Week 3: Labs

This week we had to do servo motor control and I tried that with different sensors ergo with varied inputs - piezoelectric touch/knock sensor, Sound sensor and an accelerometer's y axis input.

Because I tried so multiple sensors I could evaluate the ranges each sensor had and now I understand them better, which in turn helps me to know where to use which sensor. My only concern now is WHAT DO I MAKE!!

Sensor change detection - to check if sensor crossed the threshold value and to check if the state changed!

Interactive Technology in public - Citi bikes!

As someone new to NYC, I have never had a chance to use the Citi bikes! I have been tempted to use them on multiple occasions but never did.

My assumption of how to use them is as follows -

  1.  Choose the number of hours you want the bike for - eg, 1 hour, 2 hours, 1 day.
  2. Pay the amount with card or cash
  3. Get a pin number or a token number
  4. Punch in the pin and pull out the bicycle

Turns out it is not designed or programmed to function like my intuition does.

Based on my observation, the locals are very swift with the transaction and tourists often fumble.

None of the buttons on the kiosk are intuitive, the screen has to be "awakened" by tapping  the screen, the options available are only shown once you insert a credit card. So no cash, no debit cards. It charges you $100 as a security deposit or a safety charge and you get the money refunded the next day! (What if I don't want that!!) Using a $12/day bike should not come with so many constraints.

After repeated attempts and trials, people do get the gist and pull out a bike but the user needs to return the bike within 30 mins or is charged extra. Speaking of returning the bike to the stand, once people were pushing the bike in, they were looking to see if there is some button or a screen giving a notification of receipt. They would then see the colour of a small bulb light green and look around asking for help or simply go back to the kiosk to check if what they did was right.

There are several flaws in this transaction but adaptation is why humans survive and this is a good example of it. Users have learnt to navigate through a complicated system to get the best off it.

Adopting Crawford's and Norman's sayings about simplicity and intuitiveness of a design, there is much that adheres to the citi bikes and much that can be improved.  The experience of  the citi bike on the first instance is not a pleasant one is a generalized feedback  I received.

A simplest example is the gear change steps 1,2 and 3 on the bike is made like a circular bell and the first instinct is to rotate it which is not how the gear works. Someone even said they were on a slope and couldn't figure out how to change the gear and the bike was heavy so they got off and walked with the bike instead. This truly does not solve the purpose of the citi bike's existence.

My next thought is to pick these points and design my own ideal city bike and what I'd do differently.. upcoming blog it is!


Week 2: Labs!

This is turning out to be more fun than usual!

I end up doing my circuits and debugging and then go on to figure my classmates circuit issues as well! Problem solving is weirdly exciting!

However, this week I did face a problem with the first lab! When switch was ON - LED 1 lights up, switch OFF - LED 2 lights up! The circuit was correct, the code was right, one LED was on but the LED 2 refused to light up! I still haven't decoded this mystery.

The second lab - Analog Input to Arduino using Potentiometer

Because I did not have two FSRs, I used another variable resistor - a photo diode.

The LEDs are lighting up based on the sensors! I really want to learn how to invert the resistance so the photo diode can be used to detect darkness and then light up the LED! I remember doing this with the IC LM393 if I remember correctly but I do not recall what or how the IC did that!

This is making me want to revise my engineering days notes about Op-amps, ADCs and DACs, transistors, timers, ICs, micro controllers, etc! But I remember the words said on the first day of the physical computing class - "This is not an engineering course, this is an interaction design course" -  I'm still struggling to get used to that !

Something that lights up!

First simple application using LEDs, switches and resistors!

I decided to use the Force Sensitive Resistor which has variable resistance depending upon the pressure/touch.

The plan was to make a hand gear that lights up when you press the FSR. Switches give a very strong ON/OFF mode and I wanted a more gradual output.

Following is the circuit diagram of the hand gear - 


Week 1: Labs

All the labs from week 1!

The video is a summary of all the labs like

  1. LEDs in series, in parallel
  2. Switches - push button
  3. Potientiometer
  4. DC servomotor

What is interaction?

THAT is the question!

A year ago I came across ITP while trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Then, a few months ago I got into the program! Through this process, everyone I know had one common reaction when I said I will be studying Interactive Telecommunications - they said, "Sounds fancy!" I agree. It is.

What is interactivity?? What is Interaction? Let's break down the word to simplify - Inter(a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “between,” “among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” “reciprocally,” “together,” “during”) and Action(the process of doing something).  With this simplistic view, I attended my first physical computing class where we had to design a fantasy device. (Combining two ideas we came up with Love and Translation - watch video here)

What changed my perception and understanding of physical interaction, was going back and reading Chris Crawford's and Bret Victor's versions and explanations. What also challenged my notion was the content covered in my other classes - Applications(Carter Emmart) and Digital Imaging: Reset(Eric Rosenthal). We seem to have confined ourselves to a tiny corner within a field so vast. Bret clearly and rightly rants about our low aiming version of the future! Chris explains how we often mistake participation and reaction as forms of interaction and Carter and Eric both spent more than a decade trying to push these boundaries.

If I had to define physical interaction as of this moment(1:05 am on 13th September, 2016), I would say,"Two bodies capable of action, creating a chain of actions (& reactions) alternatively such that each successive action is a progressive step or response to the previous action." In my imagination, a physical interaction never ends. Unless, one or both of the bodies are no longer capable of action.

With this novel self defined concept of physical interaction, I have come to notice that most of the so-called interactive digital technology I came across, were not truly interactive. When I hold a button to call the elevator, it is not interactive. When we see a data visualization that records the number of internet users throughout the world, it is interactive but I am a mere observer.

The question right now is, when and where would it be most significant to use physical interaction? 

References - 

  1. http://worrydream.com/ABriefRantOnTheFutureOfInteractionDesign/
  2. The Art of Interactive Design - Chris Crawford
  3. Dictionary.com

Final project idea - physical computing

I had three main concepts I wanted to pitch and was also open to teaming up with someone on their project idea! So let's walk through this -

  1. A musical Bicycle

It started with me being super fascinated with Monkey Electrics Bike lights that are attached on the wheel of a cycle for safety.

I wanted to make that interactive in some way so I started to think about all the ways that was possible. It lead me to realize that I wanted to enrich the experience of cycling, something that would make someone want to get back on a bike and leave their fuel consuming car behind! A bicycle as an interface to make music was an afterthought to this, obviously it would be a stationery bike for the sake of simplicity at this conceptual level.

My after thoughts from this idea was adding a tiny camera on Citi bikes so it clicks pictures at a set interval and stitches them into a collage and sends you back an email of where you cycled around!

2. Noise Noise Noise!

A simple way to make citizens aware of the noise pollution around them would be to have a sound sensor trigger when the noise levels cross a certain threshold. This could then put forth a warning so people know that they must honk less or take some kind of action. To facilitate this an installation on a bus stand or a public transport could show a "monster" like creature growing as noise increases and when it crosses the limit it could be fully grown and needs to be tackled by clicking on it thereby attacking noise pollution metaphorically. The kind of interaction could increase awareness amongst all ages and people can consciously take efforts to maintain noise levels.

3. A spitting solution

Spitting is a habit amongst humans thats unhygienic, unclean and makes our society prone to illness of various types. It seemed to me that this was a problem just in India but that is not true at all. It is only overtly seen due to the bright red color of tobacco that leaves a stain behind. China and USA, every metro with a large population faces the issue of spitting. Ergo, this project idea was to stop or reduce that in some way. Some solutions people have come up with are hydrophobic paint/material that bounces the water/spit/pee off the surface making it fall back upon the person. Fire trucks in a city sprayed large amounts of water on people who were caught peeing drenching them completely. Some put up images of God in the hopes that people will respect that and not disrupt these places.  

One way to go about this is picking specific spots generally corners in buildings, subway elevators, public spots and staircases and setting up moisture sensors to detect some kind of wetness that sets up an alert to a screen or announcement depending on the place. It may end up being a way of constructive public shaming or could be a generic statement requesting not to do such activities.