Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.

This year we are all about exploring the value of toys and questioning why so many exist.

We are currently working on:
A Sourdough Toy.

See last year's outcome, Olly a web connected smelly robot.

To keep up to date follow @mintfoundry on twitter.



24th October 2012

23rd October 2012    Dough Globe

It was Foundry’s last few days together at Mint last week, and it was a very busy time, finishing things off and waiting for prototypes to arrive back. But it was also full of excitement because we got to show everyone what we have been up to over the last 3 months.

So without further ado here it is: Dough Globe, your little living world.

Dough Globe is a smart vessel for your sourdough. Using sensors, it knows when your starter is doing well. It’s like a Tamagotchi, but actually alive. 

Start your world by mixing flour and water. In a few days, landscapes will appear and life will start forming. Keep your sourdough well and your planet will flourish. Don’t look after it and the world will turn sour.

Doug is the character who lives in this world, when he is living in a well maintained world he will want to play games with you. By playing these games you can unlock recipes to use with your sourdough.

The Dough Globe has an accelerometer built in which you use to play the games. This agitates your sourdough making the bread you bake taste better. 

We were lucky enough to present Dough Globe at Playful last Friday. We talked about the whole Foundry experience from Hamleys to sex shops, idea generation and prototyping. Although it was rather nerve racking it was also a great experience and we got a good reaction. 

Lastly, We would like to say a massive thank you to the whole of Mint Digital for giving us the opportunity to have such an amazing time over the last 3 months. Thanks for all your advice and support, especially Utku, Ben and Tom, we hope you have had as much fun as we have.

Tom, Luke, Dave, Hugh.

4th October 2012    This is Playful

The rumours are true! We are all going to be speaking at Playful on the 19th of October. Alice from MakieLab will be leading the conversation about our project and everything else we have been up to over the past 3 months.

It is promising to be a great day, there will be lots of interesting speakers and a few drinks afterwards.

Hopefully see you there!

26th September 2012    Spin and Shake

So far this week we have been thinking more technically about the form, moving away from basic shapes and outlines into much more detailed thinking about specific mechanisms and functioning hardware.

We wanted to explore how the connection between the sourdough and the game could be stronger, creating a symbiotic relationship that tied them together. In the video below we were testing to see how feasible it would be to get the vessel to spin when triggered to do so by the game, so that your sourdough would be agitated.

The first iteration was very noisy because of the gearing we were using, so we experimented with a direct drive system. This worked really well, not only was it quieter, it span much quicker and mixed the sourdough better.

In the following two videos we were exploring the physical interaction of stirring/agitation your sourdough. Mixing your sourdough with a spoon is very interesting or fun, so we did a quick test to see whether shaking would have a similar effect. 

This worked surprising well, so Hugh ripped apart a Wii remote so we could explore how an accelerometer could be another input into the game play.

24th September 2012    Home of the dough

Over the last week, we have been busy working on how the physical form of our end product will look. We have been designing a physical ‘nest’ which houses the vessel that holds the sourdough.

This home for the Sourdough will potentially enable some other cool physical/digital interactions which are currently being developed by the Foundry team. We are hoping to move on to heavy prototyping this week and eventually a final outcome concerning the form, so expect further updates very soon. In the meantime, here are some form designs from last week.  

20th September 2012    Prototyping Form & Function

We have been thinking in depth about form and functionality. By rapid prototyping and sketch modelling we are able to quickly move through this process and find mistakes without investing lots of time or money.

testing pour mechanism from The Foundry on Vimeo.

18th September 2012    Introducing The Fomes

As well as forays into sourdough based research, experimental bread making and extensive taste testing, Foundry has been concurrently working on character design and development of the narrative side of our project.

The characters are a work in progress with a current working title of ‘The Fomes’. The Fomes are the characters which evolved from and exist within your sourdough world. They could potentially provide you with a number of different game and narrative dynamics, from challenging you to mini games to offering you sourdough recipe.

The Fomes’ visual appearance, characteristics and functions are still being worked on intensely and we will keep you updated with any new developments on the character front. 

18th September 2012    Toy Story

We left you guessing in our previous post about the direction in which we are taking our sourdough toy, and it is about time we bought you up to date. We have gone through so many iterations that if we tried to talk you through all of them, we would be here all day. So Im just going to post where we are now in terms of the digital game narrative.

When you mix together the flour and water to start your sourdough culture, you are not only creating a sourdough, you are also creating a world! This world has seas and islands, each representing a different environment. There are also inhabitants which rely on you to look after their eco system; you essentially have to play a God like character in this world.

So instead of treating your sourdough as a single entity, it is now a whole eco system. This enables us to build a narrative around the feeding and discarding which is constructive rather than destructive, and has a strong tie to what is actually happening inside your jar.

We have always liked the idea that the way you treat your physical sourdough will have an effect on a digital game, in essence creating a organic game controller. The idea is that the data being given by the sensors in the sourdough will control the evolution of the eco system and the inhabitants, as well as affecting some more of the gaming dynamics.

This is a very boiled down version of the game narrative, and there are a lot more elements to come. But we felt we needed to get the jist of the story out, and as always we will be keeping you up to date on our progress. 

14th September 2012    Turbulent Week

We’ve had a turbulent week on the Foundry. Highlight being mainly this. Lowlights being the absence of Tom (busy throwing his mortar board into the Cornish breeze down in Falmouth) and Hugh (busy being ill, get well soon!).

Today we had our third taste test, except, with the absence of Tom someone else had to step forward to bake the bread. That was me and we decided to bake a reduced number of loaves (as i’m a complete novice). I would describe it as a success even though the bread came out pretty solid.

As for the results ill let the following photographs do the talking.

As you can see, we chose jars number 1, 3 and 4 to bake with as we felt these provided the most interesting results so far.

Number 3 was the run away winner, with comments on the others ranging from ‘almost chemical’ to ‘cakey’.

This again, reaffirms what our previous tests have shown.

11th September 2012    Bread Tasting - Take Two

We had our second bread tasting yesterday, so without further ado here are the results:

As you can see the out right winners in all of the categories were jar 3 and 5. This is good news for us as those are the jars that are being looked after the most. 

The results also seem to correlate with what we saw last week, but with a bigger gap between the winners and the losers. Another good sign, so hopefully by the next bake day there will be an even bigger divide!

10th September 2012    Cider Smells and Crispy Crusts

Last week we did our first bake day which we all agree was pretty successful. We want to expand a little on some of the experiments which had less appealing results.

Although all the loafs were edible, there were some obvious losers and there was even a culture which we didn’t even try to cook with. Jar number 7 wasn’t shown in any of our previous posts, this is because it was added a day late; we decided we should have a jar which was completely untouched and uncovered, to go alongside the other 6 experiments.

Within 3 days this jar had acquired a pretty bad smell and substantial crust, because of this we gave it the name Peter (in reference to Hugh’s brother). Within another few days the crust had completely block up the jar, preventing the smell from escaping. We made the decision that the sourdough was inedible and assumed that the yeast was not far off dead, so omitted it from our bake day. Here is an up to date photo so you can understand how far gone it is.

One of the biggest surprises of the bake day was how well Jar 1 did. This was the culture that we tried to kill, with no air, no food and no agitation. When we opened it for baking the was a distinctive smell of  (Scrumpy Jack ish) cider which took dave back to his teenage years. When baked with the bread rose relatively well, which shows the yeast was still alive to all of our surprise, although it didn’t do too well on the taste test.

Tom spent the weekend baking, so we are doing another test day this afternoon, hopefully it will reaffirm our results from last week. The plan is to do one every week, so by the the time we finish in mid october everyone at Mint will be sourdough connoisseurs!

7th September 2012    Design and Sourdough

We have been posting a lot about the experiments we have been doing on our sourdough, but have been pretty quiet about the design process that is going on along side this. We have been working very hard trying to tie together a lot of different elements, the narrative, the form and all the interactions. These have given us a lot of challenges which has meant the concept of ‘Mr Sourdough’ has been constantly evolving.

Keeping a sourdough means you have to maintain it to keep it at its best. This involves discarding over half of it everyday in order to ‘feed’ it with fresh flour and water. The idea of feeding your sourdough is easy to fit into a narrative about a living thing, as we all need to eat; however trying to fit the discarding into a narrative proved a little bit more difficult.

The problem is that when you are treating your sourdough as single living thing, giving it a name and a personality, the idea of having to throw away half of it everyday is a difficult one, for children it could be quite a bizarre concept. We tried saying that it was its waste, essentially ‘Mr Sourdough’ going to the toilet, which worked quite well as it smelt quite bad!

This created another issue, what happens when you want to cook with it and eat it? Are you eating his waste? Or are you eating half of him and keeping the other half alive; both quite unappealing things to do.

So how do you create a narrative that makes all aspects of keeping sourdough a fun and engaging thing to be doing? We think we have come to a solution, but I will leave that for another blog post later on.

In other news, we went to the Moo Summer party last night. Luke especially enjoyed it… 

5th September 2012    The results are in

Yesterday we subjected the people at Mint to 6 loafs of our home made sourdough bread. All made using our different yeast culture experiments that we have been conducting over the last 2 weeks. Some have been well loved, fed and stirred everyday, and others have just been plain neglected. But to our surprise, all of the doughs rose well and produced similar in appearance breads. 

All of the breads we made were pretty passable, by this we mean that no one felt ill after eating, and all had pretty interesting characteristics in terms of flavour, smell and texture.  

So now to announce our winning formula for the best tasting, best smelling sourdough bread of all time in the foundry bread making history (about 2 weeks now)…. JAR 3. This jar was fed everyday, stirred 4 times a day and only partly opened to the air. It produced a relatively low amount of ethanol compared to the others, and the bread was the most flavoursome and produced a rich bready aroma. The worst bread came from Jar number 2 which had not been fed for 2 weeks. The bread did not really taste of very much and rose unevenly. Ethanol production on the other hand was relatively high but not quite as high as jar 1, which strangely enough scored quite well in our survey. 

We will be repeating this process  every week as our sourdough cultures get older.  

Here are this weeks the full results:

4th September 2012    Crunch time

Today was the day we have all been waiting for……Bake day!  Our resident Foundry baker Tom, made 6 very special loaves, representing the 6 maverick sourdough cultures we have been cultivating over the last 2 weeks.

Here is a table showing the setup of the six experiments:

To our surprise, non were really that bad. And even more so, some where actually pretty awesome, when compared to a trendy high street baker. 

But in the pursuit of science and fair trials, we are going to conduct some blind taste tests using the people at Mint. We will publish all the results tomorrow and let you know which of the breads turn out best. 

31st August 2012    Science of the dough

If you have wondered what all the sensors are about in the last post, then you will be interested to know that we monitoring our sourdough. We have devised a few tests to see if we can identify different dough traits under different conditions. The idea is that the sensors are going to play a role in the representation of the happiness of the sourdough. Here is very quick methodology of a test where we measured the ethanol production from 6 different cultures. 

These tests look at the ethanol production from a sourdough culture under varying conditions of food, access to air, temperature and agitation. 

We hope that the ethanol levels will give us a live reaction rate indication, which will exhibit different properties under the varying conditions mentioned. 

For this test we are going to keep the following things as constant as posible:-

- All the samples are from the same culture.
- Have the same mass of 170 grams.
- All the samples live in similar containers.
- All the sensors are calibrated with each other.
- Temperatures will be monitored.
- The Jars that are fed, are fed daily at 11am. 

Feeding requires that 120 Grams of original culture are thrown away, and replaced with 60 grams of water, and 60 grams of all purpose plain flour. 

The Jars that are partly subjected to the air, are opened up every hour for 10 mins. 

Every hour the fully open jars have their  ethanol levels tested over 10 mins. 

Early Predictions

- Ethanol production will drop after feeding, and peak after about 8 hours.

- The jars that are closed and not fed will have the highest peak of ethanol, but will drop after 24 hours. 

- The jars that are open, agitated and fed will have the least acidic dough, and therefore be less sour tasting. 

- Unagitated jars will grow a crust on top. 

- Open, unagitated jars will grow mould and a crust.

- The colder conditions of the fridge, will decrease the ethanol production.

- Ethanol rates will drop drastically when the sensing lid is taken off. 

So we hope that from these experiments, we will be able to know if you are taking good care of your sourdough or not, and also possibly determine what the taste characteristics are likely to be.