[ Project 1 ]: Cornelius Hoot
Cornelius Hoot is a plush, interactive owl night-light. He is the perfect bed-buddy or go-everywhere companion, with eyes that glow a soft, friendly green. He blinks on his own or on command with buttons in his ears controlling either eye. He goes to sleep if left alone for a half-hour.
Check out a video of Cornelius in action...
[ Project 2] : The Blorb
The Blorb is an interactive toy mace, a foam weapon whose spikes trigger streams of digital noise upon striking its victim. An embedded infrared sensor reads the Blorb's surrounding environment, changing the persistence and speed of noise according to its distance from its target.
Here's a demo of the Blorb in action...
[ Project 3 ]: Constellation Skirt
The constellation skirt contains LED circuits evoking the forms of ursa minor (the little dipper), Cassiopeia, and Cancer (the crab). A dark, voluminous outer layer enrobes an underlying layer of circuitry. The circuit representing each constellation is broken but is intermittently and fleetingly completed at random by the wearer's movements, causing momentary flashes of complete constellations.
Here's a demo of the Constellation Skirt:
The following photograph is the latest look and feel prototype (apologies for the crap grainyness of the photo). As planned, I went with a classic dirndl shape with a slightly sheer navy silk material, which ended up being a bit difficult to work with because of its slippery texture.
As for implementation prototype, I am toying with the idea of exploiting a weak connection between the LEDs and the power source, creating a twinkling effect when the intermittent connection is made and the circuit is completed. Here is the code for one instance in which the LEDs are programmed to "breathe" softly on and off. Here is the code for another instance, in which each of the three constellations is attached to a capacitance sensing star charm, and touching each triggers the illumination of a separate constellation.
< Look and Feel >
The style: classic dirndl skirt (gathered fabric with an elasticized waistband)
The fabric: outer skirt will be semi-sheer, thin navy blue china silk, low sheen; inner structure will be more structured cotton broadcloth for volume
< Implementation >
here's the code
At the moment, the three circuits are incomplete and the constellations may be activated when the user's movements cause the components to fall into place and complete the circuit. I am also interested in using the Aruduino capSense library to use human touch to activate the constellations.
< Role in User's Life >
What unexpected things happened when you created your design files?
In reviewing the concepts that I proposed a few days ago I felt somewhat intimidated by the timeline presented us for submitting a final product. Two weeks seems a bit daunting as a time limit. Further, I guess after reviewing the concepts I originally thought about, I didn't feel like they were objects I would be spectacularly interested in implementing as a part of my life. They seemed more like things that would serve primarily as good intellectual exercises rather than objects I envisioned as practical pieces for everyday living. This seems to be a recurring challenge in the brains of designers, whether it is necessary to confine one's designs to the useful rather than just the intellectually piquant.
In developing the Constellation Skirt concept it was surprisingly challenging to imagine a way in which one might embed clunky, hard technology into a soft garment. Further, what about washing? It certainly wouldn't be feasible to just dump the whole kit and kaboodle into the washing machine and call it a day. So I realized that I would need to spend some time thinking about how such a garment could be something people could actually use and abuse. I also struggled a little bit in thinking how I might conceal the technology portions that are indispensable and not able be "softened" or minimized further to the scale required by subtly used technology.
The following are some of the design sketches for a proposed constellation skirt. The constellation skirt comprises three layers:
1. outer skirt (dark matte silk, velcro)
2. electronic underskirt (stiff cotton muslin, conductive thread, sewable LEDs, velcro, arduino)
3. lining (acetate, sewn to outer skirt)
The overskirt is attached permanently to the lining, but the electrical layer is removable anchored to the outer skirt with velcro, for ease of cleaning if necessary.
None of the electronic/conductive components are meant to be attached to the middle layer, the electronic layer. I thought something like this disk could serve as a good star element as a button.
a collection of soft switches in extremities of this headpiece turn LEDs encased in the headpiece in different sequences. the object on the right indicates the basal structure
this dress is padded with buttons all over the back which control LEDs lighting the various panels. this piece invites touch in a medium where it is generally considered socially taboo to touch.
flex sensors embedded in neoprene encasements at elbows and knees generate digital beats from small speakers.
rug-like object with plush buttons. played like an instrument such that the user walks on it, in the style of DDR, to create music.
Alas, the blorb continues to misbehave. Here is it's current condition.
here's a link to the code
I sent Cornelius out to play and got some excellent feedback. I think the general consensus is that he is a good comfort object; he is cute, has good weight, and he invites play. However, he still needs a bit more personality. He needs to do more, he needs to have convey clear use for his buttons/switches. Apparently, hipster moms would be all over this (?), but I do have a few requests for final manufacture of Cornelius, if that time ever comes.
User Scenario: comfort object
Here's the code for the blinking eyes.
The Cocoon Light:
The Owl Nightlight:
The Daylight Projector:
User 1: Adult with disposable income and an interest in design objects - focus on use of product as an aesthetic/kitsch/design object
User 2: Professional parent of young children, modest or significant disposable income - focus on use of product as an interactive comfort object for a child, specifically as a nightlight/toy
The following image represents a look+feel prototype. The objective was to mimic the concept of a cocoon in a more usable way than in previous cocoon prototypes. Here, ping-pong balls and some larger hollow plastic shapes are envisioned inside a stretchy nylon tube. The artifact is designed to be suspended from the ceiling and display quite a long pulse, perhaps one full pulse on and off through the course of a day, with a different type of signal pulse at the close of the day.
The following is an example of an implementation prototype, in which the buttons create different gestures within 6 different boxes, each with a different LED inside. The images are a human cell time course accompanied by two vintage negatives of Victorian profile photographs. Both of these categories of images are intended to be suggestive of the passage of time.
-- look+feel - stylized plush owl of soft materials, potentially soft weight to maintain upright position
-- role in user's life - child's interactive nightlight
-- implementation - button in left ear blinks left eye, button in right ear blinks right eye
Here are few additional look+feel prototypes for a cocoon-type artifact. The left-most is a difficult-to-achieve paper shred iteration. The second from the left is another iteration containing a wire frame to hold the cocoon body together. The 3rd from the left is one possible incarnation in which a semi-solid shape would have a translucent window in the front from which light would come through. The fourth is a cocoon made from layers donut-shaped cuts of thick felt or wool, layered on top of one another with LEDs shining through at intervals through the layers. This might also be created from corrugated cardboard, in which case the light might remain inside the central cavity and shine through the gaps created by the corrugation.
The following is a look and feel prototype with a body composed of a ripstop nylon backed with translucent triangles of plastic to create a semi-fluid geodesic form to encase the hardware. I think that the end goal would be to make this a portable light by endowing it with rechargeable battery power such that a child could carry it around.
The image below is an implementation/role prototype in which the user might slip an image into a projection box to create an enlarged image of, as suggested below, a window or an outdoors scene, mimicking natural sunlight in places where natural light might not be freely available indoors. The light cycle is envisioned to follow the relative 24-hour pattern of daylight (likened to a sine wave) and cycle through the seasons. It might require some user input for the date (perhaps a dial) such that the programmed length of day would correspond appropriately to the desired season. This might be useful for individuals with seasonal affectation disorder.
I've shelved the cocoon prototype for the time being, in favor of a model which better accommodates the requirement for various buttons and switches. In creating this latest iteration, I dug back into a past life in which I played with molecular biology. Following cellular interactions within a biological system is an infinite source of visually intriguing time-course data, and I thought it would be an excellent point of exploration into gestures of the passage of time. A general theme in the analysis of movements and interactions in biological systems is the application of a color or fluorescent tag to the molecule in question, and then using the appropriate visualization technique to track the molecule's movements over time, say every two hours. The following is one such example of a time course examining the effect of a PPOX mutation on fluorescence distribution in the cell, showing that the mutation prevents cDNA import into the mitochondria. (RR Morgan, Identification of sequences required for the import of human protoporphyrinogen oxidase to mitochondria, Biochem. J. (2004) 377
I was interested in employing this type of image and time gesture in this iteration, and I began afresh with a different type of encasement, thinking that I might be able to create the effect of an old fashioned slide, such as the type used in old slide projection. I the immediate absence of such, I printed some like images on vellum paper to create a temporary prototyping tool for a similar light-diffusion effect. I also used a piece of crumpled gauze behind each image to further diffuse the quite penetrating light of the superbright LEDs.
I came across quite a number of interesting toys at the toy fair, but my absolute favorites included the exhibit by Korean robotics company, Robotis and their line of Ollo robot systems. There was a malleable pen containing two robotic animals that we were able to manipulate into action using remote controls. I was informed that the robots were designed such that they could be simply constructed by children, and that older children, beginning at around a 9th grade level, would be deemed capable of programming the robot to perform tasks of their own whim. Here are a few of the toys I saw, programmed to perform various different actions... I took a great fancy to the turtle:
The other favorite from the show was Pint Sized Productions' Food Chain Friends plush toy sets. They are just kind of delightful and appealing, and I think kids should know about the food chain and all that, of course, but mostly I just thought they were really cute and fun and well designed.
Going onto the other portion of this posting, I did a bit of research on the different symbols that have been used as gestures indicating the passage of time. One of the most poignant examples that came to mind is the analysis of tree-rings to determine the lifetime of a tree. It is fascinating that much can be understood by looking at the width of these things, telling a simplified story of environmental patterns throughout the tree's life. It is so simple and unilateral that the variation is all the more meaningful from ring to ring.
Another, totally different gesture representing the passage of time is the circular rose-window in the medieval Lincoln Cathedral, which faces north. From a vantage point inside the church, one is able to see the rotation of the constellations of the north stars through the circular holes in the stone, as well as recognize the passage of seasons.
Doing some research in the library, I was leafing through a book called Clocks & Watches, by Johann Willsberger. In this volume I came across a really frivolous but interesting specimen of timepiece from the latter 16th century (now preserved in the Würtemburgisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart in the Fremersdorf Collection), composed of a round platform upon which are a gilt copper ostrich being led by leash attached to the neck of a small bear cub holding a drum. When the quarter hour strikes, the bear opens its mouth & moves its head. On the hour, the bird moves its beak, rolls its eyes, and flaps it wings. When the alarm is triggered, the bear beats the drum. I found this to be a fascinating and droll way of spending one's time creating a gesture to suggest the passage of time.
Another quite unusual timepiece was a type of gravity-driven clock desribed in Clocks and Watches 1400-1900 (© 1967 Eric Bruton), the rolling clock, or the inclined plane clock, a drum-shaped device placed on a wedge-like stnd. The drum slowly rolls down the stand over the course of what was usually set as a week. I discovered this photo of such a clock online: