Taking shape

The latest version of Space Rock #4, sanded and with the circuit board and powerbank holder printed for inside. Also shown is a version of Space Rock #1 printed in sections at 280mm wide, and coated with XTC 3D as a test as this print has lots of flaws – not least because the filament snapped just before finishing printing the front section, so I had to do a patch repair. Interesting to see how smooth this sands down.

Research development workshop 18/07/18 – notes

Sun Ra - Space Is The Place record sleeve artwork
Sun Ra – Space Is The Place record sleeve artwork

Some notes from today’s research development workshop, helping to define and refine the research question for my final dissertation:

Abstract (describing my practice):
My practice explores the archeology of non-existent or imaginary worlds through interaction, immersion and communication using the universal languages of sound and light. The context to this work is to explore current human society and how we view our future through the imaginary worlds and narratives we create as projection or escape.

The research will focus on the science fiction genre, but also look the work of practitioners such as Forensic Architecture, who present immersive visual work in political and legal forums, truth commissions, courts, and human rights reports to give a real-world context.

What is the aim of the practice?

Explore current human society, and how we view our future, through imaginary worlds and narratives, using immersion and alternative ‘reality’. This will be achieved through a collection of hand-held interactive objects that generate sound and light signals and are networked to communicate both with each other, and with the viewer when handled or played with.

Key terms and definitions:
  • archaeology
    the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.
  • immersive
    providing, involving, or characterized by deep absorption or immersion in something (such as an activity or a real or artificial environment)
  • communication
    the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.
  • narrative
    a representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values.
  • imaginary
    the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
  • interaction (design)
    reciprocal action or influence.
    (Physics) a particular way in which matter, fields, and atomic and subatomic particles affect one another
  • science fiction
    fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.
  • Alien:
    a person who has been estranged or excluded.
    a creature from outer space.
  • Extraterrestrial
    of or from outside the earth or its atmosphere
    a hypothetical or fictional being from outer space.
  • Human
    of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or having the nature of people
    of or relating to the social aspect of people

This week’s (or month’s) research – 11/07/18

Not done one of these for a while, but thought it would be useful to round-up some of the research I have been carrying out over the past few weeks.

Firstly, am looking at the work of Forensic Architecture, exploring their use of design as a process of archeology.

Exploring the language of objects and existing archetypes, reading Don Norman’s Emotional Design. I am investigating techniques to undermine or subvert the communication of messages by objects.

On the tech front, I am now looking into using the XBee RSSI (Received signal strength indicator) to produce the interactions between the four Space Rocks, using the distance and relative strength of the signal to change the light (colour / intensity) and sound parameters as the objects’ proximity to each other changes. See also Reading XBee RSSI with Arduino. I also need to dig out my copy of Making Things Talk.

Also looking into the concepts of:

  • Pattern recognitionHumans Are the World’s Best Pattern-Recognition Machines, But for How Long?
  • The overview effect –  refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void”, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.
  • Bicameralism – the condition of being divided into “two-chambers” is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys — a bicameral mind.

Attended an interesting talk at Futurefest, Speaking with Aliens. Triggered some very interesting ideas around communicating with extra-terrestrial life away from Earth with Clara Sousa-Silva (a Quantum Astrochemist at MIT tasked with finding alien life on a molecular level) and Jill A. Stuart (Space Law expert and director at METI international, working on different scenarios for encounters with intelligent life). I was most interested in Clara Sousa-Silva’s mentions of trying to communicate with light, as this can be seen everywhere, and white light can be split into infinite colours via a prism (for example). She also mentioned maths as a communication tool, but this seems too tied to human communication to fit the concept of a universal language. She also mentioned studying inter-species communication on Earth to inform communications with aliens.  The panel also discussed the idea of the Dark Forest, suggesting that perhaps we should not try to communicate with aliens at all.

This has also led me to researching Danielle Wood, Director of Space Enabled and the idea of space that has not been colonised by entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and business interests. This also reminded me of this article in the Guardian discussing attempts to map underground spaces,  which are generally less regulated than the space above ground.

Audio research

I am currently conducting  research into the audio content for my final project. If you wish to participate, listen to 10 different audio tracks on this Soundcloud playlist – https://soundcloud.com/richard-1/sets/audio-research/s-3Fb37 and note your thoughts on each track on this Google form – https://goo.gl/forms/pcI9MhAZkeMpfpKx2.

Expressive, Instructional or Instrumental?

Some further notes from Tom Igoe, from a 2016 presentation about Physicality. He categorises physical computing projects as either Expressive, Instructional or Instrumental.

  • Expressive works are often the least directly interactive, because they’re usually about expressing an artistic point of view. They’re useful for learning about control of physical systems, and control of aesthetics, like any expressive work, though. Example project: Matthew Richard – Estrella Intersects the Plane
  • Instructional works aim to demonstrate or illustrate a phenomenon. I think this is one area where phys comp techniques shine. You learn many things best by experiencing it directly. Example project: Jill Haefele – Human:Nature
  • Instrumental projects can be purely utilitarian, or they can be purely whimsical, but they exist to enable some other behavior. You generally don’t look at the instrument, you look at, or listen to, what it produces. Example project: John Schimmel – RAMPS – a wheelchair DJ

“Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits”

Stumbled across this blog post from 2008 discussing  Physical Computing’s wheels that people reinvent again and again:

  1. theremin-like instruments
  2. drum gloves (tangible vs intangible)
  3. dance floors
  4. Scooby-Doo paintings: paintings that react to presence (easy to sense presence, hard to sense attention)
  5. body-as-cursor
  6. video mirrors (aka, hand wavers, because people always wave their hands)
  7. mechanical pixels
  8. hand-as-cursor (aka Minority Report)
  9. multi-touch surfaces (exercise:operate an iPhone while it’s in your pocket)
  10. tilty stands and tables
  11. tilty controllers
  12. things you yell at
  13. meditation helpers
  14. fields of grass (running your hand across it affects it)
  15. dolls and pets
  16. remote hugs
  17. LED fetishism

The two interesting things to mention (for me) from the conversation part of this post is that these are in fact design patterns, which have likely developed because physical computing is now a mature field, and has its own traditions. And should there be “a museum of interactive technology. Then students can start their studies with a baseline in work that has been done before. Like playing the scales or imitating the masters.” Despite this being posted in 2008, I am not sure that is yet the case.

This blog post is a more in-depth version of the same list by Tom Igoe.

I also need to check out the Fashionable Technology book mentioned in the comments.

 

 

Arduino networked lamp test

Working through this tutorial currently, trying to understand how Processing can be used to network an Arduino and power the colour of a lamp from words featured in an XML feed (in this case my blog feed – replacing the word ‘love’ with ‘space’ and the word ‘peace’ with ‘rock’). This generates the colour #3C4C2C.

Space, rock and Arduino
Rock, space and Arduino

And after adding this post to the feed…
Note the slight colour change.

This is the circuit I used, from this website. The LED is a 4 pin one, which can generate any combination of RGB colour as light:

https://mayorquinmachines.weebly.com/blog/arduino-project-arduino-networked-lamp
https://mayorquinmachines.weebly.com/blog/arduino-project-arduino-networked-lamp

And the two versions of it that I built:

Arduino networked lamp circuit v1
Arduino networked lamp circuit v1, with RGB LEDs
Arduino networked lamp circuit v2
Arduino networked lamp circuit v2, with one LED

Here is the code used in Processing:

//Arduino Code for the Arduino Networked Lamp - Processing

#define SENSOR 0
#define R_LED 9
#define G_LED 10
#define B_LED 11
#define BUTTON 12
int val =0; //variable to store the value coming from the sensor
int btn = LOW;
int old_btn = LOW;
int state = 0;
char buffer[7];
int pointer = 0;
byte inByte = 0;
byte r = 0;
byte g = 0;
byte b = 0;

void setup() {
  Serial.begin(9600); //open up serial port
  pinMode(BUTTON, INPUT);
}
  
void loop() {
  val = analogRead(SENSOR);
  Serial.println(val);
 
  if (Serial.available() >0) {
    //read incoming byte
    inByte = Serial.read();
    if (inByte == '#') {
      while (pointer < 6) {
        buffer[pointer] = Serial.read(); 
        pointer++;
      }
      //now need to decode 3 numbers of colors stored as hex numbers into 3 bytes
      r = hex2dec(buffer[1]) +hex2dec(buffer[0])*16;
      g = hex2dec(buffer[3]) +hex2dec(buffer[2])*16;
      b = hex2dec(buffer[5]) +hex2dec(buffer[4])*16;
      pointer = 0; //reset pointer
    }
  }
  btn = digitalRead(BUTTON);
  //check if there was a transition
  if ((btn == HIGH) && (old_btn == LOW)) {
    state = 1-state;
  }
  old_btn = btn; //val is now old,lets store it
  if (state == 1) {
    analogWrite(R_LED, r);
    analogWrite(G_LED, g);
    analogWrite(B_LED, b);
  }
  else {
    analogWrite(R_LED, 0);
    analogWrite(G_LED, 0);
    analogWrite(B_LED, 0);
  }
  delay(100);
}
int hex2dec(byte c) {
 if (c >= '0' && c<= '9') {
  return c- '0';
 } else if (c >='A' && c <= 'F') {
  return c - 'A' + 10;
 }
}

And the code in Arduino:


//Arduino Code for the Arduino Networked Lamp - Arduino

#define SENSOR 0
#define R_LED 9
#define G_LED 10
#define B_LED 11
#define BUTTON 12
int val =0; //variable to store the value coming from the sensor
int btn = LOW;
int old_btn = LOW;
int state = 0;
char buffer[7];
int pointer = 0;
byte inByte = 0;
byte r = 0;
byte g = 0;
byte b = 0;

void setup() {
  Serial.begin(9600); //open up serial port
  pinMode(BUTTON, INPUT);
}
  
void loop() {
  val = analogRead(SENSOR);
  Serial.println(val);
 
  if (Serial.available() >0) {
    //read incoming byte
    inByte = Serial.read();
    if (inByte == '#') {
      while (pointer < 6) {
        buffer[pointer] = Serial.read(); 
        pointer++;
      }
      //now need to decode 3 numbers of colors stored as hex numbers into 3 bytes
      r = hex2dec(buffer[1]) +hex2dec(buffer[0])*16;
      g = hex2dec(buffer[3]) +hex2dec(buffer[2])*16;
      b = hex2dec(buffer[5]) +hex2dec(buffer[4])*16;
      pointer = 0; //reset pointer
    }
  }
  btn = digitalRead(BUTTON);
  //check if there was a transition
  if ((btn == HIGH) && (old_btn == LOW)) {
    state = 1-state;
  }
  old_btn = btn; //val is now old,lets store it
  if (state == 1) {
    analogWrite(R_LED, r);
    analogWrite(G_LED, g);
    analogWrite(B_LED, b);
  }
  else {
    analogWrite(R_LED, 0);
    analogWrite(G_LED, 0);
    analogWrite(B_LED, 0);
  }
  delay(100);
}
int hex2dec(byte c) {
 if (c >= '0' && c<= '9') {
  return c- '0';
 } else if (c >='A' && c <= 'F') {
  return c - 'A' + 10;
 }
}

This didn’t work the first time I ran it, so I had to specify the Arduino port that Processing should use and then…

 

This week’s research – 26/04/18

Very inspired by cuneiform following my visit to the British Museum, especially the Neo-Assyrian circular clay tablet with depictions of constellations (planisphere).

Looking at Living Symphonies by James Bulley and Daniel Jones as possible inspiration for the final Space Rocks musical piece.

Reading Science Fiction for Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction by Brian David Johnson, researching how to create a narrative around the final Space Rock objects.

And finally got hold of a copy of Active Matter. Currently watching the intro page move as the sun tries to peep out from behind clouds.

Active Matter inner cover
Active Matter inner cover
Active Matter inner cover
Active Matter inner cover

Got me thinking about the material of the Space Rock objects, and also reminded me of the Massive Attack heat-sensitive packaging.

VRLO, Wed, 25 Apr 2018. Surprisingly small space, and only a few demos there. Still struggling with the VR issue that only one person can share the experience at a time, because each person needs the (expensive) headset. However, really (vicariously) enjoyed the CAD in VR demo from Gravity Sketch. Almost worth getting aheadset for, to draw 3D models in a virtual 3D space.