Engineers and gilders might not seem like the most intuitive design partners—after all, their crafts hail from entirely different centuries—but the results of those kinds of unconventional collaborations can be magical. Behold: Hibou (meaning Owl, in French), a ceramic radio that's controlled by touching the palladium patterns on its surface.

Hibou is the work of two French designers named Celia Torvisco and Raphaël Pluvinage, at ENSCI Les Ateliers, along with Jean-François Dingjian and Laurent Greslin, Fondation Hermès, and a gilder at Paris' Sèvres Cité de la Céramique. The duo have worked with tactile interfaces before—for example, this radio that changes based on directions—and the same principle is at work with Hibou. Each decorative pattern controls a different behavior: running your finger along the thin gradient on the shell controls volume, for example, while tapping on the silvery triangles lining changes the channel. The broad silvery circle on its upper face? That's the on/off.

The patterns are screen printed in palladium, a rare, fairly recently-discovered white metal that also happens to be a great conductor. Below, you'll see some shots of other patterns the duo printed—theoretically, you could apply a lattice of the stuff to any organic material, turning it into a conductor. Technically, Hibou is just another touch-sensitive gadget, like any number of others on the market right now. But as an experiment in interaction design and materiality, it feels like an object from the future. Check out more on the designers' website. [Vimeo, via Design Boom]

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface

Control This Beautiful Ceramic Radio By Touching Its Palladium Surface