Friday, December 17, 2010

Wearable Sensors

The word "personal" in personal computers should really attest to its purpose- to read the user's qualities and give corresponding feedback. Now, there seems to be devices that can literally read you. I read a paper published by the MIT media lab- "Capturing Individual and Group Behavior withWearable Sensors." The paper introduced a study that involved the sociometer and its reading of 67 nurses at a hospital in Boston. The sociometer recorded interactive information such as speech activity, face-to-face interaction, and physical activity. An accelerometer would read the individual's physical movements, and voice frequencies would recognize and analyze speech. Interactivity would be indicated by the interaction of two sociometers from 2 individual or by an individual's proximity to inanimate objects such as the phone or bed.

The results showed enough correlations to prove that sensor data can define personal traits and characteristics. It was interesting to see how people can be identified just based on physical qualities in relation other objects and humans. The data only had partial contextual references (based on one of the studies done in a setup) and barely incorporated the content of individual's thought process or conversations with others. This paper shows that perhaps the computer does not need intricate and overly complicated analysis of users to create an environment adapted for the user. More information must entail higher replica of the user's mind; however, raw sensor data could be sufficient to read human traits that are to some degree categorized.

"Capturing Individual and Group Behavior withWearable Sensors"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Functional Prototype

The functional prototype took a dramatic turn from the previous plans. The biggest decision was to replace the breadboard with the Arduino Lilypad, which was more apparel-friendly appearance and weight wise. Alex began programming and assigning the different components on the suit to pins. Organizing the conductive thread paths was truly a challenge- after some labor for planning and hours and hours of sewing, the threads created a beautiful design pattern on the suit. I've never done so much sewing in my life, and my sewing skills have definitely improved after this experience.

My primary job was to design and construct a skirt that would complement the suit. I wanted the skirt to be architectural and voluminous- because we were envisioning the final product to be on a runway, appearance and design quality were great priorities. Using strips from reflective silver paper used to create Christmas bows with lots of double-sided tape, I created chunks of curved planess.

After creating a significant number of "bubble planes" to wrap up the body, I used the chicken wire to build a voluminous support. To enforce volume and architectural dimension to the skirt, I needed a stable wire support, and the chicken wires were light and malleable enough to work with.
Because the skirt was to be a "wearable" component, it had to adjustable to various waist sizes. I sewed in a velcro belt so the skirt would unwrap and provide a more feasible wearability. After constructing the chicken wire mold, I used the glue gun to attach the bubble planes. It was great that the material for the planes was easily bendable- I bent the planes to accomodate and create curves and the glue gun melted the metal paper right into the wires.

The final product complemented the suit very well. The silver gradients matched the white suit with the gray conductive thread patterns and accentuated the futuristic fashion. One warning was to prevent the wires from touching the threads.

For the final presentation, we made sure the threads were sealed with fabric paint and the LEDs were well connected.

The functional prototype looked awesome! Unfortunately, the bluetooth was having trouble because of the low power supply, and the LED panel simply refused to listen to the computer commands. Also, the beautiful thread design made the stretchy suit not so stretchy, making the fitting really difficult.

The project needed a follow-up. After the presentation, the group gathered one more time to troubleshoot the LED panels, not through the bluetooth, but directly with the computer. The LEDs were controlled by their coordination and gave a great visual impact.

 The bubbles, once lighted up, were beautiful attractions. The videos below show demonstrations for the panel and the bubbles.

Bubble Pop Electric was truly an exciting project. I learned so much about wearable, tangible interfaces and gained so much insight about the structure of the arduino lilypad and its endless functionalities. It was extremely rewarding to see the LEDs highlight the suit, and I hope I could extend my knowledge and experience to create more engaging and powerful interactive tools in the future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Peg Mirror" - Interactive wood pieces

The "Peg Mirror" by Daniel Rozin contains 650 wooden pieces with 650 motors. There is a camera positioned at the center of the mirror, and it reads whatever shows up in front of it and breaks down the image into "pixels."
It would be like dividing up an image into areas and assigning/painting them with certain degrees of darkness. This interactive art piece beautifully mashes organic materials with digital media. It works well as a wood sculpture/installation and also functions as a decorative "mirror" on the wall. The interactivity brings the piece beyond that of just a static installation and creates an active and constantly morphing- almost living object. The reading and adjusting are incredibly smooth, and the moving surface creates beautiful ripples. It reflects the movement of nature while appearing like a highly manufactured piece of work.

3D Printer Craze

The engineering lab at Wellesley has a 3-D printer. I remember watching a television show that first introduced me to a 3D printer that models an object, a human head, and a digital drawing and "prints" out a 3-dimensional replica. The experience was truly shocking and fascinating, and I really wanted to learn how the 3-D printer works.

According to Stratasys, the printer builds the product from the bottom up with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic. The plastic is rigid and tough; it fits easily into molds. However, it remains to be very light and makes it the perfect material to construct pipes and golf club heads.

The software reads the STL file and builds the support structure. The plastic is melted into a semi-liquid state and builds the model in layers. This process is called "additive manufacturing."

There are different methods to printing a 3-D object:
- inkjet printing: powder layer with ink boundaries
- digital light processing: exposing liquid polymer to light
- 3D microfabrication: gel cut with laser

These are some examples of 3D print works:

Bathsheba Grossman
Iron Man 2 Suit modeling

There are so many ways you can implement the 3-D printer: art work, sculpture, miniature sets, costumes...

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to create a LED matrix

The Bubble Pop Electric team loves LED lights. I believe a performance outfit attracts best when it illuminates in darkness and follows the dynamic of the excited crowd. After deciding to use the Lilypad arduino, it was essential that we learn the skeletal blueprint of a LED matrix on fabric and the installation process while contemplating on the function of the arduino.

The team faced one of the greatest challenges when planning the distribution of the Lilypad's pins. Because   the Lilypad needed to connect to the bubbles as well as the power source and the bluetooth, it could only provide 8 pins for our grand panel of around 50 LEDs. Our initial plan to control each LED was cancelled. Also, the price of the LED reduced the numbers for the panel. The 8 pins would have to accomodate for both column and row, meaning that the grid will eventually be 4x4. Technically, a 4x4 grid would only handle 16 LED, but to accentuate the brightness of the suit, the team decided to assign 2 LEDs to every crosspoint so that the suit will eventually carry 16x2=32 LEDs. The below picture shows what the suit with the sewn panel looks like.

The LED matrix requires tricky sewing. Using the conductive thread, the rows can't be touching the columns for a successful circuit. Ali used the sewing machine using a line of conductive thread and another line of non-conductive white thread- the rows are sewed from the surface and the columns are sewed from the inside. The suit has two layers of fabric. When sewn to the first layer, the non-conductive thread will create a buffer between the layers of the suit and prevent the columns and rows touching. It was a risky and careful undertaking. After the matrix is completed, LEDs with curled legs with bridge the column and the row to create a full circuit.