PCOMP Midterm II: Prototyping & Build

This is the second in a series of posts on my Physical Computing Midterm project. The first one on Ideation and Concept Development is here.

Disclaimer: I still do not own any of the rights to any Jurassic Park properties; imagery, sound, video, or otherwise. Please don’t sue me. This project is still for academic purposes only.

Sensors and Control

Ok. We’ve got the idea: create a book that controls the movie version of itself. (The obvious choice being Jurassic Park.)

From the start we wanted to use a flex sensor attached to the cover of the book as a switch. Open the book, play the movie. Close the book, pause or stop.

We also decided that a FSR (force sensitive resistor) would be a great way to determine where in the book the user is by reading the weight of the pages laying flat. The user flips through the book, the weight of the pages laying on the back cover changes and the movie fast forwards or rewinds accordingly. It’s a really natural, pleasurable motion associated with reading that we’re mapping to the movie.

Setting Up the Sensors

We bought a few books to mess around with. It became obvious very quickly that a hardback was the way to go. We picked out a particularly boring-looking hardback that no one would miss and we got to destroying it.

We attached the sensors and wrote a short program to get them connected through the serial port. This way we could test them in a real environment and see what range of readings they were giving us.

Prototype

We found that while the flex sensor worked like a charm, the FSR was having trouble picking up the weight of the book. This was the first of a few ongoing issues with the FSR. Because the weight of the book is distributed over a much larger area than the sensor, the was very little force on the sensor itself. In order to concentrate the weight of the book in a more focused area we implemented what we’re calling “the Princess and the Pea” solution. Which you’ll see below.

Now that the sensors were sensing we started thinking about the larger user experience. We wanted to create a stand for the book, something that would situate the book/sensor system for the user and look good doing it.

I had some big ideas that involved a scale model of the Jurassic Park gates.

Photo Oct 08, 12 16 42 PM

For the sake of prototyping and troubleshooting we created a box first.

We actually had a bit of trouble with this set up. The FSR was getting good strong readings, but they were constantly changing and the book wobbled. We decided it was a better idea to put the FSR in the book itself on the inside back cover and add a little hex nut or something small and hard to the back page as the “pea.”

Code

The Processing code was relatively simple. The video library makes it easy to play, pause, jump, etc. All the basic action we were looking for. The trouble was getting a single reading off the FSR. We found (not surprisingly) that as pages turned the FSR would give use constant readings and the movie would constantly change frames. Making it impossible to jump to a time and play the movie from there. Yining tackled this problem by introducing thresholds. If the FSR was within a range of numbers, the code told Processing to pick a nice round number and use that. To skip forward or back the new reading had to be outside the set range. This basically solved the problem, but requires the user to flip a bunch of pages to affect the change.

I think this code could certainly be refined, maybe even on the Arduino side of things.

The Build

We created a simple bookstand emblazoned with the iconic logo. Wired the sensors through the book and into the stand. And once everything was hooked up, we had a working build.

Photo Oct 12, 4 23 00 PM

Photo Oct 12, 12 05 27 PM

In the next post I’ll have a more polished wrap up.

PCOMP Midterm : Ideation & Concept Development

This is the first in a series of posts detailing the process of developing and creating my Physical Computing midterm alongside Yining Shi.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the rights to any Jurassic Park properties; imagery, sound, video, or otherwise. Please don’t sue me. This project is for academic purposes only.

Ideation

Let’s say we had three weeks to complete this assignment. That means we spent the first 2 weeks coming up with ideas. I’ve got a notebook full of nearly incomprehensible sketches of little candles in boxes that was initially the direction we were headed in until, we a) found out that flaming candles are a no-no on the floor at ITP and b) decided we didn’t actually love the idea.

Photo Oct 16, 9 26 18 AM

So after a 6+ hour hangout, walkabout, and sit down brainstorming session we finally hit on something we both liked.

The Book Remote

I guess by this point in the night I was pretty tired. And when I’m tired I start thinking about the classic 1993 science fiction/adventure film Jurassic Park. Directed, of course, by virtuoso Steven Spielberg with a story by none other than the king of the science fiction/adventure genre, Michael Crichton. Why do I think about Jurassic Park? Probably because it gets me amped up. The very thought of “An Adventure 65 Million Years in the Making” is enough to give me energy for days. And imagining fighting for my life against a pack of highly intelligent Velociraptors? I mean, come on. Tell me you don’t want to just punch through a wall right now.

So there I am thinking about Jurassic Park. I’m thinking about how much I enjoyed the book and the movie. The book. The BOOK!

I said to Yining, “We should make a physical version of the novel Jurassic Park that controls the movie Jurassic Park!”

“What’s Jurassic Park?”

“…”

This was a dark moment for me. After I made her watch the movie and read the book we reconvened. She liked the idea and we sketched the concept out.

Photo Oct 04, 6 32 55 PM
Initial concept sketch
Slightly more detailed concept sketch

Now that we had a concept we began to experiment and prototype. Which I’ll cover in the next post.