Category Archives: Interactive Devices

Final Assignment: Tamaduino

We started off assembling the pixycam module, which wasn’t that difficult since it came with a set of instructions. However, we’ve had to calibrate the servos and adjust the pixymon software so that it was able to track perfectly. Once that was done, Anam trained it to look at objects of specific colors. We set Signature one to a red colored object, and signature 2 for objects in purple. We then hooked it up to an Arduino Uno and checked the serial monitor to register the tracking.


On my end, I was inspired by the Tamagotchi device that was displayed in the Human+ exhibition in the arts science museum, so I decided to emulate the look of it. However, I felt that the use of buttons was not really

bought a nokia 5110 lcd screen and downloaded the nokia 5110 adafruit library and animations before tweaking it. I looked through the animations and noted that the animations were actually done in programming and weren’t a series of bitmap frames. So I took the pacman animation and changed the direction of movement. After tweaking the values, I made a set of custom animations with the help of an online sprite animation software called Piskel


I then saved it as a series of images and extracted the bitmap information with the help of another software called LCD assistant. However, we ran into some issues with the if statement as we were unable to successfully get integer values from the pixymon signature/block string values. We eventually settled with running both animation loops going before making the cover with the help of some cardboard. We initially wanted to make the casings out of lego pieces, as they are easier to prototype. However, we changed to cardboard as the pieces were heavy and could constrict servomotor movement.


Human+ exhibit


Marc Owens
Avatar Machine
Costume and Video


Of all the items presented in the exhibit, the one that intrigued me the most, in concept was the avatar machine exhibit by Marc Owens. Although I wasn’t able to try the rig myself. I was able to understand how it functions.

Avatar machine is basically a video camera attached to the back of the user. The user is blindfolded, with his only way of navigating through the streets is by camera footage. The idea of this exhibition was to give this individual a third person point of view in real life and see how he/she would navigate.

As someone who has played lots of video games, including third person combat games such as grand theft auto, Arkham Asylum and The Witcher 2, I find it fascinating that such an exhibition exists where you get to play these fantasies out for real. I can only imagine such an experience to be disorienting as you no longer feel like you’re in total control. In fact, one might even develop an out of body experience

Though simple in concept, there are a few tricks when navigating via the avatar machine. First of all, the footage may be slightly delayed due to latency, making the user unsure as to whether they have accomplished a task. Secondly, they may be able to see themselves, but would be have to take note of the fact that the rig is still behind a user. I found footage of someone standing in the middle of the highway with the device. If he had turned his head a little, one of the passing vehicles would have slammed into it, tripping the user into oncoming traffic.

In the end, however, the device looks like fun, and I would think about doing something like that in the considerable future if I have the time.

interactive device: Semester Pitch Proposal


The first idea would be to design a touch based instrument, which is a set of makey makey sensors rigged to a t-shirt. The idea would be to turn the individual into the instrument. Other alternatives include a set of controllers which would be rigged to an MP3 player. The reason why this may be useful is because it eliminates the need to fumble through one’s pocket to manually change tracks.  An additional “lock” feature may be added to prevent any accidental contact.

The second idea would involve the use of a simple animated character that reacts to human interaction. The device would be a touchpad or a set of sensors that triggers a response. A similar device to this would be tamagotchi. Technically the main hurdle in creating such a device would be to setup the led screen. However, the input would be a simple button.

I will be adding a twist to this device in which the character would perform like a clicker device,  rewarding the user with new reactions and emotes based on the number of clicks received and the rate of clicking. For example, the more aggressive the user is with the device, the more movement/ action the animated character would make. This device is a statement on clicker-styled games on iOS/android games.

device of the week #4: Pyro board/ Juicero


The Ruben’s tube is basically a metal tube with a couple of holes, which work similarly in principle to the Bunsen burner. The interesting application comes in when the flames move up when the gases in the pipes are exposed to low to high frequency music . This creates a wavelength effect. The following installation has about 2500 holes installed in a flat 2 dimensional surface, and although the visuals don’t look all that impressive while doing a pitch test, it starts to take form when drum and bass style music is being played.

Although the video doesn’t go into specifics as to how the device is programmed, I feel that the aesthetics of the device is interesting enough to show here.

The next product is something that i would like to talk about, especially when it comes to snake oil-like salesmanship. The reason why I think it is relevant is because people seem to be technologically illiterate about technology in general. The device is the Juicero machine, and it is basically a device that squeezes out a packet of organic juice into your cup. It advertised itself as a device that can be operated on remotely through a wifi signal. The force of the push was also advertised at a whopping 8 tons.

The problem is that the device has to be constantly logged into the wifi network in order to work, and an additional app has to be used in order to operate it. On top of it, the packet itself posed a huge problem. Firstly, it has to be mail ordered, thus making purchases inconvenient. The packet also has a QR code, which has to be scanned before operation, this throws away all hope of using other branded juice packets. To make things worse, the QR code also takes in expiration date information, meaning that packets that have expired cannot be squeezed out, even if it has only expired for a few minutes. This feature, according to Jeff Dunn, was added so it could immediately recall the sachets in the event of a product recall.

The final nail in the coffin was drawn when videos emerged where were squeezing the sachet manually by hand, and without much difficulty. This eliminated the need of paying $699 for the Juicero machine altogether. The company has since reduced the price to $200, and has laid off 25% of the staff. It eventually shut off, after issuing an apology.

I’m not a big fan of adding in wifi signals or adding additional features for the sake of novelty, and less of a fan of people using this novelty to sucker people into donating big bucks into their kickstarter project.




Pong controller: Documentation

  For our group (nicholas makoto, goh chersee,xinfeng, maung phyo win zaw), we’ve decided to create a color based detection system for the pong controller. To use it, we’ve placed 2 differently colored foam pads, one is green, and the other is purple. The closer the colored pieces are, the more the pong paddle would go in one direction. For this assignment, we’ve decided to use a digital controller, which would cause the paddle to only move in one speed.

The way this works is as follows. The  “suckah” tab is placed over a camera feed and users can then click on a specific color to drawn. The color swatch is attached to the “suckah” tab to let users know what color is being registered. Once that is done, a rectangle is drawn, taking in the top left, right and bottom left and right coordinates. We used a mathematical expression to derive the area of the rectangle and created an if statement which moves the tab if it hits a certain threshold value.

An alternate way of calculating the value which was suggested was to take the differential area values between the green and purple value and use that to determine the position of the paddle, which would effectively make it an analogue controller. We’ve initially decided to use a color sensor, but due to the limitations of calculating and extracting different color values, and cost constraints of getting the sensor itself, we’ve decided against it. All we needed was a proof of concept placeholder that would still accomplish the final result of moving the paddle using a particular color.


Device of the week#3: Makey makey screaming carrot

So apparently this is a thing that exists. Though makey makey is relatively simpler to construct, i found its applications and implications more interesting to me. The idea here is that inanimate objects have anthropomorphic properties imbued into them. For example, the following carrot screams when it is cut, much like what would happen if an actual person is being chopped, and the water fountain would complement users who use the water fountain… and so on. This interaction, if worked on further, could reference more sentences/interaction ideas from the web and “communicate” with the user.  In this instance, the action that is performed is specific (drinking water), so the sensing and affecting is

The makey makey consists of a few connectors, plugs USB cables and a crocodile clip. The user can create a customizable controller or even a conductive surface like pencil sketches. Once the user interacts with the objects, the circuit is completed and a low current would pass through. In order to make the device a little more portable, a wireless system can be setup, with the crocodile clips being hidden a little better.

I can see this device be applied to public benches, automatic doors or lifts, that will react to human presence (ie. react according to how many times its used , or reacting to whether the user is pushing a door marked pull), though there will be those that will argue that doing so will either be invasive or awkward. An example of this that i can think of at the back of my head would be the robot character Gerty from the movie “Moon”. Though that robot had a monotonous voice, it was able to express its emotions through the use of emojis. I can see this replacing greeters in stores too.

Device of the week #2: Tangible Media/ Sensel

The next installation that I would like to talk about is the interactive art device called Tangible media.The device is a new take on the Pinscreen, a popular desk toy that allows you to create a rough 3-D model of an object by pressing it into a bed of flattened pins.

In this build, the pins are connected to a motor controlled by a nearby laptop, the camera from the kinect takes in infra red signals from the user and projects them onto the pinscreen.

This project had me thinking about how I would be able to do something similar with a much smaller budget. Using a webcam, I would then aim it downwards onto my arm and have the setup lighted downwards so that the image registers contrast clearly and keeps the shadows on the corner of the arms, rather than having it one side over the other.  I would then be able to use the rgb values/luma values and use cellchecker in max to get values from each individual pixel before sending them to each individual pin.

There are a few limits with this setup however, although the pins slide up/down fairly well, they are’n’t entirely 3 dimensional and still require the user to look at the installation from one single vantage point. I could see this installation being applied towards representation of data or physical topographical representation in maps. On a much larger scale, i could foresee this being used to redefine topological/partitioned spaces in shopping malls, depending on the kinds of events or roadshows which would be presented in the atrium.

One small device which may use this application would be a morphological tactile surface controller, similar to a keyboard that changes ergonomics, which brings me to the next device…

Another device that tries to use the same principle of a modifiable tactile surface is the customizable MIDI controller. The thing that makes this controller different is in the detection of velocity and dynamics, creating a more nuanced controller that can play notes of varying volume. This principle is also applied to the stylus pad, allowing users to paint more naturally, compared to the rigid wacom intuos 3 stylus, which has to be custom controlled, and has a more limited tilt and pressure sensor which has to be calibrated. The selection of brushes would also be limited there. However, the sensel skips the hassle of brush selection online.

The touch pad itself is intuitive, and is a simple more plug and play configuration. Other configurations include the trap set, keyboard and the MPC controller.

Device of the week #1: Steel sky- by Christoph De Boeck

The device that i want to talk about is the steel sky exhibition by Christoph De Boeck. This exhibition consists of a few steel plates suspended in the sky and rigged next to a high frequency reverb mechanism. The interface is then connected to a wifi headset that gathers 8 signals of brain signals from whoever is wearing it. Using the brainwave patterns, the reverb mechanisms would strike on the metallic plates, simulating what the skies would be like if they were made out of something as dense as steel.

The technology is provided from the Holst center, which is an independent R&D technology, and is involved with wireless autonomous sensor technology. It developed a wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) headset which fits comfortably , and can monitor moods in daily life situations using a mobile app.

Our brain basically process information through electrical signals generated by electrically excitable neural network. When stimulated, molecules pass through the cell membrane and passes through the synapse, which is the gap between the neurons. This electrical signal is then picked up by the device.

The headset tracks localized and synchronized activity in the parietal lobe and the occipital lobe, and is able to track if the user is blinking, smiling, raising his/her eyebrows along with many other complicated expressions. The user would at first think about a specific action, and the resulting brain activity would be recorded and logged in a database. So whenever the user thinks about performing that same action again, the computer will take the nearest approximate value in the database and perform an action.

On a technological level, I found this interesting as the headset could potentially be marketed to the general public as a form of wireless and hands-off approach to interacting with devices, and the most amazing aspect of this concept is that it is already put into practice, with augmentations and prosthesis.

I could imagine someone registering all kinds of brain signals based on different kinds of thoughts, and then be able to open doors and cabinets without even uttering a single word or lifting a finger.

Documentation of project

  Our group members consist of me, Maung Phyo Win Zaw, Goh Cher See, Nicholas Makoto and Xin Feng.

For this project, our concept was to create an alarm clock which relies on hand pressure to switch off. The harder one presses on the alarm clock, the less amount of additional snooze time will be given. Additionally, the alarm volume will be potentially increased.


  The idea is to create an alarm clock that responds based on the awareness of the user. If one is more tired, the alarm clock will instinctively react and not disturb the user, if the user is awake enough but isn’t willing, the alarm will be set louder to “push” the user out of bed. To switch off the alarm clock, the user will have to smash on the pressure switch much harder.


  The project was separated into a few categories:  The first function was the clock countdown element, a smaller value of five seconds was set so that we could test it quickly. Secondly, three if statements were used so as to trigger three separate countdown values.

 The issue with using a pressure based sensing is that the input value constantly drops to zero whenever the user lifts his finger away from the pressure sensor, updating the computer until the input reads as zero. To solve this issue, we used a peak function to take the largest value, resetting the counter as soon as the user pressed on the pressure plate again.

  Finally, we matched the three bang functions (based on the pressure) into the volume bar, and added a fourth pressure value so as to stop the audio playback. We set a new value of the countdown timer.