Portals (and friends)

Portals (and friends) – YouTube.

Great art project and what an amazing programming job! There is also an instructable, full of great inspiring ideas for this sort of interactive projects. I can’t believe how many applications and software were used, it is really mind-blowing.

A while ago, one of my professors (Berry Eggen) did a lecture on Harry Potter. It sounds strange, but think of all the magical artifacts in that story, that are not really explained except through how the users use them. You don’t need to know how they work, to be able to experience and enjoy them. In fact, Berry posed the statement that by accepting future technology like it is magic, we are better able to focus on designing what really matters: how we will interact with it.

If that sounds far out there: look at this project. Isn’t it easy to believe that it works through some kind of magical force? It is such an inspiring way to envision the future, unencumbered by practical restraints.

Technological poetry. Enjoy!


ChangeDetection – Know when any web page changes.

Looking for something else, I found this useful little website. I can’t use it for my automatic photo blog because the output is an email (and that takes too long for me), but it seems useful for monitoring websites that don’t have email subscription or RSS.

Schematic Overview of GUI

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Interactive GUI

Download the interactive graphical user interface (GUI). Interactive PDF. *New and improved!*

Although it is nice to see how the app works visually, you can also check out this overview, where the interaction is drawn out in a schematic.

Home-cooked RGB-LED Shields

Here’s something I whipped up Friday: a tasty duo of home-cooked, hand soldered RGB-LED shields. They fit onto the Freakduino boards but also Arduino and can produce light in all colors. The shields will be covered by a semitransparent material so the light output will be even.

Not the most complicated circuit 🙂 but I needed them to replace state of the art LCD screen shields, that unfortunately used pins that the board also used. Fingers crossed it will work this time.

If you want to make this yourself, here is some info on the circuit.

Freaklabs Service & Deadline Management

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Freakduino boards I had ordered for building my prototype. First I had some problems with combining the code for the LCD shields with the Zigbee radio function on the boards. It turned out they used some of the same pins, so now I’ve built my own RGB-Led shields. I’m getting quite good at soldering this way!

Only this week I found out that one of the Freakduino boards was faulty, when I tried to use both of them at the same time. But I have to say: WOW great customer service from Freaklabs! I emailed them about the issue, and they immediately concluded there must be something wrong with the board, and they are sending TWO new replacement boards! Very, very nice indeed.

Now I’m still biting my nails as the deadlines for this project are so close, but luckily I managed to push the first one back two weeks. So one week from now: exhibition; the week after: report. I just hope I will have time for one more user test before the exhibition. Wish me luck!

Slow Shutter Cam

Today I found this great app: Slow Shutter Cam for iPhone. What I like is that although the functionality is quite simple (you can adjust the shutter time), it has positive reviews and people are also using it for light painting.

Good to see that apparently there is a need for this kind of app!

Code Writing, Part 1

I think the code for this project would include a ‘loop’ where two functions are alternated: broadcasting (A) and receiving (B). How would this work?

The simplest example would be that two units would only influence each others’ colors, depending on their distance to each other (closer together or wider apart).

The code would exist of two functions: one that broadcasts color value, and one that reads signal strength and color value, and then assigns a new color to the LCD. Each node would switch between these two functions.

Thanks to Julia Nacsa, for helping me to get started!

First Freakduino Steps

Perhaps this post will be of use to other first-time Freakduino users, perhaps it’s a nice laugh for you experts out there 🙂

A few posts ago, I bought two Freakduino boards and some other stuff. It took me a while to get it all up and running, but here we are. What do you need to do when you start using Freakduino, using Mac?

  1. Unpack the box with the nice Japanese stamps and stickers
  2. Find a USB-cable type mini-to-normal
  3. Plug the board into the computer USB
  4. A blue LED lights up: congratulations, the power connection works!
  5. Download the Arduino environment
  6. If you are using a Macbook, you need to update your USB drivers, or the right serial port will not show up.
  7. Open the Arduino environment. Contrary to the data sheet on the Freaklabs site, you need to select Tools> Board> Arduino Duemilanove w/ ATmega 328
  8. Under Tools> Serial Port, select the USB port that you are using. Hint: it is one that only appears when the board is plugged in. Try a few until loading the sketch works (see next step)
  9. Open File> Examples> 1.Basics> Blink
  10. Click Upload at the top of the screen. If this works, it means everything is connected correctly
  11. Download the Freakduino Chibi library from Github
  12. Find the folder named ‘Arduino’ that was created when installing the program
  13. Make a new folder inside it and call it ‘libraries’
  14. Drag the file that you downloaded from Github to this new folder
  15. Rename the Chibi library into ‘Chibi’ or else Arduino can’t read it
  16. Try a wireless communication example like File> Examples> Chibi> ‘hello world 1’
  17. Yay, you have wireless communication!

Bear in mind that almost every step here took me a few hits and misses, this is actually a condensed list 🙂 Do you have suggestions for making this list shorter? Be my guest!

Arduino Code Setup

This is a first draft of the structure of the code for my project. ‘Void’ and ‘Loop’ are places in the code, so I know what to put them under once I start writing.

The blue bits are different interactions I could write. The first is that when the light sources move closer together, they take on light properties from each other. This would hopefully encourage users to move around more, thereby increasing the exercise effect. Also it makes the interaction more interesting the more players you play it with.

Other interactions could take place at the same time or instead of this one, perhaps I can come up with some more!