Disobedient Objects

Process

Upon receiving the project brief, we started brainstorming and came up with a few potential household objects and ideas.

Sketches of some of our ideas 

#1 – (picnic) basket JUST for men

This concept stems from spinning a satire on fragile masculinity where a basket is weaved for men (think wicker picnic basket)! This basket, that only men can carry, can be used by them to carry their things when they go out (stereotypically, guys only bring their wallet, phone and keys out) but when it reaches a certain weight, perhaps a ridiculously light weight like 1 kg, one out of two things can happen:
a loud blaring noise, akin to sirens, or using LED lights to make flickering lights shine frantically from all around the basket.

#2 – lipstick tube

For the longest time, lipsticks have been seen as “feminine objects”.

Hence in an attempt to neutralise/normalise the age old gender associated to make up, the tube will be emptied to make space for a blade or another object that is stereotypically masculine which women can whip out in times of need. To make it disobedient, this lipstick-cum-army swiss knife contraption will play a “feminine” voice (if possible)/something like Powerpuff Girls theme song

Another idea for this object would be using a fully functional lipstick (with the lip colour still intact) and making the lipstick part spin upon contact, making it difficult to apply lipstick. Lipstick will then be applied haphazardly if the user insists on using it, resulting in a messy lip, defeating the purpose of applying make up to beautify oneself.

#3 – flower pot

Sketches & Ideation for Plant Pot

Many people utilise flora and fauna in an attempt to neutralise the inanimateness of our concrete apartments. However, humans these days continue to rely on technology so such great extents that we often forget to bask in the warmth and comfort of family. Many of us turn to our mobile phones during meals despite sitting with the family, wasting a good chance to have quality conversations.

Hence we wanted to create a flower pot that is able to say greetings such as “Welcome home”, “Have a good day”, or to even ask questions that we forget to ask one another. “How are you feeling today?”. This is to shed light on the over-reliance humans today have on technology that we forgo human connections that we will live to regret.

Execution

After the presentation on ideas and discussing with one another, we decided to go with the flower pot idea to bring about the importance of family – something we hardly bring up during table conversations.

As we continue to approach our idea in greater detail, we realised it would be difficult for us to make our potted plant talk and thus changed it to singing happy melodies. The idea of a potted plant being able to “sing” was our way of creating an obedient disobedient object (because it is a “nice” plant). 

However, Serena and Lei gave us feedback to take the idea of disobedience one step further and have our plant scream/make blaring, obnoxious sounds. We then started researching ways to carry out this idea.

First, we wanted to use a photocell based on what we learned in class. We tested our interactive piece using a photocell, but realise that it is a highly light sensitive, variable resistor. As we wanted our plant to be able to detect motion regardless of day or night (if it were to be placed outdoors), a photocell would then not work well enough to achieve the fullest extent of our project.

Detailed Plan of what the Potted Plant would look like

With more research, we chanced upon a PIR motion sensor. With little knowledge, we researched more and found many tutorials on it. When we concluded that the PIR motion sensor seemed to be able to achieve the results we wanted, we went back to Sim Lim Square and bought one that would work for 5-7 metres.

We then assembled the parts according to the tutorial we found on this website: . After plugging the Arduino to the code, we were still unable to get the sensor to work. We checked again and again the wires and codes and they were all working fine which marked our first huge obstacle!

During the technical consult with Lei, she helped us with the code and switched up a few things. After a long while, everything came together and finally worked! (Yay, thanks Lei!!)

Top View of Plant Pot

It was also during the consult that we learned that different PIR motion sensors of different distances were meant for different objectives. This was something we now know to look out for when working with PIR motion sensors.

The code we found linked to the tutorial worked. Since we wanted our plant to produce obnoxious sounds, the sounds we were able to achieve with the code was still pleasant-sounding. With our lack of coding skills, we sought the help of our good friend Google once again – which led us to this link: https://circuitdigest.com/microcontroller-projects/playing-melodies-on-piezo-buzzer-using-arduino-tone-function.

Original Code:

This original code played a pleasant melody which was far from what we wanted.

Revised Code Version 1:Changing all the tones to the same code expectedly resulted in a singular bleep that went on for ages and while that was truly annoying, it was not the sound sequence we wanted.

Revised Code Version 2:We tried adjusting the byte melody to be shorter, but as it did not synchronise with the count length, the code did not work and no sound played at all.

Final Code:After trying out different combinations of tones of different frequencies/pitches, we decided that a higher pitch was better and we were able to achieve a borderline obnoxious tune out of our plant.

Though we wanted it to be even more obnoxious, some comments from our presentation in class stated that the sounds were obnoxious enough.

Various Iterations of the Potted Plant

Additionally, we had an existing pot which was too small as we decided on placing the breadboard and Arduino inside the pot. We then got a larger pot and a single stalk of a bright yellow flower. To create soil, we initially wanted to use real soil but then decided to contrast the yellow of the flower with blue foam to represent the soil.

 

How does your hacked object behave in a way you least expect it to?

Above are examples of the potted plant’s usage in situ

Natalie:

Naturally, potted plants do not have any tendency to make sounds. One of the unexpected behaviours it exhibits is that it makes noise when someone walks close enough/past it. The type of sound it makes is also unprecedented – instead of a pleasant tone that one may expect to come with the pleasing visual the flower supplies, an alarm-like sound is blared instead.

Sherneese:

Firstly, the idea of our potted plant being able to produce sounds, which deviates from the average plant that sits in its warm soil. When the PIR motion detects any movement, the piezo buzzer produces the sounds. It is then supposed to shock the person who walks by, as it is uncommon for plants to make any sound, especially people are usually alone when walking along corridors back home or going out. There is also an added layer of hacking our object in the sense that the sounds produced are not friendly. The sounds are meant to annoy and create confusion.

What are some reactions you observed from your participants when they interacted with the object?

Natalie:

Most of them were alarmed and bewildered, not knowing what it was they were doing that was causing the sound. This bewilderment then transitioned into curiosity and an attempt to figure out the trigger for the alarm, going as far as to lift the flower from the pot or remove the blue foam surrounding it.

Sherneese:

During our presentation in class, we simply left the potted plant on the table. When the participants approached it, the plant started blaring sounds (which was the intended purpose). However, our plant’s interaction was only limited to the surrounding space between the plant and the participant. The participants then tried to take out pieces of the “soil”, even pulling the flower (which we placed so strategically /tragic/) out of the pot.

During the entirety of the interaction, we did not interfere with it and the result ended in a pot with detached soil and flower.

What are the challenges involved and how did you overcome them? What problems still exist? How might you overcome them eventually?

Comparison of Pot Size Pt. 1
Comparison of Pot Size Pt. 2

Natalie:

Some challenges involved hiding the components of the setup. Buying a bigger pot enabled us to hide the breadboard and Arduino entirely, and even the buzzer as well.

However, the motion sensor is still located on the exterior of the pot as it cannot detect people walking past if we put it on the inside of the pot (obviously), or if we put it on a side of the pot that does not face possible passers-by. It was left on the outside of the pot in plain sight and kind of gives away that it is not a usual plant pot (blue foam notwithstanding). Methods to combat this could include painting the sensor (though that may affect the sensor’s radius) or angling the sensor in a way that it is not visible but still able to detect people (such as under the pot’s rim).

More challenges involved achieving a sound that was as obnoxious and alarming as we intended using code, as well as getting the motion sensor to work properly in that it only triggers the alarm when someone walks past it, not all the time that people who are standing a relative distance away would still trigger it.

The latter is what happened during our actual presentation, and the alarm rang perpetually. To combat this, we could set up the presentation area like a corridor, limiting the audience to only be able to walk past it instead of clustering around it, as our tutors suggested. We could also use a motion sensor with a smaller detection radius.

We searched online for various melodies and codes that could guide us to the sound we had in mind, and experimented with pitches and tones as well. However, changing the melodies and codes sometimes led to the melodies constantly playing whether or not someone was near the motion sensor, or that the sound was simply not annoying or alarming enough. We also had problems getting the motion sensor to trigger to alarm at first, but with Wen Lei’s help in troubleshooting, we managed to find another code that worked. To combat the sound issue, we would have to do more research to get the sound to be the degree of alarming and annoying we intended.

Sherneese:

From the presentation, we realised the importance of setting. How we chose to set up our interactive space was important, making the pre-interaction as important as the actual interaction. If we had instead placed the potted plant in a corner and strategically created a pathway for people to walk towards the plant, they would not think to disassemble the pot. This was an important lesson I now know to look out for. The main interaction should be the focus, but not the entirety of the performance.

From the viewpoint of setting up the physical pot and linking the code together, we had small obstacles such as pot size and different placement of the breadboard, Arduino and wires (we decided placing all the electronic components within the pot looked better than hiding it behind the pot). We had the most difficulty with coding as we were both inexperienced. As mentioned above, we overcame the issue of the code not even being able to work by consulting Lei which she helped us solve. A problem that still exists to me is the type of sound. The idea I had in mind regarding the “blaring, loud, obnoxious sound” was supposed to be more alarming and screeching than the final one we were able to achieve. What we had was good enough, but it would be good to achieve something even crazier. I think it is possible to overcome them when we learn how to code in a way that we can create such specific sounds, or using different components that can produce different types of sounds. This issue can be overcome with more research and perhaps asking the shop owners as Sim Lim Square how we can achieve sounds that can scare people to death.