Media Controller: Early Progress

After a few meetings between Lilia, Justin and I, we came up with some basic principles for the concept of our media controller assignment.  Vaguely, this was described as three objects in an environment that react to a user and have sound, visual and physical reactions.  Justin summed it up as:

“A lyrical exploration of the moment when something, for the first time in our universe, became alive.”

Lilia added that it would make sense to look at that idea but from the users perspective.  Once we got together yesterday to work with some of the materials, this idea became very clear.  We had talked about using a key to activate our objects.  The burlap fabric Lilia brought in was much more sensual than I had imagined.  Once we began to construct the flower like forms, it was clear that it felt more natural to touch them and sort of tease and mold them.  The wire base, which provided some buoyancy to this interaction, encouraged touching and feeling.  This realization was exciting.  It took the idea away from the key-in-hole interaction to a more subtle touch/feel interaction.  It was obvious that we should move from sticking something into the forms, which evokes penetration and the little kids toys we saw in the Joy Mountford lecture.  We now had an interaction that evoked the feeling of a child discovering a washed up jelly fish on a beach and poking it, and finding the jelly fish still had life, or perhaps giving life to the jelly fish.

The fabrication of the objects turned out to be easier than I had anticipated.  It will certainly still take time.  We tested a few things including using a nice strip of LEDs that Justin had with an FSR to change the brightness:

We also want to add a motor that will shake the object with touch and sounds.  I opened a Dell laptop from the junk shelf to take out the speakers:

These turned out to be even quieter than the piezo I have been using to test sound designs.  We have to figure out a way to make the speakers louder, either by adding voltage with an amplifier, circuit, resonating chambers, more speakers, or more powerful speakers, or some combination of those elements.  I’m also very interested in building fabric speakers like these.  So far I have been designing sound with the limitations of the Arduino tone library.  I’m optimistic about the possibilities of this library, but we may expand to using Processing or other sound design programs if we can’t get a good range of expression.  The tone library limitations are essentially that you can only play one speaker at a time and that you can only play certain tones and you can’t control volume with the Arduino, but there are work arounds for all of these issues, and the resulting sounds are pretty satisfying to me, something between lifelike and alien.

Here are links to a couple of sound references I liked:

Sexual Frustration in Birds, Part 2 on Vimeo

Adventitious Breath Sounds – YouTube

We also talked more about sensor possibilities, which basically run the gamut of available sensors.  Reflecting on it today, it seems to me that our best bet is to couple an FSR with a photo-resistor, using the FSR to double as volume control and motion sensor, while the photo-resistor can detect the basic proximity of the user, but there are a lot of effective interactions that could occur.

The code is probably going to be messy, but not insanely complicated.

Here are some of the first drawings I did for the original concept.

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Author: owen ribbit

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