Looking outwards – Adafruit

Hey everyone, I am still sorting through everything that Adafruit has to offer but here are a few pieces of technology that really sparked my interest! The first one is this soil Temperature/moisture sensor at: http://www.adafruit.com/products/1298. This product is most likely what was used in my arduino looking outwards where they created a project that allowed plants to set off lights when they needed water. The project really stuck in my mind and with this product I can see that it was probably a fair bit more simpler to construct than I had previously thought. Of course this poses another good example for me that with a few pieces of tech, and even with a simple concept, an awesome project can be born. This soil sensor can also be used to sense change in the seasons depending on the soil or perhaps to sense weather conditions (wet soil vs. dry soil).


Something else that sparked my interest was the liquid flow meter at http://www.adafruit.com/products/828. This meter sits at the base of a water line and the water moves a pinwheel found inside of the object. The meter can then calculate what sort of flow the water has. This meter is interesting since it allows one to make computer work that can interact with water. This is probably difficult to do with electronics. This may be able to be used in conjunction with the ocean, rivers, lakes, sewers, or public bathrooms. Water flow may also be used with movable art (since the energy of the art may be affected).


The flexible solar panel at http://www.adafruit.com/products/1485 , also intrigued me. A simple change to the pre-existing product of a solar panel can have wo many uses; For one, you can wear the panel as a bracelet and have the arduino be literally powered when in the palm of your hand. It may also be easier to hide many solar panel within and installation or public art in order to mask electronics like batteries or bulky wires. I’ll have to actually buy it to see if it can do all of the things I picture it doing but even so, I feel like a product like this has huge potential. It can even be used (perhaps) in conjunction with a lily pad arduino in order to make more wearable art.


Looking Outwards: Physical Hardware

So I have this camera, less than a centimeter tall…


Namely,this little thing, which captured 640 x 480 video. Image the possibilities! For less than $10, one could essentially hide the controller for a Box2D application, for example. It goes without saying that this one is completely awesome.

…and this box which recognizes your voice…

As a follow up, I would also like to nominate this voice recognition software:


Firstly, it is available in multiple languages. I always thought it would be awesome to have a software which could translate a conversation between two people in real time. Although I realize one could not do that with this particular device, which only comes with one particular language at a time, it leaves the door open for thought. Second, one can potentially image having characters controlled by a particular individual’s voice. For example, a very high voice might control a skinny, small character whereas a very low voice might control a much larger creature. (Interactive ecosystem, perhaps?)

…and the capability to use it all underwater!

LED H2O button

This little button may not look like much at first glance, but an underwater LED glowing button is definitely a step up from your average on/off switch. Coupled with some underwater housing, this could be used to create an underwater projection or a smoke projection without compromising your equipment and easily being able to see how to turn your machine on and off. For the little inexpensive piece of technology this is, I feel it would be worth it.


1. Carbon Monoxide Sensor


The possibility of such a tiny thing being able to be used to save many lives struck me. Of course, smoke detectors serve a similar purpose, but these can be used to alert even more people to come to others’ aids.

2. Heating pad


Besides heated clothing in the winter, we can use these from keeping food warm to making the toilet seat less painful to sit on during cold mornings.

3. Nunchucky


The Wii Nunchuck takes in many different types of inputs from various kinds of physical interactions, and we can send them easily to Arduinos with this.


1. Long Flex/Bend Sensor

According to the product description, the flex/bend sensor was popularized by Nintendo as a gaming interface for gloves. As the principal motion that our body makes is bending, the bend sensor offers many possibilities in which a device responds to body movements.

2. IR Distance Sensor

This sensor measures the proximity of objects. Despite its simplicity, it would be very useful for a number of projects – especially those involving robots or other machines that require methods of collision prevention.

3. Tilt Ball Switch

I was mostly drawn to this because it was dubbed “the poor man’s accelerometer” (and it’s only $2.00). Although it is not as powerful as a “rich man’s accelerometer”, its size makes it very convenient for small projects that require basic orientation/motion detection.

Sensor Christmas Looking Outwards

The geophone picks up low frequency ground vibrations. I’ve used regular microphones to translate voices and strikes into other outputs, but this sensor presents a subtler way to read viewer’s presence. Though it is intended for seismic use, I’d like to use it to sense footsteps or finger drumming or other sublties. Measuring the frequencies of vibrations and pauses could indicate hesitation or excitement/interest in a viewer, and could provide the art work insights on the viewer’s personality and motivations.

I find the color detector interesting not only because of its use, but its shape. Numerous color detectors could be compiled into a interactive form capable of reacting to a person based on their clothes or even race. The work could also be self interactive, or interactive with another form composed of color detectors, forming dialogues and relationships dynamically with each other or a passing viewer.

The Liquid Flow Meter has especially peaked my interest. Lately I’ve been thinking about totally immersive single or double human capsule environments in which art as experience is constructed by viewer and art object together. I want to use water in these environments, actively flowing and interacting with the viewer, adding layers of depth to the experience. This sensor measures the amount of water passing through it, and with that data I could send signals to valves to constrict or expand water flow based on environmental changes in the work.

LookingOutwards – Sparkfun

1 – Muscle Sensor

This kit allows us to measure muscle movements. This allows us to actuate things with just the use of our muscles. It uses a method called EMG – electromyography

Old spice supposedly used this technique in this video although I suspect some of it was faked –


2 – Geiger Counter

This kit allows us to measure radiation using a Geiger tube.

3 – Wind Sensor

measures wind – think outside or measure someone blowing.

Looking Outwards: Sensors and Actuators

Discovery 1: IR Distance Sensor

IR distance sensor includes cable (10cm-80cm)


This SHARP distance sensor bounces [infrared light] off objects to determine how far away they are. It returns an analog voltage that can be used to determine how close the nearest object is.

This IR sensor seems like it has interesting possibilities because it would let you have virtual creations respond to the proximity of their viewers. Since personal space is a pretty meaningful social cue, allowing virtual creations to respond to it seems like it would have evocative potential. Some ideas off the top of my head for how to use this would be:

  • A virtual creature which shys away depending on how the viewer approaches it (this would be similar to my creature/ecosystem design but use actual proximity of a viewer rather than mouse proximity)
  • A virtual siren who would sing and beckon viewers closer.
  • A mobile robot-creature that would change its behavior depending on how near it was to a person. (e.g., interacting with that person when they are within a foot or less of him or her.)

Discovery 2: Coin Acceptor

Coin Acceptor - Programmable 1 Coin Type


When a valid coin is inserted, the output line will pulse for 20-60ms (configurable)

This coin acceptor seems interesting because using it in a project would let you play with the dynamics of payment, and what people are willing to pay for, etc. Some quick ideas for possible uses are:

  • Submitting 25 cents to get access for a few seconds to a webcam somewhere interesting. One example would be having a “viewfinder” (like the kind they have on top of the Empire State Building or the Space Needle) that is somewhere else, but that would show you a view from somewhere else in the world.
  • A social commentary piece where you put in coins and then they “trickle down” through a bunch of obstacles and end up being distributed unevenly at the bottom. (mockery of trickle-down economics) Alternatively, you could let people interact with it and control where things trickle down with a knob or knobs representing economic variables.



Discovery 3: Toy Motor


Gear motors allow the use of economical low-horsepower motors to provide great motive force at low speed such as in lifts, winches, medical tables, jacks and robotics. They can be large enough to lift a building or small enough to drive a tiny clock. (src)


This toy motor seems interesting 1. because it is cheap, so using many of them together would not be expensive to do, and 2. because its small size opens up interesting possibilities for hiding the motor itself. Some ideas for this motor are:

  • Making everyday objects move. Maybe recreating the “Be Our Guest” scene from Beauty and the Beast with standard dishware (this might not be feasible, and definitely echoes Adam’s Pixar lamp project)
  • Doing animatronics with small dolls or stuffed animals. Maybe you could have a version of the Sims in which people control actual dolls.


Color Light Sensor – Sparkfun

I had a strong bias to the cheaper sensors on each site, and this is one of my favorites. I can imagine this being used as the “eyes” of a robot to identify certain objects by color. I think it would be cool to make a robot that can analyze the colors of a simple painting, drawing, or graphic and try to duplicate that coloring by having several arms that reach into pigments, mix its own shades and then draw the shapes. I also think this project could be used in a cool way to identify the color schemes of a room, someone’s outfit, or etcetera because sometimes I walk into a room that has some awesome interior decorations and I want to know the exact colors they combined so well.

Piezo Vibration Sensor – Large with Mass – Sparkfun

The most obvious application I can think of for this would be attaching it to musical instruments to sense sound vibrations. The vibration data can then be converted into some other sensory output. Depending on how sensitive this device is, it can also be used to detect a presence through footsteps or knocking on a door. I imagine it can be applied to anything with sound, actually.

Tilt Sensor – Sparkfun

A tilt sensor is screaming for use in an interactive piece. It could be used with a controller, lever, or a ship wheel… Anywho, the tilt sensor kind of reminds me of a project like Dave’s bubble creature. It could measure the amount of someone’s OCD in a room of tilted objects…

Looking at the AdaFruit

1) 3D Printer creates Light-Weight Titanium Horse Shoes

The article highlights the power of 3D printing. Researchers from CSIRO created custom made titanium horse shoes from 3D printing as a means to explore new ways to use 3D printing. Printing a set of four horse shoes take less than 24 hours to create and costs a total of 600 dollars. Usually made from aluminum and weighing up to one kilogram, horse shoes can weigh the horse down. 3D printed shoes weigh half the weight of regular horse shoes so the horse can reach new speeds.

I’m not sure if the cost is worth the decrease in weight. Perhaps there is a better substitute. Although, the 3D printed shoes can be made faster and the 3D scanner is able to create custom shoes for every horse hoof it scans in, I don’t think such a benefit is necessary for every horse. Maybe if the enhanced shoes would boost a horse’s chance of winning a race, then owners should invest in them. But other than that, I don’t think it’s worth the cost of 3D printing.


2 .) PI-Bot –B (mobile robots with Raspberry Pi)

The PiBot-B is a small mobile robot that controlled by a Raspberry Pi. He moves on caterpillar tracks so that it can run on slightly uneven flooring. An image from a webcam video is transferred wirelessly to an IPhone with an application that controls the robot. If the robot is on autonomous mode, it can move by itself and uses sensors to detect obstacles. On the application, the top half shows the video stream while the bottom resembles a numpad, each controlling a different motion for the robot.

I think this is very cute and interesting project. Although it does seem like a common project involving an arduino and a webcam, it still fascinates me how a chip can be programmed to complete so many different tasks. The application numpad not only allows the robot to move forward and turn, but also rotate on the spot, which produces smooth curves. Having it move by itself when users aren’t in control produces an artificial intelligence effect.


3) Robot Nail Art

Robot Nail Art by Charles Aweida involves the collaboration of several different programs, Kangaroo physics, Grasshopper3d, Rhino3d, fed into HAL(robotic control sweet) to fabricate the effects of wind on a piece of cloth frozen at a specific frame. The result of the capture results in a series of vector fields that simulate the representation of wind. The robot that receives these points is combined with an inverse kinematics solver with converts the planes into joint angles that serve as the instructions for the robot. The robot will then place these nails at these specific angles onto high density foam.
I found this project to be especially unique and interesting. Fabric simulation creates beautiful planes in the computer, once modeled out. To bring reality into the digital world and then back into reality describes the process of the project. It introduces a new way of capturing moment in time. The robotic arm plays a huge part in this project because it is able to accurately pinpoint each nail at every angle without conflicts or mistake.
A similar project I found that used robotic simulation also involved an ABB robot. It captured images of people in front of it with a camera and the robot would turn that captured image into a drawing using a black felt tip pen.



nail art test 1 from charles aweida on Vimeo.

looking outwards (?)

VCNL4000 Proximity/Light sensor

I like how this is basically a cheap combination of two sensors. I actually built a tiny robot in high school freshmen year and had just a cheap touch sensor to work with in order for it to navigate through a maze. Why couldn’t I have this back then?

RGB Color Sensor

I really did not know that a color sensor had been developed, much less a pretty cheap one. I’m mostly interested in how functional it is and how it would bring new options to the usual physical computing art of limited color palette.

Flora Wearable Ultimate GPS Module

It’s a sewable GPS module. Wearable art is awesome, but wearable art combined with technology is even cooler. I can see possibilities of combining this module with other sensors on the cloth.