Shops might be going cashless, but for many people small cash transactions still make the world go round. “This cashless society excludes billions of people worldwide who do not have access to the banking system,” said Gadi Amit, principle of NewDealDesign in San Francisco. “And, ultimately, global economies like cash.”
Humans like cash too, as the celebrated designer’s research underlines – not only does cash sustain individual livelihoods, he said, but the tangibility of cash transactions carries proven neurological benefits, making us more confident, resilient and wise to the value of what we are spending.
That’s why Amit, 54, who designed the Fitbit, is attempting to physicalize the digital wallet.
The result is an interactive token, called Scrip after the historical concept of scrip as a form of quasi-money, which follows a pay-as-you-go model, topped up as required.
A curved metallic lozenge with a deliberate weight to it – the device sits in the palm like a pleasing, sea-smoothed pebble – Scrip features a braille-like system of tiny diamond-shaped scales, which rise and fall to depict values of currency, as the user’s thumb swipes across the surface to make payments with the motion of counting out banknotes.
This interface is combined with a tiny LED display to manage transaction values, and the device only functions when unlocked by a bluetooth connection from the user’s phone.
“This project is a projection of the ideas we explored while working on the interaction design of wearables such as the Fitbit. I wanted to explore the process of turning virtual payments back into a vital sensory experience,” Amit explained.
Currently at prototype stage, Scrip is intended to negate the need for a bank account by allowing direct peer to peer transfers, and deliberately would not record transactions. Longer-term, Amit proposes that the device could potentially develop as a supportive digital ledger, ordering the “dark economy” of non-traceable but necessary cash transactions. “Scrip will be open to any digital currency,” he said. “The possibility of circumventing the traditional banking system becomes real with blockchain.”