Surf and Scarf?

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As “cybercafes” have proliferated around the world, a key question has emerged: how to design a table that provides for both actual and virtual communication — allowing eating, drinking, talking to flesh-and-blood companions, and surfing the Net all at the same time?

Tano Cabanyes, C’72, has the answer. His firm, GAIATEC, an environmental-design group based in the U.S. and Spain, won a special prize in the InterEat Design Competition sponsored by the Center for Arts and Media Technology of Karlsruhe, Germany to design a cafe table incorporating computer terminals for the center’s cafe, Salon Digital.

GAIATEC’s table — clover-shaped so that dishes remain within reach and to minimize spills — seats four patrons/users around a luminescent pyramid, on which computer images are projected. Each views his or her own screen, while still being able to see and talk with others at the table. Each seat has a slide-out, spill-proof, one-hand keyboard with trackball and an optional foot pedal (for games and virtual reality) for use while eating and drinking. A revolving “lazy Susan” rests on the pyramid and above the table for passing dishes around. Audio output is at the base of each pyramid face or through headphones, with optional microphone for communication either on-line or with other cafe patrons. Finally, the computer connection provides visual menus, and takes care of ordering, billing, and payment. But who — or what — do you tip?

—Susan Lonkevich

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