Physical Computing and Fabrication
“The Nature of Internet” is a piece that strives to bring necessary attention to the increasing environmental cost of bandwidth-heavy internet use. The centerpiece is a USB-connected device which in its default state cools the literal mini iceberg inside. However when the user of the connected computer visits a website requiring significant bandwidth, the device switches to heating mode, causing the iceberg to quickly melt. As it melts into the lower electronics, it eventually accumulates to the point that a simulated short circuit is triggered, rendering the connected computer inoperable. In this way the device also illustrates the self-destructive nature of environmentally unfriendly activity. Additionally, a connected display makes explicit the volume of data being sent and received.
This project was imagined as somewhat of an antithesis to the hard-edged futuristic aesthetics that permeate much of the interactive tech world. It is instead a tactile display full of other-worldly textures, plants and animals meant to be explored and discovered using your hands. Hidden amongst the hands-on landscape are four subtle interactions which when triggered bring life to the piece in unexpected ways. The whole environment is powered by a pair of Arduinos running a host of sensors, inputs, servo motors and LEDs.
Recent studies have shown that racial groups in the United States experience the effects of pollution in ways disproportionate to the amount of pollutants they generate. My co-collaborator Veronica Alvaro and I sought to represent this alarming fact with our interactive sculpture “Pollution Inequality”. At the top of the sculpture are three trash can openings, the size of which are based on the statistical amount of fine particulate matter produced by the behavior of white, hispanic and black populations respectively in the US. However when a user throws trash away in one of the holes, it activates the smoke stacks associated with the racial populations affected by that group’s pollution output instead, highlighting the stark differences between the amount each group produces and is forced to consume.
As a part of my continued exploration in mediating or “softening” human interactions with technology, the Computer Wellness Stone was designed as a device to facilitate twenty second breaks from computer use every twenty minutes, as suggested by the American Optometric Association. On that interval the device vibrates gently, and when picked up it dims the user’s computer screen, allowing them to relax their eyes for twenty seconds before returning to work.
This project was an experiment in the unexpected ways that MIDI commands can be generated using an Arduino as a MIDI controller. This design grew out of an interest in creating an expressive, tactile method for generating musical chords and served as an opportunity for me to experiment further with tangible inputs and panel mounted components.
This short video is the first in what I hope to be a “mockumentary” series showing the exploits of an Arduino-based robot I have created. While the videos themselves are staged, the robot is genuinely programmed to be interactive, reacting to changing light conditions.
This project is my first real attempt to pair Arduino-based physical computing with my video background, and I am looking forward to hopefully dramatically expanding this kind of work in the future. It is also meant to play with ideas of reality vs. fiction through my straight-faced presentation of the video on the Instagram platform.
Below is the text from the Instagram post itself.
"Ever since I started working on this Arduino robot, unexplainable things have been happening in my room just outside of my field of view. Beginning to fear that I had given life to something truly insidious, I set up this camera to see what I could not. Last night I returned to find this footage revealing my robot is not in fact a malicious being, it's actually just an asshole."
This project came out of a desire to build a small but practical gift for a family member. This display platform is USB powered, and in addition to the rotational movement, it also has a button on the side which when pressed illuminates the inside reveal the inner workings of the object. Part of the success of this piece were the failures I overcame in the process of building it; I went through multiple combinations of motors and other components before completing on this working version.