Project One: Instrumented Tool with Transformed Feedback

The scope of the first project is to prototype a custom instrumented tool and create a user feedback system based on algorithmic transformations consistent with the fabrication process and design intent.  This will extend our notion of ‘input’ to include more intimate measurement of human intent, and the notion of ‘transformation’ and ‘output’ to be more goal-directed.  This will highlight the interaction between gesture and design.


  1. Develop an articulable design concept to which the design process can be referenced. This concept may be based upon your successes and failures in the exercises, a motivating design conceit, an interest in specific material effects, or an inspiring artifact.  It is highly recommend to focus on a 2D approach at this point, e.g. low-relief form.  The concept should motivate the basic selection of material and tool process.
  2. Prototype a custom instrumented tool.  The tool itself may be one of the conventional tools explored in the exercises with appropriate modifications.  The sensing modalities should be appropriate for the natural use of the tool.  Some possible tool augmentation sensors include accelerometers, contact sensors, bend sensors, microphones, light sensors, or strain gages.  For most sensors we will use microcontrollers for data acquisition.
  3. Develop a real-time modeling process which responds to the tool data.  This should generate additional data which will constrain, guide, extrapolate, or otherwise extend the design intent of the tool user.
  4. Develop appropriate visual or audible feedback to provide an augmented experience for the tool user.
  5. Each group member should apply the system to the production of an individual artifact.


  1. Tuesday 03.17.15
    1. Brief Firefly introduction.
    2. Finalize project ideas and groups.
    3. Each group must have a single agreed idea before the end of class.
  2. Thursday 3.19.15
    1. Project proposals due.
    2. Due: a paragraph of text detailing the overall concept.
    3. Due: a sketch of the instrumented tool (hand-drawn is fine), and a sketch of the user experience, e.g. first-person view of the work area.
    4. Develop an outline of all major open questions and project milestones, develop a plan for division of labor among group members (in-class).
  3. Tuesday 3.24.15
    1. Due: formalized work plan including project schedule.
    2. Due: preliminary design drawings for instrumented tool, at a level of detail suitable for fabrication, including structural, sensor, and electronic subsystems.
    3. Begin fabricating parts and testing sensors (in class).
    4. Due: preliminary Grasshopper sketch implementing user experience graphics and preliminary process model.
    5. Discuss connection of sensor input to graphics (in class).
  4. Thursday 3.26.15
    1. Due: first prototype of instrumented tool.
    2. Begin evaluating performance and acquired data (in class).
    3. Due: working prototype of generated visual feedback and computed process model.
    4. Begin testing user experience with real tool data (in class).
  5. Tuesday 3.31.15
    1. Work session.
  6. Thursday 4.2.15
    1. Final project review: discuss system and artifacts in class.


  1. per group: augmented tool
  2. per group: functional demonstration
  3. per group: documentation of design concept, challenges, implementation
  4. per student: sample artifact

Prior to the next class, please submit a short text write up with accompanying drawing images and a video link to the XSEAD site as discussed on the Submissions page.  Please be sure to create your project within the appropriate ‘pool’ as linked.

Prompt Questions

The following questions may not apply exactly to every project but are intended as a guide to our expectations for the detail of the project writeup. Please answer every question relevant to your specific project with text and graphics as appropriate.

Explain the conceit or ambition.

  1. What was the theory of the process?How do the specifics of the tool relate to the specific graphical prompts?  How are the tool gestures re-interpreted algorithmically?
  2. How does the theory embody the constraints of a physical process?
  3. Is the theory based on a simulated physical process? If so, how were the physical constraints of the materials and tools incorporated into the animation?
  4. How does the prompt balance global structure and local detail? Are there nested scales?

Reflection on the conceit and execution.

  1. Did the outcome support the conceit? How should the theory develop?
  2. How do the designed artifacts differ from those produced with the related traditional crafts?
  3. What are the decisions available to the person using the system?
  4. How would those decisions translate to another craft medium?
  5. What was the verbal prompt to the user? How did the verbal prompt affect the outcome?
  6. How did the prompt stimulate the user to apply their expertise, i.e. their expert knowledge?
  7. How would different tempo affect the outcome?
  8. Was there a technique that promised to reward practice or repeated use?
  9. What failures would prompt further investigation?
  10. Was there too much or too little information provided to the user? If too much, how could it be filtered? If too little, how could a simple process be extended to scaffold a richer prompt for the conceit?
  11. Was adding sensor input to the simulation process effective? Exactly how do inputs map to forces or internal processes?

Clear text and visual documentation

  1. Be sure to include: the Grasshopper patch file, representative prompt images, images of representative artifact (both in-progress and final), screenshot of Grasshopper patch.
  2. Documentation of the time progression of the experience through video and selected still images.
  3. Explanation of the logic of the Grasshopper patch to translate tool input to graphical feedback.
  4. Were there interesting failures?
  5. Can you visually relate the prompt and resulting artifact?