In-Sync: Digitisation Process (Part 2)

In case you are interested, you can find part 1 here!

Let’s make some fabric sensors !

First off, all credit to kobakant, for their amazing work. Superb repository! I am not going to talk about how this thing works, because I didn’t invent it, and also they do it much better. Hard-soft connections can be found here.

Cooking Ingredients:

  • Arduino Megas x2
  • Homemade fabric sensors
  • Touchdesigner
  • Lots of patience
  • Wood
  • Tough fabrics, used curtains in this case
  • Velostat and conductive thread
  • Lots of wires
  • Computer

Let’s try with RF shielding fabric

So to make a big mat for the final seat, of course it would be prudent to make small ones, like 3 times smaller to be exact. Some quick sewing and soldering and we are off to the races, with the WRONG material. I was just trying to be cheapskate and resourceful at the same time; used some ‘RF’ shielding material. From the test below, clearly it didn’t work. It was basically a big fat switch.

 

Ordered some velostat, and yes! It works.. kinda. Now just have to scale it up accordingly.

Time for the real stuff.

Layout

First design, I am just going with the flow and trying my best to construct a logical design. The wires come together at the end for a soft-hard transition, for easy wire connection.

 

Make it straight

Important to keep the threads straight and hot-gluing them to keep in position. Also, don’t forget to always leave the extra lengths of threads on until AFTER you hot glue everything. Only trim when the hot glue is set, duh…

 

Soft-to-Hard transition

First decent finished piece!

Obviously, this wasn’t the first full piece I made. In fact, the third. Few things I picked up. The conductive thread shouldn’t be too thick; makes it hard to do everything. Ideally 2-ply would do. And always leave plenty of thread at the end for easy soft-to-hard sewing. Experimenting with 2-3mm stitch spacing, I felt that 2mm gives a neater result, and doesn’t really use much more thread; not sure about thread usage actually ๐Ÿ™‚ .. Also, I made the terminals face same direction for both pieces, for obvious reasons …

 

Hot-glue keeps it neat

Yes, hot glue does solve everything in this case. I really don’t think it’s possible to make a reliable product if you choose this type of connection.

 

Buttons for easy removal

To ‘attach’ all three pieces together, I decided against stitching as I wanted to make the pieces as serviceable as possible. So I used buttons instead. This way I can simply button the sensor onto the chair seat.

 

Positioning on seat

Positioning by eyeball, I am guessing most people will sit at the bottom 1/3 of the seat, and also because my sensor is only 27 x 27cm; due to the size of velostat I could procure. But I figured technically I could cut out strips of velostat and sew them onto the stitching, so I could increase the mileage of the velostat use. I’m playing it safe though as time was tight.

 

Slits for cable relief

Slits are required for the terminal ends to hang loosely so that nothing breaks when 100s of pounds are applied onto the sensor. Small strips of fabric are used to reinforce the sides of the slits in an opposing direction.

 

Fitting complete !

Sitting on it and not breaking anything was a sign of relief. Now I just need to go through the whole process and create the second piece.

 

Top layer for beauty sake

Before I could test run, I had to solder lots of wires; nope, the crimped ones aren’t going to cut. I ran a count, and am proud to say that I did over 100s of soldered joints by the end of the project. But I still had to rely on hot glue ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots of connections in this batch; 96 in total!

 

Here you can see it kinda works, it’s a little noisy and off in accuracy at certain parts. But otherwise I am glad that something even flashes..

 

Piece 2

New layout; maximize wire spacing ?

As I am making another set, why not have some fun and experiment a little? So I decided to try out a new layout and see if I can notice any tangible difference. Here the layout is for maximizing wire spacing, so that I can delay the tiny spacing as long as possible, but it does burns your pockets…

 

Practice makes perfect?

Getting neat and tidy joints take time; 1-2 hrs on average!

All done, hot glue to tie up everything

new layout all done, last piece as well!

 

Lessons learnt from sewing 6 pieces of these things.

no knot necessary?

Tying knots mean the thread length needs to be more, which equals extra cost. So being cheapskate me, I struggled with tying knots while having short ends. But I realized that you can get away by just having it loosely looped while pulling it through, but does require a finer touch.

 

needle just needs to pull thread thru

 

Tie a knot! You can never tie too many knots when you are doing e-sewing.

be sure to tie a knot !

wala! second set done

I must say, this second set seems much improved. In appearance I mean.

 

Second set integrated onto chair, support strips added at wire terminal areas

Last stretch, the sensor is integrated and we are done

 

makeshift arduino platform, with barebones cable relief

Simple makeshift board for mounting the megas, with tremendous cable management and strain relief.

 

cables start and end wires labeled for easy install

 

Software is eating the world

But mine doesn’t. Touchdesigner is all the rage these days, and I have no intention of bucking the trend.

Bird’s eye view of the whole setup


I try to modularise as much as I can so that the logic can be made/fixed independently, OOP style, so to speak.

This module simply receives data from Arduino and converts it into a usable format. TD is receiving the serial data in rows, as I tried sending all 121 values all at once but doesn’t play well.

 

The data is pretty noisy, partly because I believe of the many imperfections of the homemade sensor, and also the lack of calibrated tests based on the conductive threads I used. In short, lots of data fixing before it’s in usable form.

 

This part is simply to automate the process of changing instruments/sample combinations every set interval, so that I don’t have to pay someone to sit there and press a button. Also, I can experiment with combinations and add/remove them easily.

 

Many connections, but it’s because we are dealing with 2 chairs, and each chair’s sensor has 9 spots that correspond to 9 different sound files. TD makes it easy, and very fast as well.

 

Here the sound files are switched out according to what combination is selected. Again, TD has made it easy; here I am switching between 9 sound files x 8 combinations = 72 files, all achieved with some dragging and dropping.

 

Here the outputs from the sensor visualisation are combined, and I have added a ‘watercolor fx’ just for added visual interest. and partly because the iMac has enough muscle to run everything at 60fps.

 

Finale

The day has come for showcase !

 

Special mention(again):
Sensor Fabric based on work & research by Kobakant

Special thanks to:

  • Interactive Spaces Class of 2020 Sem 1
  • Prof. Kristy
  • Prof. Dejan
  • Bryan Leow
  • Poh Zhang Yu
  • Man Wei (videography!)
  • Phenomenal staff at SPMS Making and Tinkering Lab, for technical and logistical support.

Thanks for dropping by!

Iteration: In-Sync

Problems:

  • transmission of touch was limited to only sitting up and down
  • sound was almost non-existent
  • distance was too close for much impact

Ideas:

  • overhead shelter that doubles up as simple mode of interaction; grid of free-moving leaves above, supported by net-like structure, users can tug on the net either side, like a primitive and limited form of interaction
  • a double sided acoustic guitar in the middle, strummable from both sides
  • sonification of movement; use of pickups to amplify movement sounds, strategically placed on the undersides of the seating area and cloth
  • responsive musical chair; could encourage users to ‘play’ with the seat more, use of fabric sensing grid
  • digitalisation of communication cone.

https://www.instructables.com/Balanced-piezo-contact-microphones/

https://www.instructables.com/0-Microphone/

Fabric Sensing grid (https://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=7651)

design sketches

possible location

 

In Sync – Process (Part 1)

Design

I started the design in CAD, after having a loosely similar sketch. In the first iteration, the sitting area was much wider, basically a 1m x 1m square. After all the design was done, I prepared a cutlist, and upon realising the ridiculous amount of wood the design required, I had to go back to the digital board and do major revisions.

Design Iteration 1

I first down-sized the sitting space to a cosy 60cm x 60cm square, and reduced the number of legs. I was pretty confident this amount of wood was structurally sound, as I have made sofas of similar design before(actually slimmer in design). I was very relieved when the updated cutlist reflected an almost 30% reduction in wood requirements. On hindsight, I am glad I downsized the structure as the timeframe was challenging enough as it is.

Design Iteration 2

Build

The building of this project took place over an intense five days, at least for me.. But it was great to do some building from time to time, and I am proud to share my process..

The wood was all sourced kindly from the IM room; alas there were many twisted ones, but as a lot of my construction used short lengths, much of the twist was mitigated as I processed and glued them up. Also, I would like to add that the whole process involved no heavy machinery, ๐Ÿ™‚ only a cordless drill and sander.

Cut planks to length

Measuring, cutting alone took a full day, in total there were close to 80 pieces, derived from about 6 x 2.4m planks. Then the planks were fitted, cut and glued according to the CAD design.

Glue planks for strength

When one half of the frame was done, a dry fit was done to make sure that the translated CAD design worked in real world. At this point it was pretty spot on. Though I must admit the frame was not entirely square; about 5mm longer on one half.

First rough framing complete

After all the parts were ready, lots of sanding was done to remove the blemishes and cracks in the wood. This part was certainly one of the most demanding.

Sanding mania

With the framing ready, the time has come for throwing in some cloth for the seating. I had on hand some used curtains; these were plenty strong for our purposes. After a bit of trial and error, I made 2 straight stitches on each side to act as sleeves for them to slide onto the frame. I try to make this as modular as possible, so I avoided using staples, even though it would be much faster.

Marking & sewing stitches to cloth

Fitting cloth to frame

As there was plenty of sanding to be done, I sanded one half per day and applied wax so that I can use the time while the wax is drying to sand the other half. It was pretty gratifying to see the crappy wood transform into something that look somewhat luxurious ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way this is kapur timber.

Applying wax finish on first batch of sanded parts

Finished all sanding ! This is how the planks look before wax

Moment of truth! A first full assembly of one half. The legs are properly fitted for the first time, with the addition of the bottom leg tie supports. I deviated a little from the CAD for the supports, as it didn’t negatively affect the strength and looked more visually interesting, seen here in a cascading style. Some sewing was also done on the straps, repurposed from cargo tie-downs. Three of these were more than enough to help support the weight of seaters. Bryan, Zhifeng and Bao also bravely helped me test-run the strength of the cloth seats. Seeing Bao sit comfortably on the chair, I was confident the structure could handle itself.

First full assembly of one side, sign of relief!

The other half was done much faster, and after some finishing touches the whole design is fully realised and ready to go! It was Friday, so I decided to also quickly throw together a cart to house the dismantled structure, and get it all packed and ready to go for installation on Monday evening.

Full assembly complete

All packed and ready to go

Setup went by smoothly, as this is an analog project I guess? Digital projects tend to throw you curveballs. I also added some greens for good measure. I was lucky to have Gwen, Yenee and Amanda to help me test-run. I am glad they had a bit of fun.

Setup at location

First eager participants :p

Presentation day. In general I think the structure held up well. In terms of interactivity, it was limited. Most of the interaction occurred as people sat and got up, making it see-saw-ish. Also, the tin-can contraption was more of visual eye-candy than functional. I think there are many opportunities for further development. And hopefully for the next iteration we can have this outdoors for better effect.

Cheers !

Critique day

Check out part 2 , as the project gets ‘digitised’ !

Ideas for Project 1

Sync (Longing, connection)

  • 2 players sit across each other
  • they are connected by touch via the ropes, and can feel each other’s movements
  • the string with cone provides audio feedback between players

Night scenario

An illuminated trough of water in the middle that can highlight the movement of the strings.

the seating areas can be slightly illuminated to provide a hint of participants

Thoughts: Illuminating Embodiment by Rafael Lozano

Relational architecture, is an interesting concept. I interpret it as re-making the architecture, from a cold, emotionless structure, to one that allows and facilitates connection between people. From Rafael’s Relational Architecture series, one can experience new ways in which structure drives communication/connection, bring people together, help people relate to each other, or simply bridging the gap between strangers.

Here are three other pieces, other than the ones mentioned in the article, that I felt have achieved the feat of transforming architecture into a wondrous medium, almost imbuing it with organic, life-like qualities at times.

 

Border Tuner / Sintonizador Fronterizo, 2019

Players at six different sites use a beam of light to ‘connect’ with one another. When the powerful light beams intersect each other, players can communicate with each other using the provided microphone.

Strangers, prompted by this magical mechanism of light beams connecting across the sky, connect and speak to someone miles away.

 

Remote Pulse, 2019

Players at the station can feel another player’s pulse at another station when he/she places his/her palms on a provided hand interface.

The transfer of something as human as a pulse elicits a sense of connection, between strangers, without need for words, sound or visuals.

 

Voice Tunnel, 2013

A tunnel, filled with lights, is controlled by voice recordings of participants who speak into a special intercom in the middle of the tunnel. As new people participate, old recordings get pushed away down the array of lights. The “memory” of the installation is always getting recycled, with oldest recordings on the tunnel edge and newest in the middle.

This tunnel represents time, time in which people have come and passed, similar to how people come and go, shaping the world around them as they pass along. The metaphor of voice recordings represent the unique individuality in everyone of us, and the light intensities provide a visual metaphor for the liveliness of the individuals that have participated in the tunnel.

 

 

Assignment 1 Sketch

Take the words you used described when prompted by question โ€œWhat is the feeling you associate with HOME?โ€ย and create a SKETCH of how you might visualise this sensibility.ย  How has this changed due to Covid-19?

 

Longing and connection are terms I associate with HOME; people who I enjoy company of, and spending time doing things with. Covid-19 has brought about many changes to our lives, our movement around the island, and our routines.

The way I am thinking of visualising this is to setup a repository of recorded life experiences, a family meal at the table, a hike in the forest with friends, a day at the beach, window shopping at the mall. These experiences will be recorded visually and aurally, and with the help of a homemade projector, and a good set of earphones/speakers, one can setup his/her space(be it indoors or outdoors) and partake in an activity with other people.ย These experiences will also be location encoded, so a relevant experience can be automatically activated in a certain location; e.g. a forest walk experience in park.

This concept shares similarities to the location-based triggering of audio scapes, with an additional optional visual element.

The visual experiences(take the family meal example) will feature simple setups to mimic the real experience, including steps like meal prep, cooking, serving, then meal time and table chat.

 

Update: 7 Sep.

An aural landscape can help recreate a scenario quite vividly, even without means of visual cues. Through this, connection to loved ones can be made, albeit fleeting. The participant is presented with a set of sounds. There are a few categories of sounds: ambient environment, people conversation, secondary sfx(like rain, water flowing, etc.)

Depending on the type of scenario the user would like to recreate, he/she can choose the appropriate sounds, adjust each layer’s volume, to tailor his/her aural experience to a specific setting.

Layers of blurred images are mixed procedurally, and projected faintly to a screen in front of user. These images relate to the custom-made aural landscape, and provides a hint of the scenario’s lightscape.

Thoughts & Critique: Singapore Heritage Light Up Singapore

Central Fire Station

Armenian Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

โ€“ What is it that is being communicated?

Personally, I think this has been arranged to coincide with the celebration of National Day, and this year it is probably much more significant due to the unprecedented situation of a global pandemic. I think these iconic buildings might have been selected because they represent the important facets of society; religion, life-saving and cultural institutions, world class performing venue(esplanade), etc.

โ€“ What might the โ€œcuratorsโ€ have to consider to plan such a transformation?

I think working with a limited palette of mainly red and white, it is not easy to make it obvious and impactful. But I think the subtleness/solemness of the whole ‘experience’ could have been intentional; as a way of urging Singaporeans to keep up the good fight, with perseverance and grit. Also, because of social distancing and a need to avoid public crowds, the ‘design’ of the experience has to be succinct, yet impactful, and not be overly ‘crowd-drawing’. The budget considerations could also be a factor in keeping the experience to a simple lights projection.

Singapore Art Museum

Church of the Good Shepherd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

โ€“ What alternate ways could YOU imagine transforming these sites to communicate something unique or unknown about Singapore culture?

I think playing religiously-themed music softly could be interesting, especially for people from other cultures. If the place is a historic site like Central Fire Station, perhaps sound bites of historical events could be broadcasted. A virtual audio tour that is triggered on the phone with GPS could be used to allow visitors experience more relevant content.

The projection can be ‘interactive’ if visitors can send in positive messages and have them shown on the projections on these iconic buildings. This is especially great for people to give each other words of encouragement in these trying times.

Chijmes

Development of 2 person intervention

I have given some thought about the 2-person intervention where each person take turns to try to walk silently without being detected by the other towards the middle, which is the goal.

Here, I have further refined the idea to make it a tad more competitive and primal.

The setting is on a hot sunny day, out in the grass fields. In the middle a temporary tentage is placed, and spectators can hide here. There’s also plenty of water bottles at the tentage for thirst quenching.

The mechanics remains the same:

  • both participants sit facing away from each other
  • one of them starts first, by turning around with chair in hand, and tries to slowly make his/her way towards the tentage
  • if the other manages to catch him/her moving by clapping at that right time, the moving person will clap once, then get seated, and the roles are reversed.
  • if not, the catcher will shift his/herself a little further from the tentage, while the roles remain.

The interesting dynamic here, in my opinion, is that as it is a hot day, an implicit time limit is ‘enforced’; both participants will try to get to the middle as efficiently as possible. But doing so will also risk them getting caught faster or more often. And the penalty of moving further away also makes the catcher more attentive to his/her surrounding.

Thoughts on: Ch 4 – Body, Personal Relations, and Spatial Values by Yi Fu Tuan

The article talks about a variety of concepts with relation to orientation, scale, spatiality and other units of measurement(distance etc).ย I found the section about how chosen words can imply certain/specific meanings of particular interest.

Bearing the overwhelming assault of cultures across the globe, via the Internet or New Media, I observe a noticeable change in the way people speak and correspondingly, what they mean. In the 1990s, when someone said ‘Yes I will get it done soon‘, one can expect the ‘soon‘ to mean within a few hours or the day. Fast forward 2020, the same adverb can mean anything from minutes to never.

Similarly, personal encounters have become equally confusing and non-specific. For instance, when someone says to ‘Catch up sometime soon!’, it could mean either of the following:

  • he/she expects an invitation soon
  • doesn’t expect one, and will not respond even if invited
  • will try to avoid invitations with every excuse possible, without being explicitly clear that he/she didn’t meant what was said earlier
  • doesn’t really want to catch up, but just to ‘keep in touch‘, for practical or other reasons

Another particularly common example is also seen in political speeches. In statistically driven statements, true numbers are often obscufated with positive tones of ‘significant‘ or ‘upward trend‘, and equally downplayed negative tones of ‘statistically insignificant‘ or ‘temporary decrease‘.

My point, simply being, how the ‘units of measure’ in daily speech has evolved to an subtly complex, indiscernible, and largely superfluous way of authentic communication. Perhaps gone are the good old days of simple, direct language.