Archive for October, 2007
I have a problem: I like to SNOOZE. I mean, it feels so good to go back to sleep after your alarm wakes you up, especially when its cold in the room, or you don’t really have to get up. I have tried many strategies to overcome this behavior: putting my alarm across the room, so I have to get up and hit snooze, giving myself a rule that I cannot wake up after 10am, jumping out of bed and yelling; but what usually happens is I don’t remember to use these tricks because I’m half asleep, or I get used to them and don’t ever remember walking across the room to hit the snooze button. I am sick of it. For my Networked Objects final project I am going to solve this one.
My plan is to make the alarm last long enough so that I actually wake up, and then hopefully make the more rational and reasonable decision to GET UP. This is how it will work: a little devise will sit next to my alarm, and three to four other devises will be placed throughout my apartment. When my alarm goes off in the morning, and I hit snnoze, the little devise sitting next to it, hears, and tells one of the other devises in the room to go off. So, I have to get up, find which one is going off, and hit it’s snooze button. Once I do that, it tells one of the other devises in the apartment to go off, so I have to find that one. This process continues until all alarms have been deactivated. Its like a like a little game. And because it is random which alarm goes off when, the game is always changing and I can’t learn it. I know it sounds drastic, but I’ve tried everything else (except having a regular sleep schedule I guess).
The great part about the system is that it is scalable. A user can add as many alarm nodes as they want, and the system automatically uses then. So if a person is really bad at waking up, they could have 10, or if a person just needs a little help, 2.
If you want to know more about the technical aspects of how the system would work, you can refer the the System Diagram.
I’m tired of tweezers. Mostly because I have been tying little knots in conductive thread and soldering way to small LEDs. Why? you ask, to make a physical away message. What? is that you ask, you can refer to the PDF or SITE linked at the bottom, but basically, its a way to let the people around you (especially at ITP) that you are either ‘available’ or ‘occupied.’ This is accomplished through a necklace with a user control and LEDs. I worked in a group on this one, Jen Grier and Heather Rasley, and we decided we wanted to make a pretty and elegant object… that worked… so thats hard, esp when it has to be soft, and portable, and robust.
Technically, the Physical Away Message, or PAM, is not complex, two or three simple switches that control an analog circuit; but fabrication wise, it was a difficult little project. We ended up making five prototypes, each approached a little differently, using everything from surface mounted LEDs, lace, two types of conductive thread, latex tubing, zippers, snaps, magnets, tape, wire, batteries (coin and AA), metal jewelry cases, etc… Needless to say we learned a lot about fabrication, specifically small fabrication.
Although our PAM was a daunting and, by the end, aggravating process of: design, prototype, test, re-design, prototype, test, again and again; it was great being able to have multiple revisions of a project. Usually at ITP we have one go at something and are always let saying: “if I could do that again I would…,” but with this midterm we got to try it again.
Working in a group was also helpful, especially near the end when we started multi-threading the project (each making our own prototype). Actually, the team work aspect was really enlightening. I have worked in team many times, but usually with team work the problem is complex and big, so many people can work on it at once. But with our PAM, it was small, so really only one person could work on it at a time, not efficient. Next time, when faced with such a situation, I will try to design the production part to be more multi-threaded.
Overall I am satisfied with this project. I am glad its over though, the world of wearable electronics is tricky.
How am I not myself? How? am I not myself. How am I not, myself? How am I not myself? (Just a little ‘I Heart Huckabees’ humor for you).
Its self-reflection time over here at Softness of Things. Midway through the semester and a good time to sit down and think about what has gone on. I went through all of my projects and project descriptions for this class and noticed a few trends: I sure do like to be self-reflective and I sure am a formalist (in the art-world sense). I say that because in all of the posts about my projects I can’t help but question what I did and what I’m doing. Its like a self-critique, but all the time… but its a positive one. I guess its like saying “what did I really do? And is that the best thing to do?, where should I go next”… all very rational thought processes being applied to very non-rational actions. Which makes me wonder if they really do anything at all. I can pretend that my self-reflexivity actually influences my action… but does it? I have the feeling it does not, at least not very much.
I have habits; a somewhat well established style, and a picky aesthetic which have been developed for 20 years, so can I really change what I do by just thinking about it. It seems ironic to process such ‘from the gut’ work with a really rational action… but maybe thats just what it is: processing. Maybe that is how I process my work, or, ‘finish it off’-by thinking about what it was that I just did. I have noticed I enjoy talking about HOW I approached a problem, not WHAT I did to solve it; but when I am making the artifact I almost always make decisions because they FEEL right, not THINK right.
You as the reader may be saying to yourself “man, why doesn’t he just not think so much… stop worrying about it”, and I would probably do the same if I was reading this. The only problem is: I like it. I like to think of it as my way of balancing out my work. I make things from the gut and with reckless formal abandon, and then over rationalize all my decisions once they are done… I could trying inter-weaving those processes… that could be interesting. One really great side affect of the rational introspection, though, is I can talk about myself accurately and freely. I can be my own curator, which is helpful in times like these… but I wonder if its all B.S?
Oh, PS: Isn’t it funny how I can’t avoid thinking too much and making a jumble of thoughts… it is to me… even in a essay ABOUT reflexivity…. AHHHH INFINITE LOOP!
It was energy week at Softness of Things, actually, sustainabilty, energy, waste, composting week at Softness of Things. We talked about what all this environmentalism stuff means, the ideas that are out there, some things that you can do, some things you can’t do, and most importantly, what we all think we can do. I guess I have been entirely indoctrinated by Pliny Fisk while working on the Solar Decathlon, because all I can think of on the subject is embodied energy and ‘carbon life cycles.’
As for my response to ‘energy’ this week, I didn’t make a physical thing for once… I made an idea/image thing: an EER label. After thinking about my energy in my life, I discovered that I have no real way to make informed decisions about the products and foods I buy. Thats a shame because the information is out there. Embodied energy data and carbon footprint data exists for most things we buy (at least roughly), but there is no way to get at that info… especially at the time of purchase. So I did what the FDA did a while back, I made a energy version of the ‘Nutrition Facts’ label. My label displays a product’s EER or Embodied Energy Ratio (which I made up… but kinda exists), its manufacturing location, and its carbon footprint. I was surprised in my research to find that there is actually a ISO standard for calculating carbon footprint, and close to that sort of standardization for embodied energy… so all the info is out there; we just need our government to implement a program that makes producers display that data-just like Nutrition Facts. You can find my label proposal HERE.
As a second activity for Softness, we individually kept a log of all the waste we produced during the week. I found out I flush the toilet a lot. Earth day should jump on an idea like that, maybe send out cards to fill out for a week; it really made me take note of the things I throw away. It made me wonder though, what can I really learn from my habits? One habit I would maybe change is: bringing a cup to ITP to use over and over again, instead of using plastic cups and throwing them away-but would that really be better? What uses more embodied energy? We need a way to know.
|‘Networks’ were the subject of this week’s Softness of Things Class. This time we worked in groups, so we ended up with larger projects. My group and I thought about networks for a while and became interested in a couple ideas: 1. Sound… its a good medium to play with… easy to deal with and project/control. 2. A ‘bad’ or naughty network… one that did not necessarily do what you want, could be chaotic. and 3. The click that 1/4″ audio jacks make when you plug them in, its really nice.So we mixed that all together and came up with a human controlled, physical, musical, chaotic, network. It works like this: We made eight boxes that people wear via a velcro/elastic strap. There are three types of boxes: Music Makers, Mixers, and Speakers, each with a specific function. The Music Makers play one of five sounds from a iPod sound with a iPod attached to them, then send it out over the ‘network’, the Mixers take two signals and send them other places, and the Speakers take signals and make them audible.
Eight people put the boxes on (anywhere they want) and play with the connections between them via audio cables; how they make the connections change the way the five sound tracks are mixed and thus what comes out of the speakers. I know this is unclear, it is confusing, especially for the people playing (they are tangled and covered with cables), but its more fun that way… surprises happen.
It was good working in a group for this project. We got our ideas together quickly and were able to produce a lot. In the production of this project I learned something important: electronics are CONFUSING… or at least hacking electronics is confusing. We needed a speaker with an amp, so I had the ‘great’ idea to take some radio alarm clocks apart to get it. It started off fine, until I had to start cutting the circuit board to take it apart. I know, crazy, problems when cutting a circuit board? Who would have thought? Well magic happens. I spent lots-o-time breaking and fixing those alarm clock boards, but it all turned out well and I learned about hacking, yay!
|Wowy wow wow that was tricky!
I just finished my fist excursion into networking… a place I have never really been before. So for Networked Objects, we are using a little devise called the Xport. It converts serial data to the ethernet protocal (what the internet speaks), what that means is: I can now make my pComp projects (sensors, microcontrollers, LEDs, etc) talk to to the internet. Which is good because the internet has a lot to say and many people are listening. This all probably sounds complicated and scary… and it is. Mostly, I think, because there is so much going on I cannot control. In typical pComp projects you can touch the wires, program the chip…. debug all that stuff. But when you start playing around on networks, you often cannot change anything (its in other people’s control) and its invisible-that makes debugging really hard.
BUT, I prevailed, and it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it took a looooong time to get everything running right, but it was a great process.
|Assignment three for Softness of Things was to create a ‘connector.’ Physical, conceptual, whatever; like last week’s project, a module, you could create any type of connection you want. I almost immediately got this image of a fluid type of connection. I want to be able to feel/see/hear a fluid movement with electronics. I thought of water, lots of tiny steel balls, mercury… any substance that would move fluidly. That type of kinetic movement seems to be missing from electronics and the digital world-and I want to change that. It probably doesn’t really exist because of the connection problem. Fluids are unpredictable and hard to control/translate into the on/off world of electronics. SO, I decided I would try… eeef!
I initially had grandiose ideas of hundreds of BBs rolling around in a object, turning LEDs on and off as they passed… but that is quite tricky to make a schematic of, and even trickier to fabricate (especially in a week). But I did not give up, instead, I simplified. My hundreds of BBs turned into one larger brass ball, and my X-Y two dimensional plane turned into a one dimensional track. I did however manage to keep the fluid movement around, so in that way I am quite pleased.
It works like this: The brass ball rolls back and forth in between two copper tubes (like a train on a track); as it rolls down the ‘track,’ it connects a current to light up different LEDs. All of that (ball, track, switch, battery) is encased in a little wooden box that you can hold in your hand.
In week two of our ‘The Thermometer of the Future” group project for Networked Objects we had to come up with an actual proposal. From our research, we decided that the way we currently receive weather data is not practical. What does 86 degrees really mean? Its really abstract. AND it doesn’t tell us information about the things we use it for: clothing decisions. Almost everyone we talked to mostly used the weather to decide in the morning what to wear and take with them. So, we decided to fix that problem.
We propose a weather data system that would be much more practical to your life. All of this is eloquently (and beautifully) described in THIS PDF of our presentation… but the basic premise is that your computer recommends what you should wear that day, and then looks out for you when you forget umbrella or whatever.
I liked our final proposal because it could actually be implemented… and with the right application/customization, be useful I think. Who know… maybe a prototype in the future?