Design Guidelines

This post is part instruction to the concept artists involved in this project and part reminder to myself about what is and is not important when it comes to the overall design. It will be iterated on in later thesis instalments on this blog.

Modern day constraints

It is important to keep in mind that this is a modern day device. Although the aesthetics will be deeply rooted in a great deal of our current sci-fi and cyberpunk art the final outcome needs to function outdoors today.

Sketches should have at least some inspiration from the everyday and mundane. As some examples:

  • Public transit
  • Restaurants
  • Rain
  • Running
  • Bumping into things
  • Coming into physical contact with others

To elaborate, if I end up hugging someone it shouldn’t end in blood. If I trip I shouldn’t have chunks of plastic everywhere. Although the latter is upto my material exploration and not so much the concept art it is still something that can influence the shape. Continue reading Design Guidelines

Imagined Wearable


This is the piece for my imagined wearable project. I decided to do a type of uniform that adapts itself to whatever clothing is already being worn. Allowing the occupation to dictate a safety or security code while still giving freedom
to the employee. This particular version is intended to represent a paramedic, it has a night visibility lighting strip as part of the demo. Continue reading Imagined Wearable

From an OLED screen to Technosapien


As per the description blurb the peripheral is:

An upper arm screen designed to provide an alternate means of receiving mobile notifications. It can connect to a phone or another bluetooth device, display text based messages and provide notifications via strips of light on it’s shell. The intention is to explore a less commonly used part of the body for displaying various information.

The project went through three major iteration steps. It was initially intended as a hand mounted device, and that prototype can be seen in the first image below. After suggestions from the rest of the class I tested it on the upper arm and that position became much more comfortable for its larger size. This second iteration included an all black triangular design with thin transparent vellum edges. While the third added a prominent RGB LED indicator and provided a more transparent shell. Continue reading From an OLED screen to Technosapien

More IFTTT goodness

Just as a short followup to my previous post on If This Then That:

Recently I bought a bunch of new components from Sparkfun and noticed that I can have the FedEx tracking code send me direct notifications on my phone via the Boxoh trigger in IFTTT combined with the Pushover app. It gives me a clear notice with a ton of details every time anything changes with my package.  Great for time sensitive projects.

Another thing I have been using now is the Campfire search trigger to notify me whenever anyone urgently needs me in chat.  Petty handy, although easily abused! (Just make the trigger phrase something mildly long)

I will be seeing if I can implement my own hardware notification interface for IFTTT as the blink(1) device is very expensive for what appears to be a glorified RGB led on a stick.

Nudgeables pt 2

Visit the first part for some of the earlier progress.


Soon after I published the first post I ran into the first major issue with my design: I needed another nudgeables partner to test my input with. As I didn’t have access to my classmates for a few days I settled on doing ‘demo’ testing by lighting up an LED from the Lilypad via my transistor switch circuit.

As that worked I assumed that the transistor circuit had all that it needed to act as the nudgeable switch.

Unfortunately the current that it was attempting to connect was not enough, and I was forced to quickly rethink a new prototype. Here is the last shot of my original:


My second iteration used a mercury tilt switch. It is a large switch and allowed for a more sensitive read as the mercury bubble had some distance to travel before reaching the connecting pins. The idea behind this nudgeable is to be attached to the upper arm and react when the wearer’s hands are above their head.

I used a wide Velcro strap as the ‘arm adhesive’ and the nudgeable was sown to  via its thru-holes. The motor angles to be in contact with the arm while the sensor hangs down in the off position.


Field Testing:

My first test was with Katie, and we went out with friends to grab a bite at the Crepe Cafe. The environment provided enough chaos to disguise the nudge motions and the reactions. Although sometimes it became a game of catch your partner by surprise:


After some adjustments we also gave it a try at an even more noisy pub setting.


Both of these tests were very successful. Although my motion was a bit hard to execute more than once or twice without looking very silly as evident below:

[Grabbing picture from Katie of me awkwardly scratching the back of my head]

Next I tested with Rickee at the 100 mccaul cafe. This test quickly turned into a hacking session as we were troubleshooting Robert’s nudgeable and fighting a bit with our xBee wireless settings.




Above is my prototype worn over the shirt to show where it would be positioned. The motor is quite strong and was easily noticed even over the fabric.

Overall this project has been very useful for seeing the range of applications and forms that a simple wirelessly transmitted ‘nudge’ could take on. The nudgeable has been embedded into ties, suspenders and even bras with a lot of success making it clear that there is a lot of room for small embedded electronics on the body.

However there have been some issues with the current iteration of the board design. Particularly the inability to see whether the switch circuit has been closed or not without a second board and the hard to hide on and connected lights that can shine through thinner fabrics. A minor issue arises from the location of the on and off switch, it is hard to design a functional enclosure as the switch is too inaccessible when the board is covered in a sleeve or is wrapped.

In closing I would like to thank Kate Hartman for letting us borrow and play around with these early prototypes! I will definitely pick up the final versions when they are released.

After the project was done I finally managed to pick up the low power relay that I needed in order to create a breakout for micro controller to nudgeable communication. This relay, although with a slight audible click, works really well as a nudge switch and allows for analog sensors to be added into the mix.


Mixing it up, a lot.

For the third Networked Communities project I decided to explore the website IFTTT. This service provides a variety of ways to interact with over 50 social media channels in order to direct the flow of its users social interactions online.


Currently 26 social channels are connected and are powering 19 ‘if / then’ statements. Some are as simple as adding pages bookmarked with one service to another service in order to maintain consistency This method is for pure convenience and a way to appease friends who like to ‘like’ but don’t like to use the tools that you use. While other recipes can become quite robust when their destinations are considered. I set up an account with a service called Buffer which allows one to queue up social shares and have them be distributed one by one during specific times during the week. When combined with recipes this creates a way to share a large quantity of content without as much risk of frustrating people following the Buffered account. In my experiment I am routing a range of content channels from the prior social bookmarks to any of the posts I happen to put up on this blog into Buffer via these If / Then recipes.


This makes a good deal of sense when the descriptions of the individual services within them are taken into account. The two examples below, on the other hand, show where IFTTT can become more than just a way to send something in one direction instead it can become a way to really mix and sift content that we interact with.



I use Google Reader as my primary RSS reader, it is robust and has many possible in-app interactions, but I don’t particularly want to share anything from it immediately as I tend to just glance over headlines and skim the text initially  What I am doing above is establishing a chain of events that allows me to be very selective with what I not only read more carefully ( the starred content being sent to Instapaper which I prefer to use for reading on my phone ) but also eventually share ( if I do end up really finding something useful after I have read it more carefully I will send it into my buffer ). There are many metaphors that this method can be drawn to, but one that stuck with me is the sifting of ore: the more narrowing steps there are the more precious the information becomes to the individual sharing it.

Buffer and IFTTT can be easily criticized as the lazy ways of utilizing social networks, but just like any tool or remedy it simply needs to be used in moderation. In the above example I would have to go through a number of steps at once, rather than have the ‘read it later’ effect of Instapaper. I usually check my reader quickly and at times when I don’t have the ability to really sit down and focus on the content, prior to this I would often ‘wing it’ and share articles if I liked the title or the first paragraph which is arguably a great deal more lazy than the above formula.

Below is a method that demonstrates a good kind of laziness provided by IFTTT:


Here I am moving fairly hefty assets over to a cloud storage service from my preferred image sharing service, Flickr. If I am out and want to take a photo this allows me to still do so with the Flickr application and not worry about having to upload it a second time to my cloud backup system, the highest resolution file is immediately put into a proper folder for me.

A peculiar aspect that might be apparent already is the way these simple statements change so heavily based on what is on each end of the equation. Perhaps a very obvious statement, but when described as social streams we immediately become drawn to networks like Facebook or Twitter. Some of the channels offered are very different from these common social interaction tools and seem almost pointless at first but, can become useful when mixed with the right tools:


On the right is Campfire this is a very basic chat tool for groups that want to collaborate in real time on various projects. What could IFTTT bring into a basic IRC-esque chat room? In this particular example a very basic weather update, if it is cold out just leave a message to the whole group. Again this is a very basic use of the system, but the same principle can be applied based on the group that is using the chat. If it is a room full of developers working on a live web application, the app itself could provide notice to the developers of any errors via a basic RSS feed structure. Just like the ‘weather’ is talking to this particular group now.

All of these methods provide a level of convenience, but more importantly they add features that are not normally part of the networks with which they interact. This is my way of Hacking, and perhaps more appropriately Mixing social streams in the context of this project. I will continue using and experimenting with this service, I think that if used carefully it can become an invaluable tool of routing the many (many!) online social networks that we engage in on a day to day basis. And as a final note: If this post were a golf ball it is about to bounce off many a tree.

Nudgeables pt 1

Playing around with Kate Hartman’s Nudgeables project:

First I wanted to hack it a bit by enabling input from a micro controller. The Nudgeables board requires the use of a digital input so I used a transistor to transfer the input from a Lilypad pin to it via the small contraption below:


The plug is the Nudgeables standard input plug, and the blue wire is the connection to the lilypad input. This basically just closed the circuit when passed voltage.

Below is the hardware part of the switch, inside the fuzzy foam is a flat pressure sensor and the red board includes a pullup resistor with the required power and ground input:


This is the main construction [In its early iteration] with the Nudgeables board facing up. You can see the size of the board itself in comparison to the scale of the standard xBee.


Below is the Lilypad side, the pressure sensor will use the power, ground and the A5 input. While the output will be on pin 9.


The idea for the pressure sensor as a switch is that it will only send the signal under very high pressure, that way if the switch is just nudged or accidentally bumped it will remain off. The activation will be the elbow, and the whole object will be mounted on the elbow and upper arm area.