Category Archives: Physical Computing

The Status Box – Final

1. Idea
A box that displays the user status — busy, available, etc. Useful for workings in semi-public spaces. One could tell by looking at the box if a person is focused on work or just checking Facebook, for instance.

2. Development
2.1. Technology
The box doesn’t have any internet connection. The status is changed by physically turning it. Also, it should be as inexpensive as possible. Instead of detecting the angle with an accelerometer, it uses 4 tilt switches — 2 for each axis, x and y.  It works as in the following sketch.

2.2. 1st Prototype
I’ve programmed all functions and assembled the circuit on the breadboard before putting anything inside the enclosure:

2.3. Enclosure
The box is made out of plexiglass and assembled with bolts and nuts only. I drew its plan based on the model found here.
Once again, a huge thank you to Brendan Byrne for the tip!
I had no experience with laser cutting plexiglass, so I ended up melting it. Anyway, it was useful to check if the box plan was right.

2.4. 2nd Prototype
With everything working on the breadboard, I simply stuck it into my enclosure — along with the battery and the Arduino board.
The switches are a little bit unstable. That made the colors flicker while I moved the box. But the main function seemed to work fine.

2.5. Final Circuit and Board Assembling
Once again, this was the hardest part. I used solder AND hot glue, because working with the tape in the previous project was a pain. It didn’t make things easier, though. I build an x and y axis with toothpicks, for the
Also, I had a little less space. Because of that, I ended up glueing the battery to my Arduino.


Final Project – Proposals

1. Smart Bop Bag
a) Role

An interactive souvenir. Something to keep in a shelf and play with kids — but not really a toy.
b) Behavior
This bop bag would behave like a regular one, with a twist: it would go up and down by itself, sensing the user presence.
c) Look and feel
Like a regular bop bag, with a smiling face and minimal visuals.

2. Mood Box
a) Role
A box that displays the user mood and status — busy, available etc. Particularly useful for work and D12-like environments. One could tell by looking at the box if a person is focused on work or just checking Facebook, for instance.
b) Behavior
3 tilt sensors detect the changes in the x, y and z axys. By doing so, it is possible to track which is the “current” face. That triggers a different color animation of an RGB LED inside of the box.
c) Look and Feel
A regular cube, made out of semi opaque acrylic.

3. Battleship Game
a) Role
A battleship game for one user.
b) Behavior
Two potentiometers control the x and y position of the target. A push button shoots. 3 different feedbacks: red explosion (success); green waves (water); yellow line (missed, but there’s a target either on the same line or the same column).
c) Look and Feel
Like a classic wooden board game, except for the LEDs and knobs.

4. Wacky Building
a) Role
An interactive souvenir. Seemingly static, it will surprisingly respond to the user presence!
b) Behavior
3 sensors may trigger the interaction: sound, lightness and tilt. By turning the ambient lights off, the window-LEDs will start to turn on. Shaking the building triggers an alert sound and animation. Loud sounds trigger a song (played using the buzzer) and an antenna animation (servo).
c) Look and Feel
Like an old wooden toy, with minimal visual and shapes.

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Wildcat Thaumatrope

Make a thaumatrope using Arduino and a DC motor.

a) I began by checking if the speed rotation was enough to make it possible:

b) Then I tested a 3-faced version. But it didn’t work.cat_00

c) I decided to test one that would animate the image, instead of just mixing it. It didn’t work out as I planned, though:

d) So I stick to the idea of mixing two images. I draw this cat in an iPad, transfer it to paper and then to the final boards.

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Physical Display for Weather Data

A physical display for weather data.

How it works
The push buttons send a number from 0 to 3 to a Node.js application. The app connects to the Weather Underground API, requesting data from one of the four different cities — depending on the button pressed.
The data is sent to an html page and also back to arduino. The temperature is then mapped to an angle, which is assigned to the servo motor.

The scale has a very short range on purpose. The intention was to highlight the difference between the Brazilian cities and New York.

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Simão Says

Final video!
A Simon Says-like game, but with a knob instead of buttons. The user has to repeat the sequence of angles, pretty much like a locker.
Thanks Laura Salaberry, Renata Miwa and Alessandra Kalko!
Soundtrack: instrumental version of “Amor de Chocolate“, by Naldo.
Design process here.
Source code here.

P.S.: “Simão” is the portuguese name for Simon. The name of the toy in Brazil is actually “Genius”.

Simão Says – Process

1. Idea
A Simon Says-like game, but with a knob instead of buttons. The user has to repeat the sequence of angles, pretty much like a locker.
See this post for previous proposals:

2. Precedent
The idea for the game actually came from a locker. I have one at Parsons and every Friday I have to pick up my pComp stuff and open it. That’s why it was my main inspiration for the project.

3. Development
3.a. Board Prototype
First, I assembled the circuit on the breadboard, to check all components, code, timing and game dynamics.

3.b. Enclosure Prototype
After searching for a box that would fit in my project, I decided to build one myself. I began by making a cardboard prototype to check the ideal dimensions.
One problem I had so far was where to put the knob and the LEDs. My first idea was to put them both facing the user. But that could not work well if the user is above it.
By playing with the cardboard prototype I realized that I could solve the problem and stick with my previous idea. I just had to change the box angle, so it could face the user:

3.c. Box Plan
Based on the cardboard prototype, I drew the final box plan using Adobe Illustrator:

3.d. Painting
I painted the wooden sheets using a surface preparation plaster and acrylic paint:
Note: no, neither the inclination nor the color were inspired by the solder stations we have at the pComp lab!

3.e. Box Cutting
I used a laser cutter to make the box pieces and drawings. I had a non-painted backup sheet and I used it to check if everything was ok first:

3.f. Wiring
I assembled all parts in the main face first — wiring, soldering and then checking with the Arduino board. Only after that I finished assembling the box, with superglue.


4. Conclusion
The hardest part was definitely thinking about the enclosure. I had no idea from where to start. I didn’t know any material possibilities, and a I struggle with that for a long time. I didn’t know for sure if I would use a found box or build my own enclosure.
Soldering and assembling was hard as well. I’ve never done this before, so I asked a lot of friends for help. I didn’t have all the tools I needed — tape, hot glue — and, in the end, I wasn’t satisfied with the result. I may have damaged my potentiometer along the process, too. Even so, I’m glad that the final toy works.

The code was the easiest part. Though I’ve had some challenges along the way, like setting a timer instead of using delay, it wasn’t that difficult.
Understanding the circuit was also pretty easy. I think that we have a good basis of code and basic circuits in this class.

Turns out that building the enclosure wasn’t as hard as I thought. I’m glad I pushed myself into that. It led me to learn more about building physical things, as well as some practical stuff, like using the laser cutter.
Besides, that was first time I went to a physical store to search for electronic supplies. So, another surprise was that I liked it and it was very helpful. I ended up finding a red/green LED that fitted perfect in my project. Before that, I didn’t even know that it existed.

5. A Final Note
Except for the group assignments, this was the first collaborative project I’ve made at Parsons. Since there was a lot of things that I had no idea about how to do, I had to stay in the school and ask a lot of people for help:
– thanks Brendan Byrne for the enclosure tips and for giving Simão a nose!
– thanks Daniel Mastretta for the laser cutter lessons.
– thanks Ayodamola Okunseinde and Gabor for the helping with the solder.

Simon Says Style Game – Proposals

1. Ideas Based on Found Enclosures

1.a. Artist Panel Box
Based on panels found in an Art Supply Store.
LEDs are hidden under the translucent paper. User can only see their colors.IMG_4335 IMG_4334 prototype_a

1.b. Pencil Organizer
Buttons attached around the cylinder. LEDs inside, upside-down. User can only see the inner light while holding it.
IMG_4345 IMG_4346 prototype_b

1.c. Tupperware
Arduino and LEDs attached to tupperware’s lid.
IMG_4343 prototype_c

2. “Blue Sky” Ideas

2.a. Pyramidal Simon
Made out of folded cardboard. Each face has an LED and a push button.prototype_d

2.b. Locker-like Simon
Inspired by the Simon Says dynamics, but not exactly the same. LEDs turn on in an angular sequence, just like in a locker. User has to repeat the same angular sequence.

2.c. Keyboard-like Simon
Self-explanatory. Slightly different from Simon’s original dynamics, though. Multiple buttons can be triggered at the same time.

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