Category: LookingOutwards

Melanie-LookingOutwards + sketches for final project

1) games: Thomas Was Alone + The Binding of Isaac + The Sense of Connectedness

I wrote about Thomas Was Alone before (not as a looking outwards entry but an example), and Ralph wrote about The Binding of Isaac (and is in fact the person who got me into the game). The Sense of Connectedness, despite also being an indie game, is very small compared to the two games, especially since it’s f2p PC downloadable. It’s an intense game in the not-action-y way: I felt as though my body was pulled through the grinder after spending a good hour on it, and in a good way. The sound is perfect and paces the player really well, prompting him/her to follow the rhythm in order to progress through the game without being an overtly rhythm-based game, and the vibrating graphics invoke a feeling of tension and urgency. It’s a game that messes with your mind as you try to figure out what’s going on, the mechanics of the gameplay, if you’re even in control of anything, etc. It’s an experience that encourages exploration and discovery.

There are three distinct respective elements I want to pull from these games: minimalist landscapes, randomization to the effect of infinite re-experiences, and overarching sensation of psychological discovery and engrossment.

2) Luan Chyi

It’s a generative landscape installation, based on the traditional Oriental ink painting. While it’s evocative of its source material, it stands strong on its own: a landscape that flows like water, ebbing and rushing constantly.


This is a “combination of imagery driven by generative processes in perspective to create representations of memory and mental association.” I become easily moved by art that channels the metaphysical, and this is no exception. Not only is it visually stunning, but it also has a compelling and alluring concept of the “aleph,” where “one can see the entire universe, from every angle at the same time.” It’s just very appealing and scary to think about.

First project idea is a game idea that’s been incubating in my head for quite a while now, and furthered by #1 in the looking outwards. Ideally, it would be minimalist in aesthetics, and the levels would revolve around generative landscapes that are different for every playthrough and level. I want to sustain an exploratory heart in players, and I think constantly moving landscapes a la #2 on looking outwards would help in that. Ultimately there’s a goal in the game other than to just explore the levels but figuring out what to do with the generative landscapes comes first.


(meager sketch because I’m too tired to take the rest of the photos. I will add more later)

The second project is an augmented projection but also playing with the idea of generating landscapes. Lemercier’s works come to mind when I think about what I want to do. Since this project is supposed to be small, projecting onto just big-enough-drawings instead of an entire room is what I’m aiming for. There’s a lot of random geometric landscapes in my sketchbook at the moment so there’s no shortage of materials to project onto… but I also want to create a meditative work like in #3 on looking outwards, so I might combine the two urges somehow.

Chloe – LookingOutwards – Community Sourcing (Final Project)

As we approach the end of the semester and a period of high burnout rates, I wanted my final project to take on CMU’s stress culture, and finding ways to foster a greater sense of community. I’ve always been inspired by the projects of Candy Chang, who has taken on the mission of “Making cities more emotional”. Some of her most well-known projects include “Before I die…” and “Confessions”

A principle of her projects and what I want to pursue is the idea of crowd-sourcing. With the capabilities of the tools that are available to us, it should would be easy to collect, store, and showcase such data. It’s only a matter of what that data is and how. One project I came across was Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Voice Array” (2011), in which participants can record their voices, which is looped and layered with the collection of all the past recordings.

“Voice Array” at MCA Sydney (2011) by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer from bitforms gallery on Vimeo.

It is a beautiful display of both user input and history, like an updated oral tradition rich with meaning from those before. I think that it would be interesting if there were a prompt of some kind–like Candy Chang’s “Before I die I want to….” or the confessions that she prompts. But instead of displaying them as mere handwritten notes, how cool would it be to hear the voices–complete with intonation and personality–upon tapping into them?

Messa Di Voce (2003) by Zachary Lieberman, Jaap Blonk, Joan La Barbara, and our very own Prof. Golan Levin is an example of displaying user audio-input, creating bubbles of audio that release the sound recorded when the bubbles are dropped. For a project based on confessions, displaying a participant’s confession as such gives a sense of anonymity, as well as a randomness when others try to tap into and listen to these confessions.

Possible prompts that I have in mind for such a community confession booth would be things like “I wish______”, “I dream_______”, or “Where I see myself in 5 years time”. It would be interesting to see what the hopes and dreams of CMU’s students are, and also a good opportunity for the stress-ridden students of CMU to remember why they are here (i.e. the pursuit of their future, etc.). Another form of a prompt could also be a way to pay homage to Randy Pausch (“What are your childhood dreams”), who was one of my biggest reasons for being here at CMU, as well as fostering my love for the convergence of technology and art.

Another element of community building is by fostering a sense of connection between strangers, making fleeting, transient interactions meaningful and/or interesting. I’m particularly inspired by Passing, a project by Jonathan Ota, a CMU Design graduate during his study abroad in the Netherlands.

I was equally intrigued by the extensive testing and research he did for this project, as well as the simple beauty of the interaction itself. Through this, connection between strangers is facilitated in a transient space.

This then got me thinking about the transient spaces on CMU’s campus, the closest one for me being the long hallway of Maggie Mo, a place truly interdisciplinary both in the spirit of the Design school residing there, and in the literal sense of the mix of students that pass through it, from design, to architecture, to music, to business, to economics, and so on. I thought about ways that I could perhaps facilitate connections there, but struggled with trying to not be too intrusive as it is a very high traffic zone, and dangerous for any projector and kinect to be installed.

Another idea I had was inspired by the Talking Doors project by Julijonas Urbonas that was shown to us in a previous class, where Maggie Mo’s popularly used revolving door could be used as a control for music to be played. I’m not as keen on this one as it is rather one-sided, and kind of a rip-off of its inspiration. As an artist seeking ways to facilitate meaningful community building, it would be important to seek two-way interactions–a give and take/collect.

I think it would be interesting to have a device that demonstrates the goodwill of CMU students. On the giving end, participants would have some equivalent of a “big juicy red button” to push, with the prompt that they could make someone’s day. If pushed, somewhere else, a Hershey’s kiss/some sort of candy/some sort of compliment/note/treat would be released, ready to be picked up by those around the device. Even cooler would be to have live video feeds in these separate stations, so that the Giver could see the results of his goodwill. A compassion machine of sorts, if you will.

The context of the input and output of such a device could very greatly change its intentions–for example, thinking about the differences between a student giver to a student receiver, and a student giver to a campus employee receiver. Whereas the former could be taken as a recognition of empathy, the latter is a form of thanks for the employee in their service of the students. If the input is not a tangible button but rather a Facebook ‘Like’, that it itself already taps into the debatable realm of how meaningful/substantial “Likes” actually are.

Lots to think about and let incubate. I look forward to fleshing out some of these in studio later today!

Looking Outwards + Final Project Sketches

Looking Outwards:
1. The Kinetic Chandelier

I personally found this chandelier quite endearing; the way it follows you around reminds me of something that just wants a hug. In fact, I see this less as a chandelier and more of an ecosystem within and of itself. Arguably, this could belong underwater as well. This chandelier also boasts a utilitarian feature: the light is always pointing towards you, so say goodbye to shifting around awkwardly while reading, trying to catch the light!

2.  D.O.R.T.H.E.

While this particular piece is also somewhat endearing, I like the idea behind the typewriter. If this were on a computer running a program in your background it would be less artistic but adhere more to the idea of one’s life having a soundtrack. (I always imagine mine does.) If my computer were able to sense and generate music based on my mood, I would be extremely impressed. Granted, the majority of the work done here is in the hardware which would be difficult to transfer to a computer, but it is possible to completely transfer the program to only software. I think I’m seeing a trope here — I like the idea of a machine being able to read one’s emotions. (Although perhaps not in the style of Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). It really gives these machines a life force of their own.


3. Touch Vision Interface

Not a novel idea, I know. With that being said, the idea of being able to hide in a corner and control some piece if technology (in particular, with the goal of surprising someone — can you imagine an augmented haunted house with controls like these?) appeals to me. This kind of technology is already implemented in Razzy’s down on South Craig in a similar fashion — one choose what song to play over the speakers from from one’s own phone. A touch interface like this, however, gives that extra degree of control that makes the experience a little more special.

My Project Sketches/Ideas

1. An Electric Violin

This violin would be feature pressure pads on the neck where each of the four strings would normally be situated. I realize there should be a second set of pressure sensors just below the fingerboard to emulate a bow, but am at present unsure as to how these two would interact with one another. One thing is for sure: If I am to implement this project, I will have to switch to using a Teensy.

Violin body would have to be lasercut, and potentially layered (depending on the thickness the lasercutter can deal with). Fancy futuristic body shape. Electric Violin Photo20131120_140732 20131120_140726


I think perhaps it would be more “realistic” to use the cord which changes resistances as it stretches. Granted, it would have to start off fairly taught. There also needs to be an output device somewhere.

Additionally, would it not be awesome to make the body/bow from acrylic and insert lights?

Second Idea Coming Soon! 

I guess a second project (also music-related) would be to have a piano with pressure sensors under say, a certain octave of notes. When pressed, lights on the piano would light up in different ways.

Dave – Looking Outwards Final Project


1. Simstudent

Simstudent is a research project at HCII at CMU. Humans learn by teaching, so we can take advantage of that fact by having real students teach algebra to a computer program, the Simstudent, so in turn the students themselves can learn. It uses machine learning algorithms to find patterns in algebra problems to solve them in logical steps. At each phase of the problem, the Simstudent will perform a step in an algebra problem, and the real student has the option to accept it as right, or correct the computer, which will proceed to remember the operations taken so it will not make the same mistakes next time. This is not an art project, but I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when my once-derpy Simstudent became a master at algebra and starts mowing problems down with ease. Thus, I wanted to create my final project based on a machine learning algorithm, so that my audiences can feel what I had felt.

2. Falling Stars

“Falling Stars” is an iPad app that lets the user draw objects on screen, which will produce sounds when drops of falling stars collide with them. The ability to easily create a musical composition that sounds decently coherent with seemly random drawings impresses me. The visuals themes are also great looking and create a calming mood. As an interactive program, it allows the user to create something that not only looks cool but also sounds great. I have always wanted to create a project that uses music and sounds, but I myself do not have enough understanding of music theory to create compositions myself. However, if all I do is set up the environment, and let the audiences and computer take care of generation of music instead, just as Falling Stars did, that might just be possible.

3. MIDI keyboard in Processing

I originally wanted all the music creation to be taken care of by the computer. However, if the user’s only interactions are to rate a composition as good or bad, then he or she might have to brute force through a lot of bad music to find one that is good, which is not exactly a rewarding experience that I had been hoping for. In order to make the experience more interactive, I decided to use a Processing library which can receive input from MIDI keyboards known as RWMidi. I also found an example project made from this library, which displays the robustness that I need. I am currently waiting for my MIDI keyboard to be shipped to me so that I can test it as soon as possible.



1. There is a fish tank filled with fish. When each of them flails up out of water, it sings a note. When these fishes do this over a sequence of time, they will produce a composition. The user will then vote whether it is good or not. With a machine learning algorithm, the fishes will remember the label and modify their future compositions based on the user’s taste. This effectively lets the user train the fish to produce “music”. The user can also choose to play music with his/her MIDI keyboard, thus giving more teaching power to the user.


2. Something with music information visualization. I invested money into a MIDI keyboard so I will be using it no matter what. It would be nice to create a visual story with music. This will be something similar to the reverse of “Falling Stars”, so it will probably grow things via pattern of music.


Update: 11/18
I have finished the machine learning backend, and it can play music correctly. All that is left to do is to implement the frontend and sync its timing with the backend, which will not be trivial, but it is not going to be planning intensive.

LookingOutwards – Shields

NFC Transceiver Shield V2 for Arduino

RFID Arduino !


Arduino GSM Shield

Allows an Arduino to make/receive voice calls and send/receive SMS messages!


E-Ink Display Shield for Arduino

E-Ink display for arduino


Looking Outwards- shields on Adafruit


The audio shield for for the arduino allows you to work with loud clear sound. It can play any track and, from my understanding, it can be hard to get a regular arduino to work with sound. The shield itself isn’t that expensive (around 15-25 dollars), so is definitely worth investing in if a project requires sound. I also think it’s very cool that headphones can be plugged in, this small but necessary component makes me think of finding ways to make your own ipod or some sort of music stream through the piece.


As the name might imply, this wi-fi shield allows the arduino to collect information from the internet. It is supposedly quicker and more user-friendly than other models. This was probably something used for the political door project that Golan showed us in class. The door was opened or closed depending on poll results which leads me to think that the arduino had a way to connect to the internet to see these results. This shield can also be used to do many other internet- based art.


This shield is amazing since it actually allows you to create your own small video game. The shield comes equipped to play sound, graphics, controllers, and more and can even support wii controllers and numchucks in order to provide a more friendly interface. It can plug into a tv to display a black and white video game. Perhaps there is another shield to allow for color video? If so, then a combination of it and this video game shield would be great to work it! Dave, especially, may enjoy making some of his previous code into video games.

Looking Outwards – Arduino Shields


Sparkfun Touch Shield

This touch shield from Sparkfun adds nine capacitive touch pads to an Arduino. Touch pads could be handy in a music application, like an Arduino powered beatpad. What about an Arduino powered phone, or an Arduino controlled interactive museum display? Additionally, the pads could correspond to settings on a robot or some other device.

I wonder – why one would use a shield as opposed to nine individual capacitive touch sensors? The Arduino documentation has a simple answer: shields “are easy to mount, and cheap to produce.” Also, if you build a custom shield for a project, you can recycle that functionality later in another project.

 Adafruit Motor Shield

The improved Adafruit Motor Shield accommodates 2 stepper motors, 4 bi-directional DC motors, and 2 5V servos. It features a stackable design, allowing for up to 32 motor shields stacked atop each other, so one could conceivably control 64 stepper motors or 128 DC motors in a single project. There is also a small prototyping area on the board for wires or other components.

I had to look up the difference between a motor and a servo. A motor is either on or off, but its speed can be controlled via PWM (pulse width modulation). A servo, on the other hand, moves to an output position specified by a control signal. So it has a 3 wire connection: for power, ground and control.

I wonder how difficult it would be to make an automatic centipede from stacked motor shields and DC motors.


The Protoshield is a prototyping shield. Attach it directly to a breadboard for increased working space, shown below:

Protoshield with breadboard

With a protoshield I can work on a bus, plane or volcano. Besides, it’s pretty cumbersome to lug around a prototyping plate.

When the prototyping phase is over, solder directly to the board. The stacking functionality keeps all components snugly secured to the Arduino. This protoshield works with the UNO, but there is a larger edition called the Mega Protoshield. It has even more prototyping space – though it’s only compatible with the Arduino Mega.

Looking Outwards: Shields

Discovery 1: Electric Imp Shield

The Electric Imp is, basically, a wifi shield, but it has two things that make it more appealing than a standard wifi shield.

  1. It is cheaper than a standard wifi shield (at least this one that I found on sparkfun.) I’m not sure why that is.
  2. It comes with software/a system that makes connecting the shield and arduino to the internet simpler. I haven’t used a plain wifi shield, but I have used the Electric Imp for a project, and it did abstract away most basic I/O and networking concerns, so I could just program behavior for it.

Last time I used the electric imp, it was so that a user could adjust the behavior of a device from a web interface (the adjustments were then transmitted through the Electric Imp system/device.) Some ideas for how I could use the Electric Imp in other projects are:

  • Have two installations that are connected to each other, where the state or viewers of one is reflected in the state or behavior of the other (with the two communicating via the imp)
  • Because the electric imp is scalable, it could be a part of a project with dozens of installations (geographically spread out) that respond to online data or sensor data dynamically. (Beacons, kind of.)

Discovery 2: CMUcam v4

This is an expensive little shield, but pretty amazing. I wouldn’t have imagined that this existed before I found it. The CMUcam v4 “is a fully programmable embedded computer vision sensor” which is dedicated to handling motion and color input information and pipes that data to the Arduino to which it is attached.

Some ideas for how to use this computer vision shield would be:

  • Having a robot which responds “emotionally” to its environment’s light circumstances. (Basically a creature which can see the real world and react.) I’m imagining a cute blob-type creature with an LED inside where the blob’s color changes in response to the light and motion around it. (This could also branch off into a “chameleon” type project.
  • Have an environment/objects in an environment that can see and respond to people in it. For example, there could be a box that runs away from the people around it, or several which chase or surround people that come in a room.

Discovery 3: GPS Shield

This GPS shield can locate your position within a few meters. I know I’m almost certainly not the only one including this in my post, but it just has a ton of potential. Some ideas I have for it are:

  • Having something which floats, like a mini hot air balloon, with a GPS tracker in it, then recording the GPS coordinates to capture the path that the balloon takes. Then I could use the path data to draw wind wind or something (or this could be combined with the computer vision one.)
  • Have an object which might get passed around (e.g., a rubber ball with an arduino suspended inside) and use GPS with the first electric imp shield to track its path through the world. I don’t think the rubber ball is the best idea. Maybe a “lost” smartphone instead (although in that case you could “lose” a smartphone and then use its built in sensors to track where it goes and how its used.)

Shields – Maryyann

2.8” TFT Touch Shield for Arduino

From the first time I laid eyes on this arduino shield, I was super impressed of the power of a small arduino.  Not only does this shield come with a  built in microSD card connection, but it controls a large touchscreen display as well. The display has a decent resolution and a touch sensitive screen that can detect a user’s finger given any location.

Simply plug is in and load up the library and then you’ve got yourself a working touch sensitive, large display arduino shield.

Touch Shield Touch Shield2


LCD Shield Kit w/ 16 x 2Character Display

Arduino builders often have trouble with LCD projects because they require so many pins. Using most of the pins means that the arduino would have far less components and abilities. This new LCD Shield Kit requires only 2 I2C pins on the Arduino and let’s the user control 3 backlights pins and 5 keypad pins. I really like this shield because it doesn’t need unnecessary wiring.

LCD shield


18-bit Color TFT Shield w/ microSD and Joystick

As I was browsing through the shields I realized I really liked the more visually stimulating shields. I liked the shields that enhanced image or character display a lot. For example, this 18-bit color tft shield allows the user to add a small colorful and bright display to any arduino. There is a microSD card slot and a 5-way joystick navigation switch included as well. I think these visual displays really show how the arduino is like a mini computer.

18 color 2 18 color



1. Music Instrument Shield

Since I have been working a lot with sound lately, this shield would be useful for my audio-based projects in the future. The strength of this shield is that it “contains two large tonebanks including various piano, woodwinds, brass, synth, SFX and percussion sounds” and is “capable of playing several tones simultaneously” – giving the artist a great degree of freedom. The cost is also reasonable given the shield’s versatility.

2. Voice Recognition Shield

The voice recognition shield would be an effective complement to the music instrument shield above. This can create an interface between the viewer and the work, and coupled with the music instrument shield, can produce an engaging interactive piece relating to the dialogue between man and machine.

3. Gameduino

As someone who is an avid appreciator of video games I find this ‘gameduino’ to be an interesting shield I may use for future projects. The slightly primitive graphics is reminiscent of old-school Game Boy video games, which gives the shield a sense of charm.