Material Connexion

Material Connexion is a great resource for learning about the newest, most innovative materials that have properties and applications beyond our imagination. Coming from my fashion and textile science background, I was immediately drawn to textiles. To my surprise however, the ones I found most intriguing are ones grown and harvested from natural materials and processes.

These are my favorites:

Artificilae Matter by MUUNA are a collection of samples where crystals are grown onto woven and embroidered textiles to create mineral surfaces of ‘cultivated embellishment.’ This reminded me of my childhood when I grew sugar and salt crystals in petri dishes for a science fair project. It’s not uncommon to see crystals as embellishments, but often they are applied by sewing or with adhesives, which is both labor intensive and expensive. Growing crystals is such an obvious and elegant solution.

Bioleather by Thainanocellulose Co. Ltd. is a leather alternative made from bacterial cellulose. It is produced as a secretion from bacteria that is fed pineapple juice in a warm bath. The result is a thick and flexible material with a lovely iridescence when held against light.

Bioyarn by Algiknit is a compostable yarn knitted into a bio-based textile made from alginate, a readily abundant biopolymer extracted from kelp. Its semi-translucent color and rigid, rubbery texture is a sharp contrast to properties we conventionally associate with knitted textiles — warmth and softness. I tried reaching out to them for a sample because I noticed they are based in New York City, but they responded they have very limited quantities.

Connect – Wireframing / Prototyping

This week’s wireframing assignment was a very slow and difficult process for me. One being that social media is not a priority for me, and second being I’m only affiliated with two platforms — Facebook and Linkedin. This meant I had to download a few more for research, but since I had no content or friends / followers on them, there was a limit to the information I could access. I used Facebook as my inspiration and mocked up this user flow map and prototype:

^ I will make this more legible at some point.

     

     

Slug Actuator

This week, I decided to draw inspiration from the slug to cast my first silicone actuator. The idea is to create channels of little pouches that act as feet on two separate layers, then use solenoids to inflate one channel and deflate the other to mimic the undulating movements of the slug:

This is the illustrator file I created to laser-cut my acrylic mold.  It uses the same method of XYZAidan’s flat pneumatic actuators of casting multiple layers and spraying mold release to create the air channels.

1st Layer

2nd Layer

Unfortunately, it did not work as well as I anticipated. The stencil for the 2nd and 3rd layers did not fit snug when I was spraying the mold release so the air pockets were not as defined as I liked. When I attempted to test pumping air into it, the channel ripped slightly and I could feel the air escaping from the sides.

For a future iteration, I want to make a more stable mold and extend the edges so the layers can adhere better and air cannot escape.

 

Special thanks to Chester Dols for helping me refine my idea & understand molding techniques and Nitish for help with Illustrator.

Sensor Report: Capacitive vs. Resistive Touch Screens

Introduction

Touchscreens are everywhere and fully integrated in our everyday lives. From our smartphones, tablets, and personal computers, to game consoles, ATMs, and POS systems, it’s almost counterintuitive and discombobulating now when we encounter a screen that doesn’t possess touch-enabled functionality. There are many touchscreen technologies with different methods of sensing touch, but the most common of them are either resistive or capacitive. 

How Resistive Touch Screens Work

Resistive touchscreens work on the basis of pressure applied to the screen. They are made up of layers separated by thin air gaps. The top layer is typically a thin, flexible plastic and the lower layer is a firmer plastic or glass. Both layers are coated with electrically conductive and resistive layers and separated by spacer dots. Electric current moves in between the layers. When a finger or stylus applies pressure to the top layer of the screen and the layers are pressed together, it causes a change in current and the touch is registered. The change is then interpreted by a processor that determines the coordinates of where the screen was touched and the assigned function is carried out.

How Capacitive Touch Screens Work

There are three main components to a capacitive touch screen — the touch sensor, the controller, and the software driver. 

The touch screen sensor is a sheet of glass designed with a grid of hair-thin lines of conductive metal such as ITO (indium tin oxide). The grid lines in one direction are called driving lines, which provide a constant electric current. The lines in the other direction are called sensing lines, which detect electric current.

At every point where the sensing lines and driving lines intersect, there is a specific electrostatic field, which is registered as neutral by the controller in the device.

The user is part of the equation that makes the electronics work. The human body has a natural capacitance and can conduct electric current and store electric charge. When the finger touches the screen, the charge in the screen is drawn around that point, distorting the electrostatic field. The electrostatic field feels the effects of the user’s electric charge and redistributes itself accordingly. The controller transmits this information to the software driver, which maps certain patterns such as taps, slides, and multi-touch gestures to perform different functions.

Useful Applications

Besides being a display, touchscreens allow the user to interact and have tangible control over what is displayed. We practically have capacitive touchscreens glued to the palms of our hands in the form of smartphones and tablets. Resistive touchscreens are more commonly used in POS devices and self-checkout kiosks, interactive display systems such as shopping mall information screens, ATM and public transport ticket issuing machines, and gaming devices including the Nintendo DS and 3DS family.

Data Sheets

To compare the two, I referenced the capacitive touchscreen I interact with on a daily basis — my Samsung Galaxy smartphone, as well as the 2.8″ TFT LCD with Touchscreen Breakout Board with MicroSD Socket – IL19341 I purchased from Adafruit for $29.95. Adafruit also sells a 2.8″ TFT LCD with Cap Touch Breakout Board with MicroSD Socket for $39.95.

The technical details for both are as follows:

  • 8 bit digital interface, plus 4 or 5 control lines (12 pins minimum) or SPI mode with 4 or 5 SPI data/control lines (4 pins minimum) – not including the touch screen.
  • 5V compatible! Use with 3.3V or 5V logic such as an Arduino
  • Onboard 3.3V @ 150mA LDO regulator
  • 4 white LED backlight, transistor connected so you can PWM dim the backlight

Resistive Touch Screen | Data Sheet

  • 4 pins are required for the touch screen (2 digital, 2 analog)

Capacitive Touch Screen | Data Sheet

  • 2 I2C pins are required for the touch screen controller

Wiring for Resistive Touchscreen Controller with Arduino 

Data lines: D0 and D1 go to digital #8 and #9, then D2-D7 connect to #2 thru #7.

Control lines: Connect the third pin CS (Chip Select) to Analog 3, fourth pin C/D (Command/Data) to Analog 2, fifth pin WR (Write) to Analog 1, Connect the sixth pin RD (Read) to Analog 0. Optional: Connect the seventh pin to RST to reset the panel.

Code

Download Adafruit’s Touchscreen Library, TFTLCD Library, and GFX Library

*Note: I did not test Adafruit’s capacitive touchscreen, but the wiring and example code can be found here

Application Notes

I plan to use touchscreen as my tangible interface for the DMX lighting controller assignment.

Resistive Strengths & Weaknesses 

Pros: Lower cost, does not require a stylus or object with a capacitive tip to operate, can operate with gloved hands, higher sensor resolution for applications that require registering finer points of contact (ie. small buttons, handwriting), and does not pick up on accidental touches.

Cons: Low sensitivity/requires applied pressure, does not support multi-touch.

Capacitive Strengths & Weaknesses 

Pros: Multi-touch and gesture support, incredibly touch sensitive and responsive, higher image quality.

Cons: Higher cost, gloved hands will interfere with input, and sensitive to inadvertent touches and moisture.

Citations and References

www.slideshare.net/lavinkatiyar/capacitive-touch-screen
www.goodgearguide.com.au/article/355922/capacitive_vs_resistive_touchscreens
www.electronicdesign.com/displays/what-s-difference-between-resistive-and-capacitive-touchscreens
www.embeddedarm.com/blog/reach-out-and-touch-something-capacitive-vs-resistive-touch-screens
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKuqNuzM1oM

Friend Request: Journey and Experience Mapping

Persona:

Nick is an account executive at a PR agency. He is the human equivalent of a golden retriever — friendly, social, and always looking to make deep and meaningful connections. He finds it cumbersome that when he meets someone new, he needs to access multiple social media platforms separately to befriend/follow them. I want to create a social media management app that allows users to access and manage all their social media platforms and broaden their networks from one dashboard. 

User Map:

User Journey:

MIDI Controller – hAir Orchestra

This week’s assignment is to make a music playback controller using MIDI. Seeing all the NIME performances last year intrigued me, so I want to be more open to experimentation and think outside of the box and buttons. I have very long wavy hair and my fingers are constantly running through it to untangle all the knots so naturally, I decided I wanted to play my hair as a musical instrument. Initially I wanted to experiment with an electrostatic generator so my hair becomes conductive and can stick up in all directions as I play, but that was quickly shot down before I could work out the logistics after an office hour session with Tom (given the two week deadline and mostly because it’s potentially dangerous). After speaking to Tom, I decided my best option is to use conductive thread to simulate hair. On the last game controller assignment, I regretted not getting the MPR121 breakout board for my capacitive touch arrow keys, so I decided to get it for this assignment to map 12 strands of “hair” to 12 notes.

Lauren and I decided to collaborate on this project together. On Thursday night, we got together to look at the class notes and wire the circuit for MIDI output on our Arduino UNO. After we got it working via USB MIDISPORT2x2 and GarageBand, we played with some of Aaron Montoya’s personal drum and bass synths, and the Yamaha tone generator that had some nice string options with vibrato and pizzicato. Over the next three days, I poured over documentation and instructables on MPR121 and MIDI. I referenced Adafruit’s example code to understand how the capacitive touch sensor works and adapted the logic of Tom’s 4-key Piano Controller to generate sound. I am slowly learning how to understand and reformulate existing code to get it to do what I want, but I definitely want to get to a point where I can write my own code from scratch.

 

Since we wanted to keep our board set up compact enough to possibly fit in a headpiece, Lauren suggested we use the MKRZERO, which is a board recommended on the Arduino website for sound, music, and digital audio data. We spent the weekend debugging, troubleshooting, and failing to generate sound with the set up below:

The screen on the Yamaha tone generator kept reading: Err IlglData. Our classmate Elizabeth also ran into the same issue, but she was able to get some sound with delay. In retrospect, I’m sure there were mistakes I didn’t catch, but eventually we went back to what we know worked:

Code:

This is our first prototype in action. The challenge now resides in that the “hairs” keep touching each other so there is less control and distinction of individual notes. I would like to resolve this for a future iteration.

References:

https://github.com/tigoe/ArduinoGeneralExamples/blob/master/M0MidiController/M0MidiController.ino

https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/mpr121-hookup-guide

http://gordophone.blogspot.com/2016/04/aside-touch-sensing-with-mpr121.html

http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-DIY-Arduino-Touch-Sensor-Mini-Piano/

Special thanks to Tom Igoe, Tiri Kananuruk, Sebastian Morales, Jim Schmitz, Aaron Montoya-Moraga, and Aaron Parsekian!

Banana Slugs

I played with snails and slugs in my backyard growing up. I took them into the house, put them in my palms and small boxes, prodded and poked at them, and could watch them for hours creating narratives in my head. I even tried to bring them on a family vacation once. My mom was not a fan.

In sixth grade, my class went on a week-long camping trip to the Redwood forests. It was love at first sight when I saw this majestic creature slowly glide itself along the forest floor. What I find most interesting about banana slugs (slugs in general) are their fluid movement facilitated by their slimy secretions. They can move across rough terrains (albeit rather slowly) and the slime can function as both a lubricant and adhesive. Slime also absorbs water and is recyclable. I can see the properties of slime incorporated with soft robotics to facilitate movement, leave trails, and collect and absorb whatever comes in their path.

Sisyphean Counter

Reading:

It’s funny to think about the things we don’t think about. We take good design for granted and only notice the bad because it requires more thought/effort/patience than we are willing to afford. Krug and Weinschenk take similar approaches in their analysis of UX thinking by first outlining human limitations and behaviors, and demonstrating approaches design can therefore take to make interactions/information efficient and accessible. After reading, I looked to my opened tabs and frequently visited websites including Facebook, Gmail, Youtube, The Times etc., where conventions, hierarchies, and grouping are present and clear. It didn’t take very long for me to forget I was observing (read: skimming) altogether and go about my business.

Project:

For this week’s project, we are tasked with designing a physical object that can sit on a desk that allows a user to count up or down (one object accomplishes both behaviors). The target audience is someone who wants to keep a numeric tally and have a physical reminder of their progress to display for themselves and others on their desk. The single object should allow the user to easily record single increments of change – either counting forward toward a target or backwards from it. Below are two personas related to the assignment:

Maria
Maria is a 30 year old PR Account Manger working at Havas. She finds her job boring and lives for her vacation. Some days she feels she cannot make it to 5pm without knowing that there is a vacation on the calendar. Maria is constantly tracking the number of days until her next vacation. She is looking for a fun way to motivate herself by tracking the number of days until her next vacation.

Marco
Marco is a Sales Rep for google. His job is stressful and he has developed a bad habit of drinking too much coffee. He is trying to cut back because he can’t sleep at night. This winter he is up to 4-5 cups a day. Jon loves coffee and doesn’t want to quit, he just wants to scale back from almost 30 cups a week  to a limit of 15 cups per week. marco is looking for a way to easily track his coffee consumption by counting the number of cups he drinks each week.

Process:

We’ve all had bouts of existential crisis at work doing the same mundane tasks again and again. I certainly have. My project idea draws inspiration from Camus’ interpretation of Sisyphus, which heralds him as an absurd hero. Although the gods punished Sisyphus to roll a boulder up and downhill for all of eternity, he is freed upon accepting the absurdity of his fate and chooses to be happy. I think this philosophy is a healthy one to keep in mind in the workplace.

I placed Sisyphus on an ellipse to emphasize eternal loop. The user can count up/down from 0-99, and the number is displayed through a magnifying glass fixed in the boulder. Should the user choose to count up, they can subject our hero to rolling the boulder uphill by turning the wheel clockwise. To count down, they are able to visualize the boulder rolling downhill by turning the wheel counter-clockwise.

Transcription: Kyle Stephens Testimony

For the first assignment, I decided to transcribe the deeply disturbing and empowering testimony of Kyle Stephens, the first woman to testify in court against Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor guilty of sexually abusing 265 women and counting. I originally wanted to transcribe the entire hearing, but getting through the first was difficult. I still feel outrage, nausea, protective, and a profound sadness. At each pause to transcribe, I considered stopping and did when she concluded her testimony. For me, transcribing her account of sexual abuse involved reiteration and processing of a multi-sensory experiencetactile, visual, auditory, even smell at the mention of “lotion”. It was something I was not prepared for when I began. I am still processing because I don’t know if it’s appropriate to auto-generate her words, experiences, and emotions into something else, something more personal for me. Words are a powerful medium and even more so within certain contexts. The juxtaposition of intense human emotion and cold code is something I want to explore in this class.

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