer vision and the mechanical robotic action. I’ll tackle the computer vision system while I wait for the mechanical parts to arrive.

System Diagram


Bill of Materials


Nov 4 – 11

  • Finalize schematic
  • Order materials
  • Gather programing resources
  • Begin programming

Nov 12 – 18

  • Programming con’t
  • Gather non-material build resources

Nov  19 – 25

  • Programming con’t
  • Build
  • Troubleshooting

Nov 26 – Dec 2

  • Troubleshooting

Dec 3 – Forward

  • Business plan
  • Market research
  • Branding
  • Hire a CMO
  • Take meeting with President Obama about his “messy-ass desk”

PComp Final: Concept Development

A Short History of Knolling

You know knolling. Even if you don’t know you know knolling, you do know knolling.

You’ve seen it in Wes Anderson films. It’s given you pangs of jealousy on those  übercool “inspiration” blogs dedicated to “curating” your “lifestyle”. And I think most illustrative of it’s awesome power is Bullet VIII in artist Tom Sachs’ infamous 10 Bullets workshop manual.

Knolling is the organizational technique of placing all items on a surface at 90º angles to each other and to the surface itself. 

Knolling as Philosophy

Sure. It looks great in those little square Instagram pictures. And there’s no denying that it’s functional. But unless you’re actually working for Tom Sachs (which you’re decidedly not), who’s got the time to sit there and measure out perfect right angles and place each item down on the grid, one by one,  side by side, being extra careful to leave consistent padding around each object? The answer is no one. Except “lifestyle bloggers” (but you’re decidedly not one of them either).

So then, you’re thinking: what’s the point?

The point is that knolling is an exercise in organization. And an organized workspace makes for organized thoughts.

One Problem

In reality, you can’t really knoll anything.  A perfectly knolled table is impossible to achieve.

Hey, champ. Chin up. Don’t get upset. It’s not you. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s actually much much bigger than any one person. If we’re gonna blame someone, we should probably blame Greek philosopher Plato.

I don’t really want to get into all the fuzzy details of Platonic Idealism, but what it comes down to is that the idea of knolling exists as a perfect, albeit separate, entity from any individually instance of knolling in reality. Even the most beautifully, painstakingly knolled table has failed to achieve perfection in the required form (e.g. 90º angles, parallel lines, universally constant padding, etc…). It can’t. It is physically impossible to obtain the philosophically ideal version of a knolled table.

Or, it was physically impossible. Until now.

For my Physical Computing final I’m developing a robot that will bring us one step closer to the Platonic Ideal of knolling. I’m going to make my desk so organized that my thoughts will be so organized that I will be able to see simultaneously into the future and the past.

Introducing: Knollbot™

Knollbot™ is a robot that knolls.

Knollbot™’s  state-of-the-art robot mechanics and computer vision algorithm guarantee a perfectly knolled table, every time. And we’re not just talking about a “perfectly” knolled table.” We’re talking about the Platonic Ideal of a knolled table*.

In the next post, I’ll have some initial sketches and more information about the development process.

*You know, assuming I get my shit together and build this. And that it works and stuff.