Tangible Interactions

To determine the actual amount of time it will take to make something, consider the rule of pi: multiply how long you think it will take by pi (3.14). This rule of pi is surprisingly accurate.

-Dustyn Roberts, Making Things Move

Yiyang and I made some good progress on our midterm project this week. We picked up a couple square-ish pieces of clear acrylic, at 3/8″ thick which we think will be the thickest possible for laser cutting. They are smaller than our initial concept, but it is helpful to test out the interaction. We used the drillpress to drill space for an RGB LED. Then we sandwiched sensors in between the acrylic pieces, supported by rubber feet, and tested the Arduino program to see what types of readings we were getting and get the light working in a nice way. We feel that the light and its slow decay is a very important part of the interaction because its decay will mimic the sound that the action produces.

First we tried a piezo from Radio Shack (above) but that sensor was too thick. Then, after it arrived in the mail from adafruit, we tried a force-sensing resistor, but that was not giving us a reading for some reason. Maybe we’ll come back to FSR’s later. But the best sensor so far was a flat round piezo that was working really well and also triggering the sound we want it to trigger.

We’re thinking to build a few drum pads for now, with the longer term goal of working towards a ‘step sequencer.’

Working with actual materials, sensors and code to make this prototype is really helpful for me. From here, we need to figure out a good way to keep the two pieces of acrylic together. We need flat rubber feet rather than rounded because they’ll be easier to stack. We need to find the best position for the sensor that will keep it insulated from vibration of the floor surrounding it (this was a problem until we moved the sensor to the middle of the acrylic sandwich—maybe we need multiple sensors in parallel? We’ll see). A lot will depend on the size we settle on for our acrylic pads. I think that the size we’ve been working with, roughly 5″x5″, is pretty nice, but originally we’d hoped to have bigger pads. If we do work with bigger pads we might need additional sensors to pick up the same force no matter where the user steps—this already impacts the sensor reading.

A big part of our project is the look and feel. I think the wires and sensors would look cool sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic, maybe we can drill a hole in the center of the bottom piece to pass everything through from the ground below. One way or another we’ll need to tidy and/or hide all of the electronics so that the user can focus on the sound, the light, and the feeling of dancing without worrying that they’re stepping on something that might break (hopefully it’ll be sturdy, too!).

I have been thinking about interactions in ways I had never considered.

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