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If you are sitting in a Helsinki café and suddenly feel the chairs and tables moving up and down you might wonder if you’ve been taking advantage of that famous ‘Finnish hospitality’ too early in the day. 

On this occasion though it’s not a vodka-induced hallucination, instead – unwittingly perhaps – you might be sitting in the world’s first remote-controlled café.

Swedish agency Perfect Fools came up with the idea of the internet-controlled Café Kauko for two months during World Design Capital Helsinki 2012:

“We wanted to show people how much design affected their everyday lives,” says Tony Sajdak. “Highlighting good design seemed easier by demonstrating how bad design could be!”  

By logging in to people could control the atmosphere, music and lighting in the café – as well as the height of the tables and chairs. Then they watched how people react via multiple live-streaming cameras.


Cafe Kauko

But what exactly is the point of seeing surprised customers bobbing up and down, clasping cappuccinos? “It’s entertaining,” Tony Sajdak admits, “but it also shows that having your chairs too high can be bad design and ruin the whole experience.”


And there’s nothing stopping someone logging on with their Nokia Lumia and setting the height of their own table and chairs, or dimming the lights.


The café took six months to design and construct, and took place earlier this year between January and March. 


“The café itself was built in Denmark and shipped over, but we had numerous hurdles to overcome,” Sajdak says, “We had to create a queuing system online in case there were lots of people trying to set the height of the same chair, or change the music at the same time, and we had to build really quiet pneumatic chairs. We had a fair bit of technology to fit into a small space.” 


If you want to order a latte, and then zap your seating arrangements with a smartphone, the Café Kauko is on the move. PerfectFools plan to take the café on the road, first in Finland and then elsewhere.