Mother Bear hinged wallet open

Proverbial Wallets

Financial sixth sense

We have trouble controlling our consumer impulses, and there's a gap between our decision and the consequences. This is magnified by the digitization of money. When we pull a product off the shelf, do we know what our bank account balance is, or whether we're over budget for the month? Our existing senses are inadequate to warn us.

The Proverbial Wallet gives us that financial sense at the point of purchase by un-abstracting virtual assets. Tactile feedback reflecting our personal balances and transactions helps us develop a subconscious financial sense that guides responsible decisions. In addition to providing a visceral connection to our virtual money, tactile output keeps personal information private and ambient.


Bumblebee buzzing wallet

The wallet buzzes through a vibrating motor whenever your bank processes a transaction. This encourages a conscious connection between handing over your credit card and your hard-earned money being harvested from the bank, and alerts you to fraud when you get a buzz without making a purchase.

Mother Bear

Mother Bear hinged wallet

The wallet protects the money within it when you need to be thrifty with a hinge that resists opening. It's non-intrusive, noticeable only when you use the wallet normally. This can be mapped to a monthly budget goal. It promotes saving to weather out financial winters.


Peacock size-changing wallet

The wallet swells and shrinks to reflect the balance in your accounts. Your assets will be on display to attract potential mates.

Technical details

The Proverbial Wallets are working prototypes, tough enough to sit on. They communicate with a cellphone through Bluetooth, using its data connection to get financial information from the user's bank accounts. These are built using Information Ecology's Hands and Fingers platform.

Henry Holtzman, John Kestner, Daniel Leithinger, Emily Tow, Danny Bankman, Jaekyung Jung


John Kestner, Daniel Leithinger, Jaekyung Jung, Michelle Petersen, “Proverbial wallet: tangible interface for financial awareness,” Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction, pp. 55-56, 2009, doi:10.1145/1517664.1517683

Exhibited at Ars Electronica 2009.

Boston Globe, “Sci-fi becomes the new reality,” July 5, 2010.

John interviewed by Tess Vigeland. “The three 'proverbial wallets',” Marketplace Money (American Public Media). NPR. September 10, 2010.

John interviewed by Simon Morton. “Proverbial Wallets,” This Way Up. Radio New Zealand. August 21, 2010.

The Daily Mail, “The incredible 'smart' wallets that change shape to try and stop you spending money online,” December 6, 2010.

ABC News, “Electronic Wallets Shrink With Your Spending,” December 7, 2010.

Daniel interviewed by David Gray. “Proverbial Wallet,” The Homestretch. CBC Radio. December 8, 2010.

CNN, “Wallet keeps you from shelling out cash,” December 8, 2010.

Boston Herald, “Money talks... and it’s telling you to stop spending!,” December 9, 2010.

John appears on Daily Planet, Discovery Channel Canada. December 16, 2010.