Physical Computing – Week 1

// September 15th, 2009 // Physical Computing

As an assignment for our first week of physical computing, we were asked to take a walk around our neighbourhood taking photos of sensors that we come across. As I am still new to the neighbourhood here, I was also happy to take the time to explore some areas I have yet had the chance to.

According to Wikipedia, “a sensor is a device that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an instrument“. These devices serve a diverse range of purposes, from simple to complex or reactive to interactive. Many of them manage to blur these boundaries without notice as they have integrated into our daily lives in such a ubiquitous fashion.


As I began to explore, camera in hand, I was reminded of how many of these devices centered around privacy and security. Whether it was bank machines, key card access or surveillance cameras, I felt myself wanting to stray from these types of sensors I would normally think of. The one reason, more so than others, because I figured I may look suspicious photographing all of these devices. Not exactly the image I would like to create for myself amongst people I may continue to run into around my neighbourhood. As I had a hard time finding other sensors to photograph and kept seeing more security cameras, I was reminded of a project by the Institute for Applied Autonomy called i-See. The project mapped all of the security cameras throughout Manhattan and allowed you to plot walking routes as to how best avoid them. Such a task could become a rather complex in itself. It’s too bad they don’t provide coverage of Brooklyn, I may have been able to plan a better route before I left!

Of the photos that I did take I tried to capture a range of images, where some would be quite simple sensors, some more complex and others that could provide debate as to whether they would be considered sensors at all. One subject that continued to interest me was that of motorcycle dashboards. They too came in a range of complexities and interactions, each with a varying number of sensors. As there are a number of conversations, in a number of directions that can open up, I’ll leave you with the images.

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