Phys Comp

Final Project – Magnetic Puppet

For more information visit http://www.magneticpuppet.tumblr.com

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I built a small project that integrates art and science in an educational context: a magnetic puppet which responds to a stimulus generated by unique configurations of a set of underlying “control” electromagnets. Though quite simple, I think this project could be useful in teaching children the basics of magnetism, and in motivating them to create their own magnetic toys. In addition, this project could be further developed into new forms of artistic expression—such as a puppet theater.


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Description

I was very happy with my mid-term project and decided to keep working on the same idea. I believe that using potentiometers for controlling the puppet was a good call for the mid term, but also, that a seamless interaction-

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-which responds to user movements–would make it “feel” more “alive”, by adding a “magical dimension” to it. I am very interested in exploring the user reaction to responsive “human-like” puppets–in particular that of children–because as humans, I believe that we can identify with the puppet and accept it as a “living creature”. For my final, I am going to scale up my magnetic puppet, building a larger model which can be exhibited as an interactive art piece. I will implement distance range sensors to control its movements, by mapping the distance between user and puppet to control its extremities.  I have been working on the blueprints for laser cutting the final version, and have found some design challenges that I will have to address.  I am particularly worried about the joints, since–unlike the mid-term prototype–I want to integrate the magnets into them, while setting some boundaries to limit their movement range–since you can only bend your elbows and knees in one direction.

Laser Cutter

After spending two entire evenings in the shop, I have two final laser-cut puppets–just in case something i need some spare parts–that I can use for my final project. I learnt about setting up the laser cutter and about avoiding drawing unnecessary lines in the blueprints. My first prototype–shown in the pictures–was out of scale and had several fabrication problems.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 10.06.33 PM

Blueprints

This image contains the final blueprints of the puppet for laser-cutting.  Apart from the extremities,  I cut a series of circles with different diameters for building the joints.  Some of them will have neodymium magnet attached underneath to repeal the electromagnets, generating motion.  I decided to built each joint individually because or the particularities of each union–depending on how many parts it is attached to.  I am still a little worried about the weight of the puppet and while designing, kept that in mind to avoid any unnecessary parts.

Sensors 

For the final project, I am using two SainSmart HC-SR04 Ranging Detector Mod Distance Sensors.  There are many great reviews about them and I have tested–even near electromagnetic fields which was one of my fears–and they appear to be working correctly.  However, when the distance range is close to 80cm, there is a gap in the readings.  I am using a code by Tom Igoe that I found in the Amazon reviews of  the sensors, available in the following link.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004U8TOE6/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Bill of Materials 

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I ordered all my materials for my final project last Wednesday (Nov 6th), but haven’t received the HC-SR04 sensors yet.  I have been reading about how to set them up and it seems that they are pretty reliable.  However, I would like to start working on them as soon as possible because I don’t want any last minute surprises.

Initial Blueprints

imageTimetable for Final Project

Timetable

Mid-term Presentation

Report 2

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Draft—I wired the controller without knowing the exact amperage at have to change I have been working in the controller interface, and after solving some circuit-related issues, it is finally working. I have to find a way to keep the electromagnetic fields within boundaries, because to the electromagnetic—Draft

Report 1

Draft—For my PComp mid-term I am building a magnetic puppet controlled by electromagnets. I have always been intrigued by magnetism and this project seemed to me as a perfect opportunity to explore about AC and electromagnetic fields.

After some testing on my first prototype (a 16in paper puppet), I realized that I would have to make a significantly smaller version of it in order to meet the mid-term deadline.  However, after building the second prototype, I realized that controlling a smaller version of the puppet was significantly more difficult because of the strong effect that the magnetic fields produced by the electromagnets have over it.  I had to discard my initial idea which was to control the magnetic fields by using gravity–setting up the puppet in a vertical position–and needed to find a way to set some boundaries to limit the effects of the electromagnets. After doing some experiments, I found a way to control the magnetic fields by changing the original design of the frame of the puppet.

Homework 6 – Blog assignment

Q: Has learning to build tangible interfaces changed your view of what constitutes good physical interaction,  or has it strengthened your initial ideas?

A: Learning about building tangible interfaces has changed my views of what constitute good physical interactions. Two months ago, electronics and micro-controllers were completely out of my reach, there was a “technological gap”—that still exists—that I had to bridge over to open a new world of possibilities. What at first glance (tangible interaction) seemed to me like a technological challenge—involving transistors and resistors—rapidly became a design challenge for which technology is completely useless if you don’t have a vision.Quick prototyping in the physical computing class has allow me to bear out that—in order to be successful—tangible interfaces should follow good design rules and that the technological aspects involved should focus on enhancing usability and understandability. It seems to me that tangible interfaces are about “talking to and listening from” bits and bytes and “translating” them into the physical world. It is about allowing people to seamlessly interact with new media by integrating hardware and software in usable and understandable formats.

Class 5 – Serial Communication

With Alon Chitayat

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Arduino_Code

Processing_code

We built a physical interface for controlling a Processing sketch replacing the GUI defined in the sketch by potentiometers and switches. While the x-axis of the sketch is always on, the switch allow us to turn the the y-axis on and off.

Homework 4

Homework 3

( Observations on an interactive piece of technology, used in public by multiple people.)

Is losing interactivity always a bad thing?

I might be stepping out of the boundaries of what is a valid piece of technology for this assignment—used in public and by multiple people, but I got the idea in a restaurant while watching an employee changing channels in an old TV. In these days, with Apple and Google TV, everybody wants to switch to the next new thing, abandoning a familiar way of interacting with TV sets: zapping. Although TV shows are not very interactive under Chris Crawford’s definition—since we are only “listening” and they are only “speaking,” I believe that we have transformed watching TV in a physically interactive activity in which there is an ongoing conversation between the pieces of technology—TV and remote control—and the users. If I am watching something I dislike or if there are any interesting options in other channels, I start zapping immediately, watching five and even more channels at the same time. While TV on demand is offering more content and possibilities to its users than ever before, it is extinguishing the interactivity out of watching TV. We are rapidly becoming passive “listeners” of TV content. Is it a good thing to decide what to watch instead of serendipitously zapping? Is losing interactivity always a bad thing?

Labs

Controling high current loads with transistors 1

Controlling high current loads with transistors 2

Servo/Analog out

Tone Output

Homework 2

Readings 2

Donald A. Norman – Design of Everyday Things

Donald A. Norman – Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better

I really enjoyed the first chapter of Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman. I believe that it is a pertinent reading for our class since it focus in the balance there should be between usable design and aesthetics, and sets a solid ground for good design practices by establishing concrete “principles of design for usability and understandability.”  As an architect who never attended to a psychology class, I completely agree with his argument that designers should not only understand how things work, but have some knowledge on the psychology of people in order to be able to consider the user’s needs and wants when designing. In order to overcome this issue in our Physical Computing projects, I believe that we can follow his line of thought by accepting that as designers, we “know too much about our projects to be objective judges,” and that we should embrace other’s opinions and ideas if we are to create more effective interactive projects.  I also enjoyed reading his article on Emotion & Design, which opens the door to a broader understanding of the balance between aesthetics and usability, adding a new and pivotal concept to design: stress.  I believe that we are witnessing a time in which usable and understandable beauty is upon us, and that Norman is offering us great clues to follow the path of good design.

Lab2_1 Connecting a digital input circuit and a digital output circuit to a microcontroller. First Arduino program.

Lab2_2 Connecting a variable resistor to a microcontroller and reading it as an analog input.

Class 2 In-class work in pairs (with Roy Park)

Homework 1

Readings1

Chris Crawford – The Art of Interactive Design

I might be stepping out of the boundaries of what is a valid piece of technology for this assignment—used in public and by multiple people, but I got the idea in a restaurant while watching an employee changing channels in an old TV. In these days, with Apple and Google TV, everybody wants to switch to the next new thing, abandoning a familiar way of interacting with TV sets: zapping. Although TV shows are not very interactive under Chris Crawford’s definition—since we are only “listening” and they are only “speaking,” I believe that we have transformed watching TV in a physically interactive activity in which there is an ongoing conversation between the pieces of technology—TV and remote control—and the users. If I am watching something I dislike or if there are any interesting options in other channels, I start zapping immediately, watching five and even more channels at the same time. While TV on demand is offering more content and possibilities to its users than ever before, it is extinguishing the interactivity out of watching TV. We are rapidly becoming passive “listeners” of TV content. Is it a good thing to decide what to watch instead of serendipitously zapping? Is losing interactivity always a bad thing?

Bret Victor – A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design

How would you define physical interaction?
A physical interaction seems to be a conversation between actors in which both listening and speaking are consequential, and involve tangible expressions in the physical world. For example, in a conversation with a friend, I might respond to a question with an explanation, and both the question and explanation involve sound which is a tangible expression.  Or my interaction with my computer writing this answer since when I type a character, it automatically appears on the screen of my laptop which is also a tangible expression.

What makes for good physical interaction?
Since physical interactions involve our senses, I believe that it is safe to say that an interaction can be enhanced by either improving the sensorial experience, or by integrating more senses in any given conversation. For example, the development of interfaces has clearly enhanced the personal computer user experience by improving the quality of the graphics and by offering new alternatives for interaction such as the possibility to dictate instead of typing.

Are there works from others that you would say are good examples of digital technology that are not interactive?
In our digital world, there are many fantastic artistic productions such as photography, renderings, music albums, animations and movies that are not interactive since they cannot listen to an audience.

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