Congestion Charges

Or Oscar Animated Shorts. On Monday there was a screening of these at the TIFF.

Disney’s Paper Man, was quite engaging and visually impacting.  I do have the bias of seeing the way it was made prior to going,  and the technology behind it was brilliant.  They used brand new 3D animation techniques, one of which allowed live drawings to be appended to meshes in space and tweened algorithmically throughout the scene instead of by hand.

Another short that stood out was ‘Dripped’, a tribute to Jackson Pollock. It had a unique feeling to it,  the movement from frame to frame and the sounds that were used throughout built a very surreal scenery over the otherwise realistic backgrounds.  The premise of the piece was very relatable as well,  it speaks to artists absorbing and mimicking the works of others. The dissatisfaction of personal works and the act of finding their own place and style.

Fresh Guacamole is another that really stood out technically, beautiful animation and ridiculously crisp quality. That last point is especially incredible during some of the more drastic transitions, like when the baseball is chopped into dice.  Here is the link to it.

Overall this experience was quite unique, it is my first time in TIFF and I also had the chance to catch some of OCAD’s own animation work during a showing a few weeks prior. It was interesting to compare the subject matter, how chaotic student work appears when in contrast to even the more insane shorts like Dripped.

Manufacturing

The structural aspects of my project will need to be assessed early.  The construction process needs to be modular for adjustments to be made rapidly.  The base process should also be material independent to allow for experimentation throughout the project.

Materials as a short material requirements draft:

Physical specs:

  • Lightweight
  • Impact resistant
  • Pressure resistant
  • Scrape resistant
  • Non fading pigments
  • Prototype friendly

The intention with these is that the main materials need to withstand some basic situations that bodies find themselves in.  Brushing against a concrete wall,  falling off ones feet,  jostling around in a fast moving crowd. The wearer should not be scared of using these in any common situations,  and instead feel more protected in case those situations.

The last point is vital to the progress of the thesis itself.  If the materials need to be requested at exact dimensions then prototyping and experimentation will be difficult.  At the very least it should be possible to cut the material with affordable tools.

An interesting manufacturer/distributor that Rickee pointed out recently is Inventables they stock a number of possibly  easy to work with plastics. As well as materials for diffusing light and retaining shape. I hope that I will be able to try a few of these materials in the coming weeks and settle for some to use in my initial prototypes.

Neckband ambient light sensor.

Part One: [Prior to first presentation]

This project is intended as a test of a wearable light sensor system that can detect and make use of ambient light data around the wearer.

Currently this will light a 3D sphere in processing using the serial communications library.

The code is designed in a modular way so that further wearable sensors can be used in tandem with this one and allow for a combined analysis of ambient data.

The initial prototype uses photoresistors and gathers data from left,  right and back sides of the body. In the next version I intend to use light to frequency converters as they will provide far more accurate data.

Part Two:

The integration of the light to frequency converters was quite challenging. The data they provide required the use of an Arduino frequency library in order to create an understandable set of data that doesn’t overload serial communication.

The way these converters work is by sending a signal at a different frequency  back to the arduino based on the level of light. If the light detected by the sensor is high, the frequency is high. If the level of light is low, the frequency is low. That sounds pretty basic at first, and I was considering this as a plug and play sensor when I purchased it.

Quite a bit of work needed to be done before the sensor could actually become usable, due to the incredibly high frequencies that it went up to. Sending that data via serial required it to be cached and converted via another library. Unfortunately the best one was hard coded [Quite heavily] to digital pin 5 on the Arduino for input. I left a question for the developer of the frequency library  but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get a decent answer before I finished this project. And it was finished with a rather impractical solution!

Yup, three Arduinos. This is where I became very happy for starting with serial communication from the beginning. Adapting my code from the very first part became nearly as simple as running it thrice, once for each sensor. And have the processing sketch just look at the serial output based on an ID that preceded each tweet.

The output of the processing sketch did not change at all, save for it being far more precise when reflecting the ambient light coming from each of the sensors. The frequency readings had an incredible range [From millions to double digits!], and the library converted them into usable values and at constant intervals.

wpid-20130214_185730.jpg

I had to run another wire as the cable only provided enough for the three standard Photoresistors. There is some soldering for a resistor, but I am not sure how necessary it was.

Overall I am really surprised at the quality of the data, I am really upset about having to use three Arduinos. And will be looking into the library itself in order to make it more dynamic for other pin possibilities.

Some notes during the process: Windows is a pain with UNO and serial. It seems that ether the driver or windows internals end up failing after a while. And require a complete system restart. What I mean by that is the Arduino stops being recognized, even if unplugged and plugged in again after a prolonged serial session, although sometimes just at random. It makes it really hard to develop as I am in constant fear of having to restart, and end up having to test after major changes only. Luckily, it ether doesn’t happen with the Leonardo [After I figured out how to get it to talk to serial at all!] or I was just lucky.

The light to frequency converter has a TINY form factor, it is smaller than a decent photo resistor. I am looking forward to integrating them into my future work. Particularly for the wearable work in my upcoming thesis project.

Big thanks to Erin Lewis for helping me with the Leonardo Serial changes!

EDIT:

The nice thing about having friends who can read your blog is that they can point out what is missing. And say vital things like “So what does this actually do”!

To give a better overview of what this is for:

The set of sensors, situated on the neck and shoulders, constantly collect the ambient light data from the back and sides of the body. The concept is to create a device that is fairly accurate, and to demo the output of the device on a 3D sphere on a monitor.
The sphere is lit by using three spot lights in Processing, and the lights react directly to each sensor. Sensor data is mapped to a range between 0 and 255 which is then used for the RGB color values.

The output can be later adapted into any task that requires ambient light data from around you. Maybe a full body rendering, or proper lighting correction when being filmed, it is designed to be adaptable.

-Sphere picture incoming ASAP-

Wearing it

Snow Crash was a fascinating read for me six years ago, one of the parts that stands out to me is the Gargoyle:

Instead of using laptops, they wear their computers on their bodies, broken up into separate modules that hang on the waist, on the back, on the headset. They serve as human surveillance devices, recording everything that happens around them.

Snow Crash Chapter 27

To the protagonist, pun intended, of the novel they represent a near subhuman species of ‘metaverse’ hackers. They have short attention spans, are impolite, and in the case of the one described above: infinitely snobby. But that is not really what caught my eye, it was the tech described in that quote.

I am not a fan of surveillance, I am uncomfortable on personal cameras. I am not interested in having my image plastered on Facebook walls and Instagram profiles. But there is a different kind of surveillance that I would like to capture. Ambient data and locative data in particular are intriguing to play with and combine. How can the non specific visual observation of the space around us become useful in real time.

The Networked Self

My engagement in online networks started very late during high school, when I was seventeen I joined a game modding forum for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. There I helped with the development of a mod sub-project, but what caught my attention quickly is the social structure of a niche forum. I quickly became a moderator, and then a few months after an administrator. Both of these positions detached me from the ongoing projects development within the community, and brought me closer to the drama and social hierarchies that unfolded and were nurtured in this open and anonymous environment. I attempted to start a number of my own communities since then, but it has always been an uphill struggle with the advent of popularized social networks as it was tough to attract users to new and un-established bulletin boards.

I deemed my experience in the area of managing these communities as quite worthless and went back to try and pursue my passion for games. After joining a small volunteer indie startup I quickly realized that even in this semi professional environment the same patterns in drama and natural hierarchies were prevalent and my experience with this once again lifted me out of the game development process and placed me in roles more in the areas to human resources, public relations and community management. After four promising attempts that ended in quite failures I detached myself from the indie scene and realized that somehow during my time there I managed to develop a passion and a set of skills for the web. I started freelancing as a web developer and community manager to a number of small indie startups and begun interacting with communities directly on social networks rather than on privately controlled message boards and intranets.

During this time I also started my perhaps most successful community yet, a website designed for people who wanted to learn digital painting. I combined tools from an existing social network, with my newly founded idea of what ‘brick and mortar’ has started to mean (a self hosted website) and formed Lightwyrm. Which lasted for two years, and cultivated a small but active community of tutorial writers and tutorial consumers. But in the end, I ran into the most difficult obstacle yet, inability to inspire more content creators and community leaders in order to help grow Lightwyrm into a self sustaining entity.

After that I became engrossed in school, in freelancing and my full time positions. But I still tried to maintain a social presence on twitter, my social network of choice, and within the two niche communities that I participated in.

Currently I am interested in the complex networks formed by gamers, rather than game creators. EVE Online is my lens of choice at the moment. I find the player societies and structures of that universe to be incredibly fascinating. It is one of the only online games that manages to cultivate self created mythologies and complex player stereotypes that are not based around their ‘real world’ attributes but rather their locations and preferences within the game. This is facilitated by the range of gameplay possibilities that establishes divisions of players that have not tried, in any way, the content of anything outside of their respective areas of play. The players end up interpreting real scenarios or fabricating untrue events from other areas in ways that glorify, vilify or belittle the players involved.

With that said my interest in Twitter has waned, and open social networks in general became stressful rather than helpful. I am interested in new and better ways to communicate over them, rather than use them as tools for PR and community management.