Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

Cool! Our Nokia concept at FastCompany

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

It’s always nice to see other people mention your work, especially when it’s FastCompany!

Check out this well written article by Kit Eaton at FastCompany.


First version of the Braitenberg vehicles

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

My thesis at CIID is about objects with personality and the different ways there are to implement “artificial” personality in otherwise stupid objects. As part of my research I have decided to take a closer look at Valentino Braitenberg’s work with synthetic psychology in the beginning of the 80′s. Especially his investigations in the book “Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology” where he designed the rather famous Braitenberg vehicles.

The vehicles are extremely simple electronic objects, that seem to show a specific personality from their actions. The interesting thing is, that they are in fact extremely stupid, but because we (humans) only look at their actions without knowing why they act as they do, we tend to project our own logic and reason to them and thereby give them a personality that they actually don’t have. It sounds a bit complicated, but actually it isn’t – it’s just because I can’t explain it properly yet :)

I decided to base them on Arduino, though it might be overkill – the reason I did it is to keep flexibility, so that I later can upload more advanced firmware to the bots. Here’s a photo I took of one of my boards – unfortunately I put it upside down!

Anyway, of course I also snapped some photos of the first vehicle and it’s half-finished sibling today. Here they are:

Braitenberg vehicle - side view

You can see more photos in my Flickr photoset.

Bang & Olufsen

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Last week we (the CIID/DKDS Pilot Year) visited a bunch of different companies. One of them was Bang & Olufsen, makers of extraordinary hi-fi equipment. Sorry for being such a geek, but I really love the old Bang & Olufsen designs. These five are my favourites (actually the MX tv should be here as well, but I didn’t get any shots of it):

B&O TV set

B&O tape recorder

Old B&O record player cabinet

B&O TV set

B&O Stereo

And as a small bonus, a close-up of the Beosound 5 controls and the Beo 5 remote – extremely well-engineered aluminum parts. Maybe a bit over-engineered actually?

B&O Beosound 5

Here’s the Beo 5 remote. I still don’t know what I think about the design though.

B&O Beo 5 remote

And finally: B&O’s office and factory buildings are in general a bit boring, but the newest one was actually quite interesting. Here’s a couple of shots from the inside.

B&O building from inside

Eline's feet on B&O's glass floor

You can see a lot more photos from our industry visits in my Flickr gallery.

Rock is the new swivel

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

I’ve wanted to write this post for about 6 months now. And now I’m finally doing it! Hooray!

One of the first quick foundations courses we had was with Massimo Banzi and Gwendolyn Floyd, where we explored and played with physical computing. First week we played with the basics of Arduino and serial communication. That’s where I built a couple of small (and stupid, but cute) robots with Jason. Second week I worked with Eilidh and Ashwin on a self-chosen concept within the realm of physical computing and networked objects. We decided that we wanted to design for “Guerilla free-time”, in other words the project was a comment on how technology that is supposed to give us more free-time, actually ends up stealing our time, because everything becomes more and more efficient.


We set our context in busy office environments where people often isolate themselves in their cubicles, staring at the screen all day. The only times they take breaks is when they walk to and from the coffee machine or when they have lunch. We knew that we probably couldn’t convince people to take extra breaks, so we decided to tap into the existing “break-facilitator” of the workplace: the coffee machine. Getting a cup of coffee usually takes less than a minute, and then you’re back at your desk. We wanted to extend that time to a little more than a minute.


We decided to make a coffee machine that requires you to take a break, to get your coffee. We did it by hacking a coffee machine and a rocking chair, so that when you sat down in the rocking chair and started rocking, the coffee machine would start brewing you a nice cup of coffee. In addition to that, you would get a relaxing Gilbert O’Sullivan tune playing – and working as an indicator for when your coffee is ready. If you stop rocking or leave the chair, the chair will warn you by fading out the music. If you still aren’t rocking, the coffee machine turns off.


We did that by making a special plugboard, that could be controlled wirelessly (Arduino and Xbee) that the coffee machine was plugged into. Under the chair we put another Xbee equipped Arduino with an accelerometer, hooked it up with a hacked El-Cheapo mp3-player and a small Nokia speaker.


First Skills Upgrade

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Ouch. This stuff actually happened before Christmas… I’m not that good at updating regularly. I’ll be back soon with a post about the TUI course we just finished, and hopefully that will make this site a bit more up-to-date.

Well, the last week before Christmas was dedicated to “Skills Upgrade”-courses. The class was split in two, one half was working with James Tichenor and Joshua Walton from Rockwell Group, on different proposals for interactive installations for SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The other half (which I was part of) worked with games and computer vision which was taught by Yaniv Steiner.

The scoreboard featuring "pebernødder"

We spent the week experimenting with different small things within the field of computer vision. The first project we did, was the game “Style Wars” – a reaction game, where you use your hand as the game controller. The game is very simple: you and your opponent face each other like in a classic western duel. When you hear a specific bang-sound, it’s all about being fastest to draw your gun (gun = pointing hand). If you react too early (before the right sound), you lose. The name “Style Wars” doesn’t really make much sense – but the reason for the name is, that in the game, one player has the role of a flamenco-dude, the other player is a hip-hopper. I am assuming that it’s common knowledge that flamenco-dancers and hip-hoppers don’t get along very well.

Dave Mellis captured me and Erlend dueling in the video above. After making “Style Wars” which was based on simple Flash-motion tracking, we moved on to reacTIVision, where we made our own lo-fi reactable with a standard camcorder, a window and a desklamp. We used the table for testing and having fun with both Flash and One of the applications were a “body-mixer”, that made it possible to build your own custom CIID student (or freak) by mixing the legs, torsos and heads from all of us. The controls were three “dials” with fiducials underneath.

Playing with the body-mixer

I uploaded some pics from the skills upgrade on Flickr – you should check them out if you want to see some of the other cool stuff people made, like the Dancing Game, for instance… The thumbnails are here:

The last minute light solutionDaveErlend wonScoreboardJacobFiducials
Danger! Dutch techno aheadDanger!A wallA wallStyle WarsThe camera we used for Style Wars
The camera we used for Style WarsJacob and his thingTired peopleEline explainingEline's light installationEline's light installation
Eline's light installationEline's light installationKevin catching the ballKevin catching the ballUjjval explainingUjjval's sketch with fast shutter
Ujjval's sketchYves explainingAsh checking out Jacob's thingJacob's graphics projected on the wallPlaying with Jacob's thingreactable
A view through Jason's glassesFrancesco againThe dancing gameFrancesco dancingThe dancing gameSimona
1-day reactableFast shutter = Funky colorsYves shooting fiducialsMagnus and the scoreboardSkills upgrade exhibitionIt's in the hair

The new MacBook!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Again, Apple has introduced a fantastic new product: The Macbook Wheel! A revolutionary laptop with no keyboard and amazing battery life (thanks to the new Hummingbird technology). Goodbye keyboard, hello wheel!

Strangely enough, only The Onion‘s reporters have seen it.

Graphical User Interface design – Part 1

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

After having spent time with the elderly, we started thinking in concepts that could improve the life of the elderly. We had the honour of having Niels Clausen-Stuck as guest teacher for the first two weeks of our GUI design module, where he, along with Alex from CIID, helped us through the whole design process. A process looking a lot like the good old ISO13407 which I am quite familiar with after having studied product development at DTU for 5 years. Well, this post is not going to be about design processes (though it’s a topic that I’m very interested in).

After having visited the elderly, we found out that they are no longer interested in creating and sharing new memories, they are more interested in re-living old memories, with people that can help them filling in the gaps and completing their stories from the past. But it’s not always easy to find people at your own age that you can actually do this with, as almost 85% of the residents on the old folks homes have dementia to some degree. And as the course was about graphical user interfaces, we also had to create some kind of device. After lots of thinking and another visit to Plejehjemmet Aftensol, we decided to develop a “time machine”. Well, not a time machine in the traditional sense, but at least something that would help you think back in time.

Radio in BW

We decided to build a radio, that could go back in time. Instead of having a frequency scale, this radio has a time scale. Turn the knob back to the year you would like to get refreshed, and the radio will start playing content from that period. If you only want to listen to specific types of content, there is a knob for selecting that, e.g. news, radio-theater or classical music. I won’t go into the details of the UI, but we put a lot of thought into arranging the buttons and the graphical layout of the screen, to be as intuitive as possible. As this mock-up was developed in the second iteration, it is still very early – unfortunately we didn’t have time to take it to the elderly to evaluate it.

The radio set to 1978

Technically speaking the radio is just a device with a wifi connection, and access to digitalised radio archives, e.g. from Danmarks Radio or BBC. The interface is kept “old-fashioned” on purpose, to keep a higher level of familiarity to the user. Our philosophy was, that this concept is a radio and therefore it should look and feel like a radio. Not a computer or streaming mp3-player.

Electronics-wise the mock-up (or hardware sketch) was built using Flash, Arduino (+ potmeters), a hacked Nokia speaker and an Asus Eee 901, all put into a cabinet covered with sheets of paper with a wood texture printed on them. The picture below is showing the radio when it’s not covered by the fake table.

Under the hood of the radio: Arduino and Eee 901

In general the GUI class resulted in some really nice models, considering we had very short time for the projects. Take a look at some of the other mock-ups in my Flickr photostream. If you don’t want to go to Flickr, the photos from the exhibition (and some from the process) can also be found here.

Marcin's smurfFirst concept sketchPutting Post-Its on the wallMessyBrainstormingKey value
Discussing ideasGood or bad?In or out?ScenariosScenario sketchesInterviewing
Taking notesInterviewingInterviewingInterviewing EbbaSid's fist snowNordic Brainstorming
Deciding placementDeciding placementSetting up ArduinoAndreas finishing the fake woodAlmost readyCool proto. Great UI.
Cool proto. Great UI.Controlling the showNice drawingsSetting the moodAndreas demonstratingAndreas adjusting
Hmm...Singing or presenting? Or both?Memory protoTired girlsFilmingNice setup
SimonaActive wallKevin and SidUjj pretending not to have a camera aroundJust tiredTired of it
Calendar systemVisitors from JapanRadio protoThumbnail sketchesThumbnail sketchesThumbnail sketches