Archive for Physical Computing

Social Instrument v2 (in the making)

// December 27th, 2009 // No Comments » // Physical Computing

Social Instrument v2

I’ve continued on work from the first social instrument I created at the beginning of the semester.  With that one I wanted to make the interaction with the device as simple as possible and let the users focus on the interaction with each other instead.  With this second iteration I wanted to maintain that relationship but at the same time push it a little further.  This version now uses Ableton Live to generate the audio (using MIDI).  The users now have some additional controls.  Each have different controls available to them with the exception of a button to trigger notes being the common element between the two interfaces.  On one side there are controls for: note, tempo, reverb and playback.  On the other side there are controls for: instrument, volume, distortion and recording.  Also new in this version is a shared space.  It acts as both a form of feedback as well as introducing a new social interaction.  In addition to lights that indicate recording status and tempo, there will be a proximity sensor that controls pitch bend.  Seeing as this will be located in the middle, it becomes a different social interaction as it is the only control that the two users have to share.

With the addition of these added controls, the two users have to work harder and place an added focus on the way they communicate in order to create interesting melodies.  I have been prototyping what I have so far and am now moving on to building a more permanent structure for the instrument.  In doing so I am designing the interface in a flexible way so that I can easily make changes as I learn more from further user testing.  I now have the laser cutting done and all of the wood cut.  At this point I have a bit more sanding to do and a clear coat to apply to the enclosure.  After that I just need to assemble everything and reconnect all of the wiring.  Once the rest of the fabrication is done I’ll post some more documentation of the final result.  In the meantime, you can see some more photos and a video that demos it’s functionality here.

Lie detecting musical instrument

// November 25th, 2009 // No Comments » // Physical Computing

lie detector

I had been struggling with indecision in regards to my final project for physical computing. This struggle led to combining a few of the ideas I had.  Namely a social game involving lie detectors and the social instrument I created for my first assignment. I recently ordered a lie detector kit from madlab to test out. The way that it works is to calibrate the device to the galvanic skin response of the user (detecting how much resistance is created by introducing the user into the circuit), and then detecting changes in resistance to determine if the person begins to sweat. Given the assumptions this technique relies on, it is by no means accurate. So instead of using the device for it’s intended purpose I am instead going to use it for what the device actually senses.

The project is going to be a musical interface that senses changes in the body and uses them to manipulate the performance. The transition to this idea is a reflection on the thought that there are many similarities in the way the body responds to lying and the pressure of performing. I want to use these responses in a way to constrain a musical performance. I find the thought interesting that an instrument can have both elements that you have control over and also ones that you don’t (I say that loosely to illustrate the point). In that regard, I plan on using the drawing relationships such sweating/temperature to volume and pulse to tempo. This creates an interesting dynamic between the performer and their instrument. As performance is something that already can illicit a sense of nervousness for many performers, users of this device will have be even more self aware to avoid the outcomes that may make them nervous in the first place.

Next, I am considering if there are any other sensors I would like to incorporate and start to build the controller that would house these sensors. For now I am going with something in the realm of a glove, but that may change as I work further through some of these ideas. More updates to follow.

The Social Spotlight

// November 4th, 2009 // No Comments » // Physical Computing

social spotlight

The Social Spotlight was created in collaboration with Boris Klompus and Miriam Simun for our physical computing midterm. The project, consisting of a bench and three spotlights, sets the stage for social experimentation. Imagine how the setting would influence these experiments if it were to be installed in such places as subway platforms.

As a user approaches the bench the spotlight above the left seat is lit, enticing the user to sit there. This is sort of stage one of the experiment. Would people want to sit in the spotlight or feel they are supposed to? Would they be too shy and sit in one of other seats or avoid the bench all together. Once someone sits in the spotlight, that light turns off and the middle light turns on. As the etiquette of social norms in this type of situation may suggest, one would normally leave a seat in between empty before sitting down. With the middle spotlight turning on, the bench suggests otherwise. With the middle seat taken, the last spotlight lights up. Once the bench is fully occupied, the light above the first person to sit down turns back on again. This leads to new observations. Does the person under the spotlight feel awkward in this situation? Do they feel as though they are meant to get up? How do others sitting on the bench respond? The interest in how the answers to these questions change from user to user and location to location was one of the biggest factors in leading us to develop the project.

Here are a few more photos and a video below to demo how it functions.

Observing interactions

// October 21st, 2009 // No Comments » // Physical Computing

This week in pcomp we were asked to observe people interacting with technology in a public space. I decided to observe people using subway turnstiles. As I did, I recorded a timelapse video in effort to document some of the patterns I noticed. The affordances that lead to the intended interaction are fairly straight forward in their design. The action associated with the turnstile itself is common enough to create accurate expectations. The signage helps to direct traffic and the device for swiping the card presents a familiar interface. The design of this interface didn’t seem to cause a problem for using the card, but instead the functionality of it. Most people didn’t have problems, but there was definitely some who did. You could often tell that in differentiating these two groups, those who would have troubles often seemed to be people not from the city (and in turn were not familiar with the system). Others you could tell had troubles with dexterity in general.

The most interesting observation through all of this I found was that when people had troubles swiping their card, they didn’t often try to do anything differently in their subsequent attempts. It seemed like they’re thinking might have been, “must be the machine, I didn’t do anything wrong”. The only feedback the machines give you is a message reading to swipe your card again. Improving upon this feedback would significantly help. If people don’t know they are making a mistake, or how to correct it, it can be difficult to correct. I only managed to catch one of these interactions in the video below (the last person through).

Serial communication

// October 21st, 2009 // No Comments » // Physical Computing

Here is my take on last week’s lab for physical computing.  I’ve been playing with spirals in ICM lately so I decided to rig one up to a potentiometer.  Next step is to bring in 4 or 5 more into the equation.  Here it is for now though …

A social instrument (v1)

// October 6th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Physical Computing

This is my first project for physical computing. I call it a social instrument. Reason being is that it requires two people to play the instrument. The interface is very simple. There are two buttons, one for each person. The simplicity of the interface shifts the interest from the interaction with the device, to the interaction with the other person. It is this social interaction that drove my interest in developing the project.

social instrument v1

I am hoping to develop the project further. One of the ideas I have is to add a sensor in the middle of the device. This would add a new social interaction of interest as the two users would have to fight over the use of the new control. I am also planning on redesigning the interface slightly to add further clarity that device is meant for two people. As well I am also planning on experimenting further with the possible melodies that can be played. I will leave to guess what song the instrument is playing now. I will give you a clue though. I chose a song that has a very easy rhythm to play. You can watch the video here to hear it in action and see if you can figure out what it is …

more photos on my flickr page.

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