Papier Machine
Fostering a new generation of tech tinkerers and makers through play

We use electronic objects every day but, their inner workings are a mystery to most of us. The way our smartphone screens rotate, the inner workings of a watch and even how modern musical instruments produce sound. These components seem to have invisible, intangible, incomprehensible qualities. But, a closer look reveals their secrets. 

Papier Machine n°0 is the first in a collection of books for exploring the hidden mechanisms of the world of electronics. This first issue contains six electronic toys in pre-cut paper, screen printed with an ink that conducts electricity. All of the games produce sound and each one illustrates a different physical principle used by sensors. They reveal the realm of materials, shapes, colours and stories that lies behind the magic of our devices.

"The best scenario is when adults and kids play together.”

Much like an IKEA assembly manual, there are no written instructions, only visual steps, so users aren’t limited by language. Pages are pre-cut, pre-folded, and glue isn’t necessary, as everything fits neatly together. For some toys, you’re invited to draw on them with graphite pencil to customise functions – for example, the graphite piano. By adding the electronic components, and popping out the buttons, the page becomes a lo-tech piano. 

Another toy, called “Playing Track”, requires the user to construct a marble run, and draw on sections of the track to customise the sound output. When the marble rolls down, it closes the circuit and reads the track as a sheet of music.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising more than €120K, Papier Machine is now in the hands of everyone from kids and grandparents to graphic designers and electronic nerds. “The best scenario is when adults and kids play together,” say designers Raphaël Pluvinage and Marion Pinaffo. “While our technological world is getting more and more complex and intangible, it’s important for everybody to be curious about how things work.”

Designers: Raphaël Pluvinage & Marion Pinaffo - France
UN SDGs: Quality education

Papier Machine from The Index Project on Vimeo. Music: Lee Rosevere