Time, Motion, Touch

These are some images documenting one of the first Flavonoid prototype designs. During this process, I was learning how to turn the schematic design for the project — the “logical” description that shows circuit connections and components — into materialized printed circuit boards. As part of that process, I sent the PCB designs to two different board manufacturers, a process I document here. The boards are named v.01 and v.02sfe to designate the two places I sent the boards. Both are the same design. The designs were also ones wwhere I didn’t want too much happening, or too much to inevitably debug on one board. So, I left the microcontroller off. In essence, these are “dumb” boards — they require a microcontroller to be connected to them to do anything useful. In subsequent versions, I was less timid and put everything on one small board, as it should be. What this board does, and why it’s here in this post, is record time, physical motion and touch using a DS1306 real-time clock, an LIS3LV02DQ 3-axis accelerometer, and a QT113 capacitive touch sensor.

* Time, motion and touch or contact are three semantic elements that the Internets claim to diminish, but do so for our own good. For instance, for the good of allowing us to instantly communicate with friends, work colleagues or family. For the good of allowing us to work from home, or get something to someone else without having to physically move, or physically move material or ship a document. Or for the good of mitigating against the necessity of face-to-face contact.
There must be a balance between instant (messaging, downloads) and slow (mail, reflection) time scales. Or between largely sedentary digital activities (heads-down, screen-lock, sofa gaming) and embodied kinesthetic activities, like the things we do to “get away” from the screen — walk, sport, stretch. Or between mediated contact and physical touch?
It might be interesting to consider time, motion and touch as idioms whose characteristics should not be mitigated against, at least for the purpose of reflecting upon what digital life would be like if we operated in a middle ground between eliminating time delays, for instance, and having some playful or meaningful interaction with time above the sub-minute scale. (For instance, electronic games in which playing longer gains points.)
What would a world be like if things weren’t quite “instant”, but used elongated time as an interaction element? How could our own physical motion create a mechanical interface between the physical and digital worlds — beyond mouse movements or finger twitches and closer to Wii-gestures? What are the ways in which time, motion and touch be used to create a meaningful bridge between 1st life (physical) and 2nd life (digital)?
I started designing and building these sensors devices to simultaneously accumulate time, motion and touch to experiment with ways in which these idioms might be used to express some sort of online, digital, 2nd life activity.
I’ve called them “Flavonoid”, mostly because I liked the way the word sounds and its fun to hear people say it in a questioning way. They’re designed to be small, something that you carry with you all the time, like a cell phone or such. The firmware being created stretches out the dimensions of time, motion and touch so they deliberately “slow” down any accumulation of data — they won’t be “expressive” (have effects) for quickly-done activity. Time is not quick, but ponderous, relatively speaking, so that hour have meaning, but seconds can’t be measured. They’re positively glacial objects in the era of instant messaging, digital switches and network data caches.
And these three semantic idioms — time, motion, touch — work together, not separately. More expressive outputs come from these three idioms when they are integrated together. Time alone (without touch or movement) means something different than time with the object near one’s body. Motion for a brief time, alone, means barely anything, whereas sustained motion while holding the object or having it in one’s pack, has richer semantics.
The interaction semantics I’m angling at is this idea of creating an application syntax based on establishing a sense of Durable Affinity between a person, a lively designed object, and the expression in a digital, online form that these two can create through time, motion and touch based activity.
At the next level of design, they won’t look like they need a Homeland Security clearance certificate.
Why do I blog this?
To start figuring out why I’m spending so much time building these sensor amalgams devices.

Just A Few Related Things
Ross O’Shea’s G-Link
Nintendo Wii
Teku Teku Angel
Control Freaks
Flavonoid, 1st Prototype (submitted for consideration in C5 Corporation’s “Quest for Success” competition at ISEA 2006, San Jose.)

My Own Notes
Flavonoid Research Wiki Page (1st, 2nd, 3rd prototypes)
An API For Durable Affinity
Notes on Motion Sensing
Pocket Sakura
Notes on Pedometry
“Viewmaster” of the Future
Vis-a-Vis Games
Flavonoid Related

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Red Light, Green Light, Go!

Vis-à-Vis is a series of multi-player games that utilize physical body movements to control the point of view in a first person perspective computer game. The framework uses a TabletPC, held in the player’s outstretched arms, to display the point of view one would normally see while playing a computer game.

To rotate, tilt, and move the games’ virtual camera, players need only to do so physically, as sensors measure all changes in movement.

The games, entitled ‘Red Light, Green Light Go’, ‘Dodgeman’, and ‘Act Normal’, are based on children’s playground games. Vis-à-vis explores the timeless fundamentals of games inherent to both digital and and classic play. Each game uses on our “reverse Turing Test”- one player tries to behave as much like their fellow A.I. characters as possible, while the second player attempts to discern the human player from the bots.

Arguably the most compelling experience provided by a Vis-à-vis game is that it not only requires the player to get off their couch, but to literally become physically active. The criticism that electronic games compel people to stay in their living room does not apply here.

The first game developed is a Vis-à-Vis version of the children’s game “Red Light, Green Light, Go”. Requiring a minimum of two players, the “Runner” player (along with 7 AI characters) tries to sneak up on the “Traffic Cop” player. That “Traffic Cop” starts and stops the approach by yelling “Red Light” or “Green Light”. This scenario plays out as a sort of reverse Turing test as the “Traffic Cop” spins and tilts their view in an effort to decide which of the approaching characters is indeed the human player.

Other possibilities range from numerous versions of playground games, roll-playing games, and location-based games. The multiplayer functionality provided through the Torque Game Engine allows up to 32 people to play in real-time from anywhere in the world.
Vis-à-vis games made its first appearance as part of SIGGRAPH’s Guerilla Studio on August 2nd 2005.



Vis-a-Vis write-up

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Continue reading Red Light, Green Light, Go!

Bluetooth Arduino Mini Prototype

Remote Control for Keyboard

Without too much ado, I’ve been seeing how it goes designing in a Bluetooth module with the Arduino Mini. It’s not difficult at all, really. The thing that gives me a belly-ache is how relatively expensive Bluetooth modules are, generally. This one here set me back around $60USD, single units. It doesn’t get much cheaper ($50USD for bare surface-mount modules, small quantities, ~$40USD 100 units.)

Here you just do the normal cross over drill, connecting RXD on the Arduino Mini to TXD on the Bluetooth module; TXD on the Arduino Mini to RXD on the Bluetooth module.

I’m using this Bluetooth module, which is just this one with a DIP mounting.

Some design issues are power consumption — the radio in these modules can get hungry, although the particular unit I’m using can be adjusted in the firmware. Also, the 2.4GHz radio signal kind of spills all over the place, which can cause a problem for designs that use magneto-sensing, such as a compassing application.

I am thinking about designing this with a low-power Atmel (ATmega16L or ATmega32L). One reasons is to simplify integration with TWI/I2C and SPI low-power sensors (most of the one’s I use operate in the 1.8-3.6v CMOS range), and to generally lower power consumption. Downside is the processors run slower (~4MHz), but I can scarcely think of any application I’ve developed or even am thinking about where I need tons of speed.

The main reason for exploring this is to find ways to integrate a mobile phone into Arduino-based applications such as, for instance, a graphical interface for games, etc.

Massimo Banzi, et. al., have been busy getting the Bluetooth Arduino ready for delivery!

The Arduino Bluetooth Board
Bluetooth Controlled Lamp Demo

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Interdisciplinary Knowledge Production In Collaborative Research Between Artistic and Engineering Practices

Test Harness

A proposal for research seeking support.

A. Research Question and Objective

This research sets out to develop a digital, web-accessible literature review of recent engineering and arts-based interdisciplinary collaboration (art-technology) projects. It is expected that developing such a literature review, and the criteria necessary to delineate the projects to be contained within the review, will help develop an understanding of how these interdisciplinary collaborations can contribute to the production of knowledge, invigorate activity within engineering and the arts, advance techniques for teaching and engaging in such creative practices, and contribute to the formation of new areas of research and development.

Over the last decade or more there has been an increasing interest in interdisciplinary approaches to performing research and development within the arts and technology fields. This interest has lead to the creation of special interest areas within professional societies, unique research clusters within industry and academia, public festivals that combine art spectacle with technology innovation, and, perhaps most significantly, the formation of scores (close to 80 by some recent counts) of undergraduate and graduate art-technology degree-granting programs at universities and colleges worldwide.

Interdisciplinary art-technology work crosses the boundary between instrumental engineering research and artistic creativity. Such boundary crossing is evident in a wide variety of significant, professional areas. For instance, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the largest international professional society for computer science and related disciplines, has had an electronic arts show at its annual computer graphics conference (SIGGRAPH) since 1994. The ACM’s large, influential special interest group devoted to studying computer-human interaction (SIGCHI) design has turned its attention to more creative approaches to computer interfaces through a variety of new submission tracks, opening the way for those who are not strictly within the engineering fields to participate within this professional society. Since 1979, the Ars Electronica Center in Linz Austria has held a festival dedicated to celebrating artistic uses of technology, highlighting how research and development can also be a creative, artistic practice. An informal survey of “new media” programs emphasizing practical and theoretical curriculums related to art, technology, media and design, includes 74 such programs throughout the world.

Such emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration between arts practitioners and engineering or technology practitioners has led to a wide variety of important projects. These projects have both art exhibition contexts while often serving simultaneously to further research and development in important and widespread topic areas such as computer-human interaction, online gaming, design of fitness programs, mobile communication, online social networking, and more. These are oftentimes difficult to define in strict disciplinary terms. Much of the work is contested as to its proper practice idiom. Is it artistic expression, or a form of engineering research and development?

The significance of this web-asccessible literature review is that it will provide insights into how several disparate practice idioms have engaged in, learned from and taught interdisciplinarity, specifically in the areas related to interactive technology-based media. A review of recent projects would provide a basis for assessing how interdisciplinary art-technology collaborations have been taken-up within educational institutions, art contexts, as well as within commercial industry, and with what benefits or effects to the larger goals of these practice idioms.

Some of the pertinent questions for this research have to do with what gets to count as interdisciplinary art-technology. How does one talk about art-technology as an interdisciplinary practice, and how does each discipline separately understand the practice as one that advances the production of knowledge within the respective fields. Where are the disciplinary boundaries and how are these boundaries defined — according to method, objectives and goals, audience?

While we can answer affirmatively to each of these boundary criterion, the goal of this research is to clearly describe the criteria from the perspective of the collaborators within the distinct disciplines so as to better understand how to create effective, creative and productive interdisciplinary collaborative environments.

The hypothesis of this research is this:

Interdisciplinary collaboration amongst instrumental engineering disciplines (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, chiefly) and art practices (taken to mean fine arts specifically), represents a significant form of research and development for all the involved disciplines. This can be taken to mean that interdisciplinary collaborations productively advances in the respective fields by producing knowledge, invigorating and sustaining activity within the field, and contributing to the formation of new areas of research and development.

B. Research Methods

I intend to perform a literature review of two areas wherein the boundaries between purely art-based and purely-technology based practices have blurred sufficiently to possibly count as interdisciplinary. The first is the Ars Electronica festival held annually for the past 26 years in Linz, Austria. The second is a cluster of three engineering and computer science professional societies in which a noticeable number of research reports, notes, demonstrations and papers have included projects that have a distinctive artistic element. These professional societies are the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI), the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics (ACM SIGGRAPH), and the Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) professional society.

This literature review will cover four (2004-2007) years of contributions, projects, research, presentations and papers from Ars Electronica, and the transactions from the annual conferences of ACM SIGCHI and ACM SIGGRAPH and Ubicomp. I will specifically look for projects that can be readily identified as interdisciplinary insofar as the goals of the work is specified as interdisciplinary, or the knowledge contributions resulting from the projects circulate across arts and engineering disciplinary boundaries.

My method will include using web-based technologies for developing the literature review and coding primary source and reference material, primarily to facilitate sharing and disseminating the results.

C. Expected Results and Impacts on Long-term Research Program

The result of the research will be an online, web-accessible review of selected projects, coded and tagged according to keywords and idioms appropriate for searching, sorting and sharing the findings. A sufficient number of projects will be reviewed to either support or refute the hypothesis. It is expected that the number of selected projects will range between 25-40. Along with the selected projects, the review will include a comprehensive summary of each project. Finally, the literature review will include a synthesis of consisting of overall findings, analysis of distinctive aspects and features of the projects themselves as well as their approach and methods. The literature review itself will be made available on the web under creative commons license.

The outcomes of this research will serve two purposes. The first is to contribute to the substance of a book-in-progress I am preparing specifically on the topic of interdisciplinary collaborations amongst engineering and art as a form of knowledge production. This book is meant to contribute to pedagogical and practical methods-based questions related to this topic. That is, contribute to ongoing discussions, largely within the field of interactive media, related to understanding how to teach art and engineering simultaneously.

The second goal is to contribute to developing “best practices” pedagogical methods for teaching interdisciplinary art-technology as a form of knowledge production and creative practice.

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World of Warcraft Bullshit Installation

Accept or Decline..

Second day — after a break yesterday — trying to install World of Warcraft. It’s not fun any more. I mean, I had trouble enough trying to muster the brain waves to say, okay..I’ll give it a shot. But, this installation process is horrendous. After several patch downloads, etc., I finally got to one that said, basically, “you know what? you should just start over.”

What the frack? It’s five discs, and that just gets you to the point where you can start downloading half gigabyte “patches.”

Research Insight 14: This game is for those who have too much time on their hands.

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Designing Culture: A Work of The Technological Imagination


Anne Balsamo gave a talk today at the Annenberg Center for Communication on the topic of her forthcoming book: TechnoHumanism: The Study of the Cultural Relationship between the Human and Technological

Some quick bullet points:

Anne describes how it is important to take culture seriously in technological design and creativity and think about how one can create culture through technology.

The imagination needs to be trained to think more complexly about the relationship between culture and technology. There is no essential nature about technology — it is not just a mere tool, it is cultural practice itself.

There is no singular quality of technology. It is not an object, all technologies reproduce existing possibilities and create new ones.

The Technological imagination is multiple in lots of ways. Every technology creates the possibility of multiple contradictory effects. This allows one to comprehend a multiple arrangement of forces and possibilities. Designing Culture is not primarily about theory, but praxis — practice informed by theory. It’s important to experiment and work with emerging technologies

These ideas and considerations shape the recently formed Collaboratory for Technology and Culture at USC, which is both an approach to doing technology and culture and a physical space cohabited by several Interactive Media Division faculty members (Steve Anderson, Anne Balsamo, Julian Bleecker, Mark Bolas, Perry Hoberman, Andreas Kratky, Michael Naimark, Peggy Weil) here at USC and visiting researchers. Some future plans for the space include an annual festival of art and technology(!)

What are some Collaboratory tag lines? A place to create evocative knowledge objects, a place to exercise the technological imagination, a place to prototype our futures.

Why do I blog this?
There is (or continues to be) much interest in this important topic area. It shapes thinking about how to make things and has practical implications, particularly in an age where DIY sensibilities and practices continue to travel far and wide. With more access to the mechanisms for creating what one imagines, it seems reasonable to expect that provocative changes will arise in aspects about how we inhabit our world. And then, what does that mean for the ways in which our conditions of material existence are shaped, particularly when individuals (or clusters) are the one’s who are doing that shaping, not just Wal-Mart.

I’m fascinated by the possibilities of collaborative innovation and especially by approaching R&D through creative practice.

I recently came across Anne Nigten’s dissertation, that looks closely at approaches to R&C through a process she describes as Process Patching: Defining New Methods in aRt&D

Today’s electronic art practice is a collaborative practice, the research and development process includes people from different backgrounds, such as (computer) scientists, technicians and design experts. The research value of the collaboration between computer science, engineering and art is an important addition to existing R&D. Art exploration of new technologies fosters innovation in the arts, and art concepts often imply demands of functionality that may lead to further R&D. This is different from research and development aimed at practical applications of new technologies as we see them in everyday life. The next step for aRt&D is a formalization of the associated work methods, as an essential ingredient for interdisciplinary collaboration. This paper focuses on processpatching, the assumed method for the artist as connector or bridge builder between disciplines. Processpatching is the term I use for mixing and re-interpreting a plurality of methods as artistic method. Processpatching refers to the art&D process of electronic or interactive art, where different things are connected for the creation of an art experience, or an art project in a broader sense. Processpatching has its roots in the arts without being formalized as a method. The term is a blend of two words which both encompass a range of meanings and associations. This processpatching approach shows us how other (non-technical) fields can be useful to work around those issues which are hard to solve with current technology or which are difficult to express in machine understandable language. This paper elaborates on the motivation, the ideas, the related theory and broader context of processpatching.

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DIY Media? Fan Art in Google Earth

Fan Art In Foo Camp Google Earth Mosaic
Fan Art in Google Earth (click for the super high-res, high megabyte version)

Tom Coates reminds me that at Foo Camp 2006, "Google" flew the Google Earth Plane over the O’Reilly campus and took some pictures from the Google Eye View. Supposedly, this’ll go into the real, normal, human Google Earth imagery next month (February). There’s a Cylon raider in there and Space Invaders, and lots of camper’s lying on their backs facing up. (I’m in there somewhere.)

Here are photos of Tom, Chris, Jane and the rest scrambling around to get it all done and patch up the pieces of paper that kept blowing away:


Thanks Tom: www.plasticbag.org/archives/2007/01/on_space_art_in_sebas/

I actually don’t know the license on this image, but presumably, if it’s going into Google Earth, it’s owned by Google. If it’s a problem having it here, please let me know.

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Pico Cricket

For his Ph.D. work, Jean-Baptiste Labrune has captured some cool line-ups of a trio of tinkerers microcontrollers for young and old.

The Pico Cricket there in the middle is something like the Lego building block approach of microcontroller tinkering. It looks nice and inviting, whereas the Arduino and Arduino Mini are cool but sort of feel like they could nick you like a barb if you’re not careful. Both devices are great ways to learn how to make your own stuff, which is what matters most nowadays — making your own fun things, distractions, pet toys and devices.

The Pico Cricket comes with a bunch of sensors you can connect to, whereas with the Arduino, you’d have to construct your own electronics to sense anything. Pico Cricket seems like a great environment for younger kids just learning about how things can be connected to other things so that stuff can happen. Word is, Pico Cricket and a fist full of sensors will set you back about $200.

Check out Jean-Baptiste’s research blog for much more insight.

Research Bulletin Abstract: An API For Durable Affinity

Flavonoid PCBs from BatchPCB

An API for Durable Affinity: Engineering Interfaces That Matter

Short Title
Why I’ve been engineering time, motion and touch sensors

In the era of an “Internet of Things” design for interfaces between humans and devices becomes increasingly important. The pervasive reach of the digitally networked world means it is likely that “things” — computational objects — play an increasingly consequential role in the establishing, maintaining and knitting together networked social formations. It is even conceivable to imagine that these sorts of things may themselves become lively, engaged social actors. How do we want to interface with these networked objects, and what sort of interface semantics would move computer-human interaction design out of the often awkward, frustrating Proterozoic era we currently inhabit, into a more habitable, lively, human-scaled era for computer-human interfaces?

This paper is an explication of a theory object constructed to develop a computer-human interface syntax called “durable affinity”. Durable affinity describes a kind of semantic interface between a computational device and a human that effects control over the device, but through less typical, instrumental mechanisms. Durable affinity interface elements consist of real-time, embodied motion and touch. These elements are elongated in degree. Time scales are in the range of minutes to days, while embodied motion is measured in degrees of sustained activities and touch moves into the degree of holding rather than momentary contact. By using “human-scaled” interaction elements — real-time, embodied motion, and touch — durable affinity interfaces are an attempt to establish a niche of ambient, paced, calm computational environments.

In this experiment, three primary application programming interfaces (APIs) are developed for the purposes of investigating the creation of “durable affinity” — meaningful device-human interfaces that have more aesthetic semantics than typical instrumental device-human interfaces. These three APIs are real-time, motion and touch. The theory object is composed of a small, portable computational device designed and built by the author. The device contains interface technology for these three APIs. In effect, the device is a platform for experiments in durable affinity interfaces. By connecting the device to, for instance, a small microcomputer, the elements of time, motion and touch can be accessed as interface components. Essentially, the platform becomes analagous to a typical interface platform such as a computer mouse, only rather than using horizontal motion and button clicks, the platform uses time, three-dimensional movement, and touch as components of the interface syntax.

To further the semantics of durable affinity, these three APIs are elongated beyond what many computer human interfaces consider rational, or useful. In the durable affinity context, real-time is measured in days rather than milliseconds; motion is measured in sustained, body-based activity such as a long walk or hours at sport rather than the twitch of one’s wrist; touch is measured in the degree one would find with holding hands, rather than momentary contact found in typical instrumental computer interfaces.

For the purposes of this experiment, the device platform described above is used to create an email message receiving device to help explicate aspects of the durable affinity concept. Contained within the device is an email message sent from a significant other to the device’s human. The message very slowly reveals itself over a period of days if the device’s human creates an affinity relation with the object. In order to unlock and reveal the message, presumably a message with some semantic weight, the device’s human must hold it for periods of time as if it were a treasured gift, and bring it along while engaged in routine activities like going to work or shopping for groceries.

By deliberately creating such an enduring, sympathetic interface between a computer and human, this investigation finds ways to wrap a richer set of human-scaled semantics — beyond pure instrumentalities — around computational devices.

The goal of this project is to investigate ways of establishing a positive historical relationship with objects by inscribing them with a level of meaning attuned to the register of human emotional sensibilities. There are a range of motivations for such a goal. Such motivations include: establishing lasting associations with things so as to avoid a culture of disposability; finding areas in which an increasingly crowded, fast-paced information space can have corners of calm, slow, ambient experiences; establishing niche areas of aesthetically and emotionally rich digital networked interactions.

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Chapman, J. 2005. “Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy”, Earthscan.
Deschamps-Sonsino, Alexandra. Position Paper presented at NordiCHI 2006 workshop “Near-Field Interaction and the Internet of Things”, Oslo, Norway. URL (accessed December 2006): http://www.designswarm.com/NordiCHI_asonsino.pdf
Weiser, M. and Brown, J. S. 1997. The coming age of calm technolgy. In Beyond Calculation: the Next Fifty Years, P. J. Denning and R. M. Metcalfe, Eds. Copernicus, New York, NY, 75-85.

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