Physical Computing and Fabrication
A collection of projects and project sketches I have done involving physical computing and physical fabrication.
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.
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 MINI 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 project was a collaboration between myself and Wenjing Liu to create our interpretation of a Halloween-themed piece. Our diorama is a multi-media interactive experience, in which a user blows into a paper lantern which in turns illuminates the other lanterns in the space as well as “blows away” the fog on the rear screen revealing a collection of randomly generated ghosts.
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.
This Arduino-based project was an effort to explore a different use of the microprocessor as the core of a physical installation. Taking advantage of my background in electrical work and cinematic lighting design, I combined it with creative inspiration from nature-based science fiction like James Cameron’s Avatar and the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. What I ended up with is this lighting fixture that both provides a soft, warm ambience as well as glows with a subtle, living light. I hope to continue work on this project and eventually add dynamic lighting effects based on external sources.
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."
I also conceived and constructed this project as a gift for a family member, and the goal was to create something that would be both very natural as well as a bit elegant. Made of an actual fallen tree branch, the piece is accentuated with real brass elements and an intricate bare bulb. This project proved to be a perfect combination of my new fabrication skills along with the electrical and lighting experience I gained as a film lighting technician.