Virtual Batting Cage Updates

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We’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple weeks on our project, mostly in terms of Fabrication and computing. We’ve constructed a helmet equipped with two buttons – one to toggle between pitchers and one to take you to the home screen. The purpose of the pitcher button – located on the  brim of the helmet – is to simulate what a hitter may do physically while at the plate. While the .gif below is meant as a comedic exaggeration, it’s not uncommon for a batter to touch the brim of his helmet before taking a pitch; there may be some valuable tar there to make his hands stick to his bat better.

We’ve also constructed a place for the batter to stand when they are taking their ‘at-bat’. The next step for this will be to integrate FSR’s into the home plate. We would also like to signal where the batter should stand.

img_0541img_0542img_0550-1img_0547img_0558img_0560fullsizerender

In terms of the coding, we are making some real great strides as well. Here is a sketch showing what the final background will look like:

And here is a video showing what the final code will look like in terms of pitchers.

Finally there is a preview of what this will look like when this is all tied together.

Bill of Materials and Diagram

So attached below are the bill of materials and Fritzing diagram for my final project.

Starting with the B.O.M:

Item Amount Cost
Plastic Baseball Bat 1 $3.09
Arduino 101 1 $39.95
Mini Motor Disc 3 $5.85/$1.95 each
Haptic Motor Controller 1 $7.95
Force Sensing Resistors 4 $31.80/$7.95 each
Full sheet 1/2″ Ply 1 free
Fake Grass/Turf 2 free
Batting Helmet 2 $59.90/$29.95 each
Total: $148.54

As of right now, the plan is to replace the Arduino Uno that was used for the mid-term with an Arduino 101 and its built in accelerometer. My group and I are also interested in possibly making a custom built bat but as of now, we’re going to stick with the plastic model. The force sensing resistors will be placed on top of home plate and will be used to change game modes and the mini motor disc and haptic motor controller will be placed inside of the bat so that they can vibrate whenever the user gets a hit. The ply will be cut to make a more realistic batters box and will be covered in fake turf. This is solely an aesthetic choice, one that hopefully makes the atmosphere a bit more vibrant.

In terms of the Fritzing: I feel like this will change a lot because my group is interested in getting away from the Arduino 101 but I figured it would be helpful to include the schematic used for the mid-term in case it was needed in the future. Unfortunately, the Fritzing software doesn’t include the proper model of accelerometer used (the ADXL335 is included but looks drastically different from the one I used) nor the proper Bluetooth but I think it portrays a somewhat accurate schematic.

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-1-26-34-am

 

 

 

Serial Communication Blog Post/Bonus Servo Post

So for my lab I wanted to take the first step towards my mid-term by adding a sensor value to a baseball sketch that I had made**. Here is sketch pre serial-communication addition (the code for both sketches is featured at the bottom also turn your sound either off or really low: if you’re reading this at 4:00 am the last thing I want is for this loud crack of the bat to wake up Noodles):

As you can see, a ball is pitched from the mound and then the bat is swung using mouseY. When the bat makes contact with the ball, you record a hit and the crowd goes wild. For this assignment, I decided to replace mouseY with a potentiometer as I felt it would add a nice level of realism to the game.

Going further with this in the days to come, I’d like to replace the potentiometer with an accelerometer that is attached to an actual (mini) bat but I’m a bit concerned. I talked with Matt Romein about trying to make it so that when the bat is swung in real life, the bat is swung in the p5 sketch. He had mentioned that may be very difficult and would be best to make it so that when the accelerometer reaches a certain velocity, the bat is swung. I would then have to make sure there is an incredibly minimal delay between the velocity being reached and the bat being swung. Hopefully you’ll be reading about my solution to this project in the mid-term blog!
** Don’t want you to think I made Mona do a baseball project or that I have a one track mind. I totally just posed the idea to her as nothing more than that: an idea and she thought it would be a good way to showcase physical computing. I suppose I’m getting a bit insecure about that so I just wanted to mention it.
P.S Here is a link to my final Fab project which involved some physical computing.
Code for Sketch 1:

var x = 320;
var y = 235;
var speed = 3;
var speedb = 0;

function preload() {
img = loadImage('battersbox.jpg');
mySound = loadSound('Cheer.mp3');
image2 = loadImage('Bat.jpg');
image3 = loadImage('baseball.jpg');
}

function setup() {
createCanvas(600, 600);
img.loadPixels();
image2.loadPixels();
image3.loadPixels();

}

function draw() {
background(220);
image(img, 0, 0, 650, 500);
baseball();
pitch();
returnball();
bat();
swing();
}

function baseball() {
fill(255);
ellipse(x, y, 25, 25);
image(image3,x-15,y-10,25,25);
}

function pitch() {
y = y + speed;
x = x + speedb;
if (y >= height) {
y = 235;
}

}

function returnball() {
if (x > 600 || x < 0 || y > 600 || y < 0) {
baseball();
x = 320;
y = 235;
speed = 3;
speedb = 0;
}
}

function bat() {
translate(135, 400);
rotate(mouseY / 600.0);
fill(100, 100, 100);
rect(40, 30, 160, 20);
print(mouseY);
image(image2, 40, 30, 160, 20);
}

function swing() {
d = dist(x, y, x, 430);
if (d < 1 && mouseY/100 < 0.25) {
mySound.play();
speed = speed * random(-4, -1);
speedb = speedb + random(-10, 5);
}
}

 

Code for Potentiometer Sketch
In p5

var x = 320;
var y = 235;
var speed = 3;
var speedb = 0;
var serial;
var sensorValue = 0;

function preload() {
img = loadImage('battersbox.jpg');
mySound = loadSound('Cheer.mp3');
image2 = loadImage('Bat.jpg');
image3 = loadImage('baseball.jpg');
serial = new p5.SerialPort(); // make a new instance of serialport library
serial.on('list', printList); // callback function for serialport list event
serial.on('data', serialEvent);// callback for new data coming in
serial.list(); // list the serial ports
serial.open("/dev/cu.usbmodem1411"); // open a port
}

function setup() {
createCanvas(600, 500);
img.loadPixels();
image2.loadPixels();
image3.loadPixels();

}

function draw() {
background(220);
image(img, 0, 0, 650, 500);
baseball();
pitch();
returnball();
bat();
swing();
}

function baseball() {
fill(255);
ellipse(x, y, 25, 25);
image(image3,x-15,y-10,25,25);
}

function pitch() {
y = y + speed;
x = x + speedb;
if (y >= height) {
y = 235;
}

}

function returnball() {
if (x > 600 || x < 0 || y > 600 || y < 0) {
baseball();
x = 320;
y = 235;
speed = 3;
speedb = 0;
}
}

function bat() {
translate(135, 400);
rotate(sensorValue / 600.0);
fill(100, 100, 100);
rect(40, 30, 160, 20);
print(mouseY);
image(image2, 40, 30, 160, 20);
}

function swing() {
d = dist(x, y, x, 430);
if (d < 1 && sensorValue/100 < 0.25) {
mySound.play();
speed = speed * random(-4, -1);
speedb = speedb + random(-10, 5);
}
}

function printList(portList) {
for (var i = 0; i < portList.length; i++) {
// Display the list the console:
println(i + " " + portList[i]);
}
}

function serialEvent() {
var inString = serial.readLine();
if (inString.length > 0) {
inString = inString.trim();
sensorValue = Number(inString/4);
}
}

for Arduino:

void setup() {
Serial.begin(9600);
}

void loop() {
int sensorValue = analogRead(A0);
Serial.println(sensorValue);
delay(1);

 

 

Mystery and Collaboration

The content in the readings this week really resonated with some core beliefs of mine. From 2008 – 2015, I taught at a program in New York City called the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SOCAPA). One of the many courses that I taught, and my pride and joy, was a course called “Create Your Own Work”. I took a group of about fifteen 14- 18 year-olds and taught them how to create original work. My students struggled with a lot in this class, which was ironic because they could’ve created virtually anything for any assignment and it would’ve been ok. For some reason though, they weren’t able to get out of their own way: they were unsure of where to start, unsure of where to expand upon their ideas and unsure of how to convey what they wanted to convey. They blamed this on their “lack of creativity”. They thought, “Man, I can’t even think of one original thing, I’m so dumb.” I tried to show them that the opposite was true. Teenagers are one hell of an opinionated bunch and once they were given the permission to express those opinions, the floodgates opened. Once they realized that they didn’t need permission to express those opinions? Then – in my opinion – they left changed. Despite the fact that there was so much amazing growth in those classes, there was one thing the students were unable to get over. They couldn’t stop explaining their work.

One student, Peyton, created a piece where she took six or so floor mats and stood them up vertically, arranging them so that they made a maze. In the center of the floor mat maze was a small candle, a tiny desk, and a few pieces of paper with notes scribbled on them. The other students were really excited and intrigued by this piece and when it came time to ask questions, the first one was, “What did it mean?”. Peyton then proceeded to do what virtually every student in my years of teaching did in their first project: she explained every single thing about her piece. After she was done, I put the class on pause. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “Well, she asked me a question and I wanted to let her know what everything meant.” I asked the class if Picasso was present when his work was showed, if Lynch was at everything screening of his films, if Kinski explained his choices in Aguirre, Wrath of God. I told them what I told every other student who took that class. Your audience will form their own opinion and theirs is just as, if not MORE, vital to the piece than the definition you could give them. By providing them with a definition, the piece is concrete and sinks out of memory. But if there is allure and mystery, I may find myself thinking about it tonight, and tomorrow and perhaps next month. So for an artist to provide an answer to the question “What does it mean” is to remove it from consciousness, to make it more concrete.

The other core belief that the “Sketching User Experiences” reading touched on was collaboration. From 2010 – 2014 I worked with a theatre company that I founded to make work that focused on collaborating with other artists. Rather then take a pre-written play, we would all work together to build an entire show from scratch. Collaboration has really been an integral part of my life since…well, I guess since I joined a band when I was in middle school. It’s just sort of how I create. So a few of these readings have been sort of surreal to me because they make collaboration seem like a sort of new idea. The way Buxton – and Norman in readings past - talks about integrating designers into work seemed so…apparent to me. I was sort of shocked to read that it was something that needed to be brought up instead of something that just naturally happened.

I think this is why this program has been so refreshing: it champions the benefits of collaboration and the notion that work doesn’t need to be explained. In a weird way, it almost makes me anti-instruction manual. Why not just give a public a product and see what they make of it. I guarantee the masses will end up utilizing ‘it’ in a way in which the inventors and designers never imagined possible.

 

Boom-Bach, Nightlights and Stress

Tom: I enlarged and bolded the font to - hopefully - make this an easier read on your eyes. If this is still an unpleasant experience let me know and I'll continue adjusting. Thanks!

Now that I’m a little bit more comfortable with the Arduino, I thought it would be fun to try to use my sensors for fun applications. The first one I came up with was a photocell that I used to turn into a nightlight. I wired my photocell to my analog input, put a 10 kilo-ohm resistor at the junction point, and connected an LED to a digital input. When first trying to figure out the code, I was using if statements but then I realized I just had to go back to what we’d learned earlier with digitalWrite and the process became a lot simpler. Here is a video of the nightlight at work and the code that made it work.

The second application was birthed of the love-o-meter in the lab. I don’t know about you but watching that debate last week got my blood boiling. I figured I’d take the love-o-meter and make it a stress-o-meter for the next debate: if I wasn’t really squeezing the FSR then I could keep watching the debate (as would be indicated by the green light). However, if I was starting to get too pissed off at Trump and was squeezing the FSR too hard, it would probably be better for me to change the channel.

Last but not least, I wanted to play around with melody and the Arduino. One of my favorite songs to play on my bass is the Bach’s Cello Suite # 1: Prelude in G Minor. I really wanted to hear how it would sound coming from a microcontroller so I pulled up the sheet music and input the first eight bars into the code. To me hearing it come from an Arduino as opposed to a cello is akin to that infamous transition in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the ape throws his bone-cum-instrument into the air only to have it “land” as a futuristic space vessel. There is one thing I am still struggling to figure out though: how to control the volume on the 8ohm speaker. I think the people around me on the floor don’t like Bach as much as I do.

#include "pitches.h"

int melody[] = {
NOTE_G3, NOTE_D4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_D4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_D4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_D4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_D4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_D4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_E4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_B4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_E4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_E4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_E4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_B4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_E4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_E4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_B4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_FS4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_B4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_C5, NOTE_FS4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_G4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_G4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_G4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_FS4,
NOTE_G3, NOTE_E4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_B4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_G4,
NOTE_E4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_FS4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_B3, NOTE_D4, NOTE_CS4, NOTE_B3,
NOTE_CS4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4,
NOTE_CS4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4, NOTE_A4, NOTE_G4
};
int noteDurations[] = {
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16,
};

void setup() {
for (int thisNote = 0; thisNote < 96; thisNote++) {
int noteDuration = 1000 / noteDurations [thisNote];
tone(8, melody[thisNote], noteDuration);

delay(noteDuration + 96);
}
}
void loop() {
}

A Future of Desired Disability?

I feel as if our current cultural climate is one of awareness. Those who were deemed ‘other’ are speaking out and asking for the rights that they feel as if they’ve been denied –and are obviously entitled to – and the public is finally starting to listen. While there are truly a bevy of communities looking for equal rights and representation, lets look specifically at those who are handicapped. Early on in 2016, there was a successful movement to change the handicapped sign from one that focuses more on ability than disability. The past sign seemed to convey inactivity and therefore invisibility. This coincides with what Pullman discusses, that, “the priority for design for disability has traditionally been to enable while attracting as little attention as possible.” The intention in disability design seems to have been to make something as unobtrusive and discretionary as possible so that those with disabilities don’t feel as if they’re singled out and stigmatized. The intentions there are obviously good but that in and of itself rings of the age-old aphorism: the road to hell is paved with good intention. The danger that Pullman posits about a signal being sent out that to be disabled is something to be ashamed of is spot on and therefore it’s time to change it.

In the beginning of the reading, the author talks about how Ray Eames started to make sculptures out of spare leg splints that were not being used for the betterment of soldiers. This along with several other factors – notably the work of Charles Eames – contributed to the birth and success of plywood furniture in the 1940’s and 50’s. While the visual languages made by Eames wasn’t the driving force behind the plywood boom, it was certainly a factor. This got me thinking about art and how it can introduce concepts into the world. Eames turning of disability tech into an art form opened awareness to a disability and it got me thinking about how disability is portrayed in today’s media.

Aimee Mullins is an award-winning athlete who happens to have prosthetic legs. She’s one of many poster children for disability tech not being discrete yet the artificiality of Mullin’s prosthetics is controversial still. The author posits that this could be gender related and I certainly won’t deny that that could play a big part of it but what I want to take a look at is how and where we’ve seen these before in media.

The following clip is from the movie The Kingsman. It was a hit in the box office and is still talked about in a cult-classic sort of way. This particular clips shows a fight between the protagonist and Gazelle, a women who has the some prosthetics that Aimee Mullins has.

Obviously this film isn’t lauded for it’s subtly. It features people doing incredible feats of strength and is meant to cause wonderment. Gazelle possesses just as much superhuman ability as our protagonist yet she runs into the same issue that Aimee does with her insurance company in customizable prosthetics. On the one hand Gazelle is being viewed as able-bodied. Her disability doesn’t seem to be too much of a disability in this scene. On the other hand, her disability is featured but she sort of seems to rise above it in a way. I mean think about her name itself: “Gazelle”. It seems to suggest that she’s almost superhuman. Gazelle isn’t looked down upon, especially if you’re a fan boy, in fact she’s fawned over. She’s sleek, she’s sexy and she can kick your ass.

So an interesting dilemma is brought up here: should disability design make those with disabilities more “able-bodied seeming” and “normal” or should it elevate the disabled community above that, to a place where they unique. Are we moving to a realm in which because of the advances of technology it’s…cool to have disability tech? The same thing happened with eyewear. It became sleek and fashionable. No one saw Forrest Gump and thought I wish I had those braces but people who have seen Minority Report or any other science fiction film for that matter can’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could see through walls with my eyes”?

That’s sort of what I’m curious about after this reading. What is the next step for disability design and what is the relationship between disability design and the lighting fast growth of technology. Will I want to replace by failing limbs in my old age with prosthetics. Will “disability” be chic or redefined?

Observing Xi’an

           New York City is filled with thousands of restaurants, a good many of which are of the quick in-and-out variety. You come in, order with someone at a counter and take a seat as opposed to the inverse. One of these places is Xi’an Famous Foods on St. Marks and 1st Ave and it was here that I decided to do my observation.

           Xi’an Famous Foods is a veritable hole in the wall with the dining area being about 20’ – 25’ long by 13’ – 15’ wide. At the top of the dining area is a small terminal where the Point of Sale or POS is. The POS in this establishment is about 10”x10” and is approximately 3.5’ off the ground. In the time that I was in the establishment, two people switched off between manning the POS and giving out the “to-go” orders. When a customer would approach the counter, the server manning the POS would choose the dish the customer had asked for, ask them how spicy they wanted the dish, ask them their name and if it was for here or to go. I assume that the interface showed images of the dishes offered by the restaurant and because there were 30 in total, I imagine there were about 15 to a page. Once an image was chosen, I figure another screen popped up with options to customize the order, followed by a name screen equipped with a “Here” and “To-Go” button. There was a screen below the terminal facing the customer that displayed their order on the right hand side and sales and deals on the left.

          In terms of how the servers used the POS I noticed a few things. Both of them were able to use the tech fluidly and without difficulty and were able to switch seamlessly between prepping a to-go order and operating the terminal. The height of the POS, though convenient for both servers in this instance, was not customizable so those who were not an average height would suffer. Even with the “normal height” of the POS however, the server was never really able to make eye contact with the customer while operating the POS and was therefore locked in a constant up and down battle. The server mostly chose down in the instances I observed. There was a preference for staring at the screen as opposed to engaging with the customer, which begs the question: is this on the tech or the human? Is it the tech’s responsibility to make the server engage in interaction with the customer?

         There’s no solid way to measure how intuitive the tech was but considering how seamlessly and fluidly both servers used it, I can assume that it was easy to use. The time between an order being given and a button being pushed was virtually instantaneous; the tech didn’t seem to get in the way. In fact the tech seemed so intuitive that the server didn’t need to devote his entire attention to it. As he took his orders he would also be engaging in conversation with his employees behind him in either Mandarin or Cantonese.

          I observed about six or seven customers come to the counter, the first four of which were English speakers and the fifth of which was Chinese. Despite her ordering in Chinese however, there was no delay from the server. He quickly punched her order into the POS and gave it to her when she it was ready. The only time in which the server would take a bit longer with the POS was when he needed to spell the names out. If the ordering and customization of the food took about five to ten seconds, the entering in of the name took about ten to fifteen depending on length and difficulty. The entire interaction however would take less than a minute.

          Xi’an Famous Foods is definitely a hot spot. It’s been frequently written up in food magazines, covered by major food networks and is housed on one of the busier streets in New York City. As a result they’re faced with an interesting dilemma: how can we have the long line that forms in this incredibly small space not be a deterrent to those who want to eat here? After all, they need to pay what I am sure is an exorbitant rent and they want to get to as many customers as possible. This is all to say that the system that takes the orders needs to be as seamless and fluid as possible, which I believe this system was. It seemed to have all the features that Norman and Crawford posit make up a good design: there were clear signifiers, natural mapping and seemed both usable and understandable.

 

P.S. I overheard a lot of people talking about this assignment anxiously. They seemed to want to find the biggest and best – whatever that means – interactive technology the public had to offer. This had me feeling a bit self-conscious about my choice because it was more run of the mill but then I realized, if we can’t optimize the run of the mill, should we be in such a rush to move on? Is a simple POS system more or less important than an interactive kiosk? I can’t quite say. All I know is I recently watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi about a man named Jiro who dedicates his life to creating sushi. With each piece he makes, he tries to get closer and closer to perfection. At first I thought this was sort of…silly? How hard could it be to make something that looked so simple. Intro to Fab first introduced me to the fact that simplicity can be the hardest thing of all and while the POS seems close enough to perfection for thousands to rely on it there are still improvements to be made.

 

Intuition, What A Show. Intuition, Here We Go.

I have two nieces – Charlye (18 months) and Brooklyn (5 months) – and a nephew – Gabriel (3 soon to be 4). While Brooklyn is amiable, Charlye and Gabi can be quite a handful and when they are my brother and sister are quick to put an iPad in front of them. Charyle and Gabi (who are in Maryland and New York respectively) pick it up and use it as if they have had the technology for years now. What I am curious to know is: is this merely mimesis at work or is intuition something that needs to be added to discoverability and understanding for important design characteristics. I won’t deny the impact of mimesis. While I’m not expert in child psychology, I feel I’ve read enough to know that the major way in which infants and toddlers learn is through copying what they see their parents do but is that all? Or is there something else at play here? Is the design of an Apple product so understandable and discoverable that even a human, weeks away from being tabula rasa can use it?

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic here. By their age Gabi and Charlye are hardly blank slates, they know the necessities: eating, sleeping, walking, etc. But to use that technology so seamlessly has to reflect well upon the company in some way. Perhaps it’s Apple’s usage of signifiers that makes their products so great but if that were the case, why would Gabi or Charlye know more than how to unlock the screen with a swipe? Let’s get specific. When they receive their iPads, not only can Charlye and Gabi unlock the iPad with a swipe, they can find the app that they like, the one with the “moo” or the “roar”. They know the symbol for movies and can pick out an episode (though the signifier here would be a still from the episode.) So does this prove Gibsonian psychology that posits the world contains clues and we pick them up through “direct perception”? Enhance it? Or maybe negate it.

Taking that a step further: harkening back to the Bret Victor video we watched last week, in all the examples of this sort of new-age, futuristic technology that Microsoft was showing, I found it curious that there were no signifiers. In their mind, the signifier seemed to have gone the way of the dodo. In its place was …well, intuition one could argue. The user needs no arrow to show it to swipe left or swipe right, they just simply know. Is this something that they intuit or are they evolving in parallel with the technology. In counter to Victor, I argued that maybe we shouldn’t be as reliant on our hands as we want to be despite how expressive they can be. At the time I didn’t know what should take it’s place and now, maybe I do. Maybe it’s…intuition.

Think about the launch of the new iPhone 7. When it launched, the internet (or at least reddit) was in a collective tizzy over the lack of a headphone jack. This isn’t the first time that Apple has drastically changed their design and it won’t be the last yet people continuously come back to it. Is it because of familiarity or does the fact that we have pleasure – by way of design – in our pockets keep us coming back. I whole-heartedly agree with the fact that good design means that beauty and usability are at a balance and maybe Apple is the perfect testament to that. I prefer the aesthetic of the Apple to the Nexus therefore I’m willing to overlook what I think are sort of …not design flaws in terms of they aren’t functional but…not what I particularly want to get from a design. And maybe it’s my ability to intuit how to use the new iPhone 7 without the jack that makes me overlook my distaste for their “courage”.

One Home-Run of a Switch!

As I was sitting in my apartment late last night, I was thinking of something that I could turn into a switch. I took down a bag of miscellaneous junk my girlfriend hid from me in the closest and found an old treat: a Mike Mussina pin from 1995. “He may have not been conducive to winning a World Series but I bet this pin is conducive!” I checked with my digital multimeter and sure enough, good ol’ Mike was conducive. But now what to do about it?

I decided since he threw baseballs for a living, and there was an old foul ball in my bag, maybe I should do something where when the Moose threw a strike, an LED lit up! I started with the bare essentials: my pin, my ball, and my ….vernacular schematic

I knew I would have to run wire from the conductor – the pin – to my source of power – my Arduino Uno. So I stripped two wires and soldered them to the pin: one to go to the breadboard and one to be my switch.

A baseball however isn’t conductive, but a sheet of tinfoil is. It wouldn’t be enough to simply cover a ball in tinfoil however, I would need to also run the ball to ground (as Dhruv very helpfully pointed out). So I covered the ball in tinfoil and tried soldering to it but as Emmanuel pointed out – man that’s one helpful shop staff – the tinfoil wouldn’t be able to get to the right temperature for me to solder to it and if it did, it could just burn up. So, I stripped a long piece of wire, wrapped it around my ball like a big piece of yarn and soldered at points where the wire met.

Now theoretically, all I would need to do is run the excess wire into ground, and touch the wire coming from the pin to any of the exposed wire on the ball. So did it work?

Interactivity

How Would You Define Physical Interactivity?

When I think of physical interaction the first thing that comes to mind is two actors moving in space with one another. The… vagueness of that statement is intentional, I suppose and is definitely a product of my acting training. Physicality however doesn’t need to be between two actors in the prototypical sense of the word; the definition of “actors” is malleable. Crawford’s definition of interactivity - a cyclic process in which two actors alternatively listen, think and speak – is a very apt one in that it takes into account the fluidity of the word “actor”. An actor can be a computer, a car, an iPhone or a human being. While I respect the definition that Crawford puts forth for interactivity, I find some of the examples that he gives to support this definition to be a bit antiquated.

 

Crawford states that “performance artists seldom interact with their audiences at any deep level” a statement Marina Abramovic would take great offense to. He claims “the dancer doesn’t set the beat or in any fashion provide feedback to the music makers” which seems to nullify the notion of a muse. At the end of the first chapter he acknowledges that the definition will change and that his definition is a useful one. I totally agree. What I think I’m at odds with however is the authors seeming lack of foresight – “Software designers who try to compete with movies, music, or printed graphics are guaranteed to lose”? Really?!

 

Crawford’s definition to me is a foundation, a base of a pyramid that is futilely trying to build to a pyramidion when in fact it should be working from the tip down to the base. What’s another layer to the pyramid, huh? My definition of physical interaction is when two “actors” cause a change in one another. My issue is that I struggle to define “change”. By my definition, a film is still not interactive because there isn’t a “change” occurring on both. But performance art can be interactive. So can using your phone. So can playing music. So can listening to music. My definition isn’t better or worse, it’s merely a feeble attempt to modify or evolve the foundational one put forth by Crawford.

What Makes For Good Physical Interaction?

I think efficiency is a defining characteristic of “good” physical interaction. This is sort of at odds with Victors rant against the underutilization of hands in technology. The author gets upset that the interface of the future is less expressive than a sandwich. Isn’t that sort of a good thing? It seems rather daunting to me that every time I would want interact with my friends via text message or e-mail I would have to go through as many steps as I would when making a sandwich. If a tool addresses human needs by amplifying human capabilities as the author says than why does it matter that the hand isn’t being utilized if the mind is. Now, it may be a bold claim that interactive technology is amplifying the mind but I think it’s doing so more than making a sandwich is.

Evolution, in my mind, seems to be a process of simplification: vestigial organs begin to fade away because of lack of necessity. While I’m sure there are a bevy of instances that negate that, that’s just sort of what I conceive evolution to be. If the apex of the “hand” has come and gone, then so be it. Do I think the hand is going to go the way of the appendix? Probably not – it would certainly make music a bit less dynamic – but I don’t feel as up in arms (pardon the pun) about the underutilization of the hand as Victor seems to be.

I think good physical interaction is …streamlined and practical. That’s a slippery slope because it downplays the importance of beauty and art. Art doesn’t need to be efficient or practical and I think there is certainly a place for art in physical interaction. Can you have good physical interaction without art? That to me is the real question and one I don’t have an answer for quite yet.

Non-Interactive Digital Technologies?

In keeping with my definition of what physical interaction is, yes, I would say there are works from others that are a good example of digital technology that is not interactive. Or at least, they utilize digital technology and are not interactive. One of my favorite exhibits is one I had the pleasure of seeing in a museum in Italy (the name of which unfortunately escapes me). It was a Bill Viola exhibition entitled The Veiling that featured a system of nine sheer scrims that were hung parallel to one another in a room. Each scrim caught the light from a video projection positioned on either end.

I suppose you’d have to use a pretty loose definition of what digital technology is for this exhibition to fall under it but for argument sake, lets say it’s a good example of digital technology being put to use. I was immediately taken by The Veiling because I felt as if I could interact with it. There was about a foot or so between each scrim in which you could walk and by doing so I felt as if I was submerged into the experience; like I was with those in the projection. This is not interactive however because there was no conversation taking place. Those featured in the projections didn’t know I was encroaching in their space and neither did the artist. While the façade of interaction was present, this was wholly a one-way experience.