Category Archives: Projects

Opposable Thumbs Episode 3: Found Electronics

Only 90's kids will understand!

Only 90’s kids will understand! via

Listen to Episode 3 here.

At the suggestion of my main man Audrey Peiper, I based this project on a Girl Talk telephone handset that I had laying around the studio. I fear this will only embolden my mother-in-law, who exploits my penchant for hoarding electronics ruthlessly.

Given the ridiculously gendered nature of my starting point, I decided to reengineer the phone’s components to make a positive statement about women and technology. This got me thinking about how some of the original “computers” were women, back when the term described people who performed mathematical calculations. Ada Lovelace is another great example of a woman who contributed significantly to early computing with her work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

With these ideas in mind, I desoldered all of the components from my handset. This yielded a pile of simple parts, artificially limiting the potential complexity of my project. Working within this structure, I soon settled on the concept of the multivibrator, a simple circuit that can be switched between two states. The first multivibrators were astable, switching back and forth between states at a regular interval. Mono and bistable vibrators came next, and these circuits formed the foundation of modern computer memory (due to their ability to “remember” one bit worth of information). I didn’t quite have enough components to make my vibrator stable, so here’s a demo of an astable multivibrator or “flip-flop.”

From a 2017 perspective, this circuit is not that impressive! I dig it though, because it shows what complexity you can reach in the absence of integrated circuits. To change the timing of the circuit, you can substitute different capacitor values – larger Farad ratings will take longer to drain, resulting in a slower oscillation. No coding here, just good ole’ math (or blind experimentation). See this page for the diagram I followed and build your own.

Full disclosure: The red LED didn’t come from the phone. There, I said it!

 

Opposable Thumbs Episode 2: Dungeons and Dragons Dice

For the second Opposable Thumbs challenge, I started researching ancient games of chance. It seems that the original dice where the knucklebones taken from livestock like sheep or goats. While you can order the real thing online, I opted to 3D print an open source set because it was quicker. Then I made a wooden box, strapped a piezo sensor to the back, and taught an Arduino to interpret these vibrations numerically. This information is shared with a Processing app, where the numbers are mapped onto various numerical ranges (1-4, 1-6, 1-8, etc.). The system is currently set up for the 7 most common DnD dice, but this is easy to change in the code.

I think the next step for the project is to hook up with the roll20 API. This website allows players to meet in an online space that supports maps, character sheets, and the like. Knucklebones 1.0 would allow such virtual games to retain some tactility by requiring physical rolls, though the objects in question need not be actual dice.

Arduino

Processing

 

Opposable Thumbs Episode 1

The excellent Rob Ray and I have started a podcast called Opposable Thumbs. I used to organize art events with Rob in Chicago some years ago, and I’ve been itching to work with him again ever since he escaped to LA.

OT is a biweekly creative exercise where Rob and I invite a guest to set some sort of design challenge. Next, the three of us each make something based on that prompt, then Skype in to talk about our successes and failures. The first episode is out now! Here’s a preview of my project:

tba

Prompt: Paper Clip & 2×4

In this episode I create a diegetic prototype that recruits material “flaws” (such as the knot above) to act as touch sensors. The paperclip or other wire is embedded in the wood and attached to two pins on the Arduino. Add a 1M resistor or greater and use the source code below. Right now we’re just blinking an LED, but that’s how all great things start… Please download, remix, and send me photos or video of your implementation!

 

Sterling Silver at Shapeways

I’m working on a new version of Controlled Feeding Status that will be cast in sterling silver! First test “print” just arrived and is looking hot. Next up: soldering and refinishing.

Seeed GPRS v2 in Hong Kong?

It’s the classic new media problem: you’ve got a cool show abroad, but will all your technology still work over there? I need to determine whether this board and this SIM card will be compatible in Hong Kong. This page suggests that 2G (a limit presented by the board) is still available in Hong Kong, and that the 900 band is still active. I suppose my fallback will be purchasing SIM cards when I arrive, but I’d like to avoid that. It may be cheaper, however, so maybe I’ll try both.

ThreeYearContract accepted @ ISEA Hong Kong

three

The title says it all! Track the project progress here if you want all the code/schematics. Here’s more info about the show.

The Wrong – The New Digital Arts Biennale

StarFork

This modified version of Controlled Feeding Status will appear as a part of Approximately 800 cm³ of PLA at the New Digital Arts Biennale. The show will live both online and in selected physical locations – more info TBA when the show goes up in November.

Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty @ Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago

Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty
Hyde Park Art Center
Curated by Camille Morgan
Sept 6 –  Dec 13, 2015
Press Release

For this show on the topic of touch, Dieter Kirkwood and I made a generative Processing app that provided us with algorithmically generated dress pattern instructions. As we wrestled with the imperfect app, we followed certain instructions and ignored others, eventually creating three unique dress patterns in imperfect collaboration with our code.

Featuring work from D. Denenge Akpem, Eliza Bennett, Laci Coppins and Nakia Gordon, Alexandria Eregbu, Whitney Huber, Taylor Hokanson and Dieter Kirkwood, Cole Don Kelley, Barbara Layne, Hiro Murai for Flying Lotus, Tameka J. Norris, Betsy Odom, Scout Paré-Phillips, Jennifer Ray, Aileen Son, and Fo Wilson.

OpenKnit build progress

The OpenKnit build is coming along nicely! We’ve had to make a few alterations to account for US suppliers. Here’s a preview…

Palimpsest Series #2

For the second Palimpsest series I scanned a new typewriter roller that contained highly legible text. By legible I mean the letter forms are easier to see (although the text content seems to be totally random). This sits in contrast to Series #1, where the nearly invisible letter forms contain recognizable words and phrases.