Intro to Physical Computing – F11 – Fitzgerald

For our Intro to Physical Computing project, Gavin Hackeling and I are working together on an application that will allow for a camera on a mobile device to track an image (as a fiduciary) on a screen or paper or etching (or any surface) and let the user touch the device’s touch screen to manipulate the image otherwise. In the three demonstrations we have developed to show the application’s possibilities, we have one image that will drag across the screen via the user’s touch on their touch-screen device, one image that lets the user draw red lines on it in the same manner, and in the third demonstration, we fabricated a box with an etching on its top, that when the user touches their screen at particular coordinates, in a particular sequence, the box will open from within and close itself after a few second delay.

Here is some documentation of the fabrication of that box, in its first stages, and a photo from the ITP Winter Show 2011 taken by one of the people who liked it, who is also an ITP alum.

this is an instagram that one of our showgoers took for us and posted on twitter. At ITP Winter Show 2011.

this is something put together to show people where the points and sequence of touches need to be in order for the box to open. the idea is that the user alone knows what the gesture is so that the box will open.

Servo Motor Control with an Arduino

I am posting this lab from week 4 a little late.

There were a series of problems I had once I followed the lab instructions. The sensor’s analog value turned out to definitely not be 0-1023. It turned out to work best (after my other discovery below) at a value of 0-700.

The other problem I had was that I had placed my pin for the sensor to be A1 because that is the way the picture showed it. But the written directions were to stick the pin in A0, and the programming code reflected that. I was wondering why the servo was not turning much at all and I finally looked over everything after trying out different analog values and it turned out to be that the sensor was still reading something at the A1 pin, but it needed to be in the A0 pin. Interesting.



Here is the video of my “creative” interpretation of the lab. A mini surrender/”I’m sorry” flag wave.

Observation. Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used. Watch people use it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observed. Take notes on how they use it, what they do differently, what appear to be the difficulties, what appear to be the easiest parts. Record what takes the longest, what takes the least amount of time, and how long the whole transaction takes. Consider how the readings from Norman and Crawford reflect on what you see.

I observed a very ubiquitous interaction — the walk sign button on the corners of the busy streets in the city. The walk sign button is pressed when people want to cross an intersection, but the light at that moment is red and there are cars coming the other way. But my hypothesis was that many of the people at the intersection would ignore the walk sign button and cross whenever the oncoming traffic thinned out, New York-style. When I observed various crosswalks, only a handful of people actually touched the walk sign button, and they looked more like tourists. Also, I found out that not all of the busy intersections in NY have a walk sign button at all. Of the people that did touch the button, about half of them pressed the button multiple times, perhaps willing the sign to change faster. This is the same thing that happens at elevator banks — people for some reason want to make sure their button has been recognized, so they push it several times. I found that perhaps, in a city as big as New York, it is probably a good thing that some city planner put in automatic walk-sign crossing alerts so that millions of people per day weren’t constantly having to push the walk sign buttons — that would almost certainly cause more wear-and-tear, which equals more taxpayer money to fix. The automatic walk sign alert also makes sense because, of course, there are millions of people walking around the city at any given time, and cars do have to stop for the flow of traffic, anyway, so why not incorporate, essentially, traffic signals for people/pedestrians? Waiting for the crosswalk alert can take a minute.

After my observation, I found out through online research that some say that most of the crosswalk buttons have been deactivated for 20 years because computers automate the alerts, but that people still push them in the hope that it will work still, out of habit, or ignorance. That explains a lot.

The buttons themselves are not necessarily anything of beauty, but at this point, knowing that they are obsolete is the bigger issue, not whether their attractiveness makes them work better, as posited by Norman in our readings. But the button, to work as a placebo for the masses, does garner more attention if it is pleasurable to engage. I think the better buttons are the smaller, pencil-eraser tip-sized buttons with the metal housing above it are the most pleasant to push, because they give way a lot more than the big buttons with the writing on them, which barely push in at all. But anyway, perhaps the new question is whether this psychological maneuvering by the city is a successful ploy. I think it won’t last, but that it has had a good run.

stupid pet trick concept
“Shockwave”-type carnival game

supplies needed:
*BX/AC electrical wire
*junction box/shield
*mounting screws
*more hookupwire
*junction box bottom
*weights (for the box to act as a stand)
*eye bolt
*wooden dowel
*electrical tape
*multi-position switch

Carnival game — The concept is to make a game where a player would try to trace the spiral (made of BX wire) with the dowel/wand with metal end. They would have to set their proficiency level with the switch, first — easy (15 seconds), kinda hard (10 seconds), very hard (5 seconds). If they succeed without touching the wire during the time limit, all the lights (maybe five) would light up in a jaunty fashion. If they fail and touch the wire within the time limit, the sad buzzer would sound. I’d make a spiral with the BX wire, mount it to the junction box, hook up the wire to the ground screw on the junction box, fill the box with weights, and screw it shut. I would screw the eye bolt into the dowel and attach the hookup wire to the bolt and wrap the dowel with electrical tape if I wanted to.  I would have to program the Arduino to respond to the different time constraints with the switch, as well as program it to light up the LEDs if the player wins (does not touch the wire). Then I would program it to sound the buzzer if the player touches the wire (closing a circuit). I think I will need help doing this programming, but I will try to do it on my own, first.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem tuning loud conversations out while I’m at a restaurant or bar. Sometimes people straight-up yell instead of talk, and I find it very annoying and distracting — not to mention rude. My device or app would detect and analyze the loudest voices or sounds around the user and identify them in wavelengths. The wavelengths would be able to be soloed out in order to see who it belongs to and if that is the one you want to get rid of. When the voice/noise reducer is activated, the app would scan the room and attack the hot points of that wavelength and manipulate it within a set perimeter, reducing the levels to as low as the user set them to be. This device could also be used to amplify specific voices or noises. 

For one part of the week 2 assignment fo Physical Computing, we were supposed to take pictures of all the sensors we came in contact with… I chose to post some pictures of the most useful sensors I saw. The Chase ATMs, the card reader at the subway station, the metro card buying machine… I was surprised that it seems like not a lot of storefronts are using automatic sliding doors, these days. I really didn’t see one. I was looking for a sensor-operated faucet and I didn’t encounter one.

It will be interesting to see how we will take the understanding of sensors further into our work in this class.