Hey Mi


Not being able to hear when someone is calling your name/trying to get your attention, whether in the context of a workplace, airport, etc.

A General Solution:

A device that would physically or visually notify an individual when sensing that someone is trying to get their attention.

Proof of Concept:

An Arduino with a microphone/other device with a microphone and LEDs/Servo.  Specific words cause the LEDs to flicker/Servo to make movements to grab the individual’s attention. and plays a sample on the speaker stating the status of a configuration.  Example: when sensing that the user’s name is being called, the device will flicker/move.

Fritzing Sketch:

The Fritzing sketch shows diagrammatically how the microphone would input information to the Arduino as well as how the LED/Servo would be connected to the output pins. Not pictured, is that the Arduino would have to be connected to some battery source.

Arduino Sketch:

I’m not familiar with voice recognition with Arduino, but I found a project that has done it before with specific hardware (link here) and there are other devices that surround us that would be able to accomplish the same audio processing as well (ex. smartphones, smart watches). The results of the audio processing would trigger a digital output to the LEDs/Servo to communicate to the user.

Proof of Concept Sketches:

The flow of data starts with outside audio reaching the microphone which then is fed into the Arduino (or other audio processing capable device) which will decide whether or not to send a signal to the LED/Servo/solenoid based on whether the sound recognizes the users name. If the name is recognized, the signal is sent and it grabs the user’s attention.


Assignment 2: Raising a Digital Hand

Find a problem to solve:   All of the 80 first-year ETC students take a class called Building Virtual Worlds that splits them into one of three different roles: sound designer, programmer, or artist. Students essentially make new video games every two weeks, usually on different software or hardware platforms they are learning about as they build. As you can expect, this means there are a lot of questions for TAs to answer; however, not all questions can be answered by each TA. We have at least 6 different types of TA that all specialize in their own field/software/etc. One of the biggest problems in the class is that when students ask for help, the TA on duty never seems to specialize in the field they have a question, so it takes them finding another TA to answer it. This game of telephone usually results in a) longer wait times for each student, b) fewer total questions being answered, or c) questions being answered by TAs that may not be qualified (3D modelers answering hardware coding questions for example). In addition to all of this, all 80+ students sit in the same office space so it is really a test of a student’s luck whether or not a TA will see them when he or she walks by or if they have to wait for them to circle back around.

Describe the general solution: Students should be able to request help from specific TAs to answer their specific questions quickly and easily. TAs should also have a system so they can track what types of questions are asked where, the order in which they are asked, and who is going to answer them. Both parties should also both be able to see the status of the question (asked, waiting, answering, answered, etc.). 

Proof of Concept:  An Arduino with a button, slider/potentiometer input, RGB LED, an LCD monitor and a computer program interface with a state machine of the question-asking/answering process.  When students have a question, they can adjust the slider to select which type of TA they would like help from. The LED would turn on (in the corresponding color of the TA group) to signal that the TAs have been alerted. On the TA-facing computer program, TAs can see a map of where the students are and their questions based on the colors. TAs can start the answering process by selecting and attaching their name to a question, which is communicated to the student’s device through 1) the LED flashing and 2) the name of the TA appearing on the screen because they are on their way down to help. Once at the student’s desk, the TA can press and hold the button on the student’s device to alert the other TAs that the student is being helped by changing the color of the LED on the device and on the UI. Finally, once the question is answered, the TA can press and hold the device’s button again to turn the LED off.

Fritzing Sketch: Disclaimer – likely not accurate, playing with software and different components.

First Iteration of Device Model:           

Student & TA User Journey:                     

Demo TA-facing UI & Student Device:


Assignment 1 Reflection

Igoe’s List

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been exposed to as many physical computing projects as professionals in the field, but I personally felt that Igoe’s list was overly critical of a great deal of genuinely cool artifacts. I do, however, think this list is useful as a reference point of what types of things others have used microcontrollers for.

While I will be careful not to incorporate any of the cliche subjects that Igoe mentions, a lot of great design comes from incremental improvements to preexisting things; not necessarily huge creative leaps in technology.



I thought this was a very interesting story, and I enjoyed how certain realities of what the narrator is going through are progressively revealed as the story goes on. To me, the intentional confusion as to whether the human in the suit is dead or alive and if the suit’s AI is real or imagined illustrates the epitome of invisible design. It is both exciting and terrifying to imagine intelligent, designed products whose presence is seamlessly integrated into daily life.

This narrative almost evokes the same emotions as a Black Mirror episode in the sense that much of that series focuses on what happens when the things we want technology to become do indeed become a reality—however, it ends up not being what we wished for.



I’m pretty new to both Arduino and programming, however I have had quite a bit of experience using laser cutters, 3D printers, and most shop tools to make things in an industrial design context. I’m OKAY at modeling things in CAD software, and I once folded an origami model that went on tour around the country.

Class Notes: 29 August, 2019

Physical Interaction History

We have a history of interacting with things we don’t understand, starting with keeping animals and early science.  As new technology is developed we find new, unintended uses and create new arts and sciences.

  • Beekeepers – explain the complexity of a hive and how we’re only just now (past 20 years) discovering how bees vote to make hive-wide decisions
  • Alchemists – trying to make things happen with substances they don’t understand. If you don’t know about elements and that lead and gold are elements, what decisions are making to interact with substances?
  • New music and dance styles based on evolution of technology.  Electric guitars led to massive rock concerts and new methods of performance.  Early hip-hop was created with record players and mics.  Early synths were insanely expensive and shared at fancy studios; cheaper samplers and drum machines led to hip-hop, techno, house, ambient, etc.  See Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music.
  • Console games with physical interaction, Dance Dance Revolution
  • Driving assistance with vehicles: AI? Interaction? What if the car won’t let me turn, start, or stop?
  • Flight assistance software in commercial aircraft. Is autopilot interactive?
  • Flight assistance for military aircraft: self-guiding drones, incoming missile warnings for helicopter pilots. Interaction or reaction?

Near-future Interaction

The focus of this class – we’re prototyping for five years out

Think about interacting with intelligent systems that we don’t completely understand and that can make decisions against our will or with results we don’t like:

  • car that thinks you’re too intoxicated, sleepy, or incompetent to drive
  • home automation system that won’t open the doors and let you leave because the particulate count in the air is hazardous
  • police equipment that won’t let you fire at unarmed civilians
  • fire engines that won’t engage fires that cannot be contained
  • entertainment systems that can filter content as part of mental-health
  • near future popular base of pop-culture: MCU  movies are always set a few years from now

Learning from pop culture

Blade Runner 2049 features practical effects used as input devices to imagined systems

Adam Savage gets a tour of the Blade Runner 2049 prop room, no spoilers

Industrial design from the 50s has interaction design in the kitchen but it’s marketing fantasy to build the corporate brand:  Design for Dreaming

Good drama is about storytelling. What if interactive things are part of the story?
2001: HAL 9000
ST:TNG: DATA — a walking mobile phone smarter than spacecraft computers?  What if all the spaceships were as smart as DATA?
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) our super computer meets the Soviet supercomputer and they plan our future
War Games (1983) — would you like to play a game? the only way to win is to not play the game.
Terminator movies don’t count — killing spree, not interaction
Farscape — Moya is a semi-intelligent, organic spacecraft and agrees with commands as she wishes.  (IMHO This is one of the best SF TV shows ever, really worth watching over winter break.)
Alien — MOTHER, a semi-intelligent computer that has its own direction

Assignment 2: Find and Solve a problem

Find and Solve a problem, due 11:59pm, 2 Sep, 2019.  Please start a new post in the category for Assignment 2.

Details following the example I showed in class:

Find a problem to solve:   No Audio Feedback When Configuring a Washing Machine

Describe the general solution:  Washing machine should have audio feedback when buttons are pushed that provides more information than a simple “beep” notification.  Washing machine should also describe its current status on command  using voice to relate the values of the LED displays.

Proof of Concept:  an Arduino with switches, LEDs, and a speaker with a state machine of a washing machine.  Pushing buttons causes the LEDs to change and plays a sample on the speaker stating the status of a configuration.  Example:  temperature control selection plays samples of water temperature, “Hot”, “Medium”, “Cold”, “Tap Cold”.

Fritzing Sketch

Arduino Sketch

Photos / videos of the proof of concept.

Igoe’s List + Descendant

Igoe’s List

Overall I can get behind the idea of expanding interaction modes beyond these rather than refining them. I have to admit I’m rather partial to gloves, and might be tempted to make a case for making gloves an element of something a bit more ambitious… we’ll see how that goes.

A couple of things came to mind when scrolling down this list that others might be interested in.

Video mirror / mechanical pixels: https://breakfastny.com/brixels

gloves, gestures, and my last job: Oblong Industries + g-speak

Not from the list, but worth checking out considering our theme: Access+Ability

Descendant (Milo goes to space)

What jumped out at me most was this line:

“There is a saying that we provide the machines with an end, and they provide us with the means.”

While Banks (or the narrator in his story) refer to this as a hoary adage in whatever century they live, I am quite fond of this idea. There’s a lot of (overblown) talk about machines powered by AI taking all of our jobs, and perhaps wiping us out while they’re at it, but I am a bit more optimistic. I expect that machines will simply get better at extending our capabilities.

While ultimately our hero met his demise (sorry for the spoiler), his suit served him for over a century, kept him alive far longer than he has any right to have lived, and even made efforts to improve his emotional state. My goal at CMU (and beyond) is to make things that help expand people’s capabilities, and to teach machines empathy much like the suit in this story.

Assignment 01- Reflection and Background

Tom Igoe

I agree with most of what’s on the list. Although, I would say we shouldn’t automatically steer away from them. Yes, they are over-used in projects, but I think there is value to innovating on what’s there rather than reinventing the wheel and creating something completely new every time we set out to design a new project. I’m not saying copy them exactly, but there are things to be learned from these projects and maybe ways of thinking about them inventively.


This is one of the most interesting readings I’ve read in a while. At first I thought the narrator was the human, but towards the end I couldn’t tell who was the human and who was the suit. The emotions that were perceived as human were also felt by the suit, for example, he kept the body in him “for sentimental reasons”.

A quote that stood out to me was “We don’t need the machines, anymore that then need us. We just think we need them. They don’t matter.” It made me think of how we try to convince ourselves we are not reliant on machines and the “we can stop whenever we can” mentality. Obviously, the protagonist wouldn’t have survived without the suit, but somehow psychologically he was starting to believe that the suit was not real and that it is not important. Honestly, this whole reading made me think a lot about our psychology and how we think, especially our inner dialogues, and our mental relationship with technology.


I am a fifth year Bachelor of Architecture student here at CMU, pursuing ideate minors in Intelligent Environments and Physical Computing.

Modeling & Drafting (Revit, Rhino 3D, AutoCAD, SketchUp)
Communication (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Movie Making, Microsoft Office, V Ray Rendering)
Scripting (Grasshopper, Arduino, Touch Designer, p5.js)

Curation, Drafting, Drawing, Woodworking, Model Making, Casting, Painting, Sewing, Crocheting, Knitting, Scratch Art, Stenciling, & Electrical Circuit Building. Basically I love being creative and working with my hands.

  • performance skills
    • I love music, I used to play over 7 instruments, but now I can only play 5 of them: piano, guitar, drums, percussion in general and the ukulele.
  • work with disability
    • everyday.. whether with myself or others.
  • javascript / p5.js
    • love javascript
  • CAD software
    • proficient in 2D and 3D CAD
  • digital fabrication – laser cutters, 3d printers, mills
    • I am proficient in digital fabrication skills, I love working with my hands and I love working on my computer, so it’s a win-win.

I want to dedicate my life to positive social impact, whether through design, built structures, art or providing a necessary service to fulfill that. The way I see it— I have been given an immense privilege to still be alive and have access to this top-line education. It is my duty to share that privilege with others, after all, I only got to where I am today because of others’ empowerment of me.

Ultimately, I aspire to communicate in a way that changes how people think about immigration, refugees, displaced and marginalized people through strategic spatial and artistic interventions.

I am very passionate about working with refugees and displaced people. Coming from the Middle East, I am also passionate about women’s rights and women empowerment. I try to let these passions seep into my work.

Reflections on Week 1 Readings

Tom Igoe 

He did cover a lot of umbrella ideas in Physical Computing but I believe that there are probably solutions for some of the drawbacks he mentioned. I also appreciated that he didn’t frown upon using other’s ideas as a starting point and innovating on them. A lot of these projects were new to me and I think this post will  definitely help me brainstorm ideas.


 I enjoyed the short story. It highlighted the inevitable truth  that the distinction of humans and machines will disappear. I found it very interesting when the human asks the suit why it doesn’t just leave him, the human, behind and save itself.  In our current age, human life is valued over the life of machines but as robots become more sentient the moral and ethical standard that we are accustomed to may change as highlighted by Banks.  I noticed that the man complains about what most people would consider as trivial.  As machines assist us more and more with daily activities we forget how to do certain activities and find it debilitating to live without our devices. In the character’s case, of course, this is elevated – he complains about his suit not being able to heal him and having to walk .


I am a sophomore in electrical engineering so I have experience in circuitry and soldering. I had the chance to use both Arduino and Raspberry Pi  because of classes and Booth. I have some experience in laser cutting and 3D printing. I started playing around with p5.js during the summer but have not done too much with it.

Reading #1 Thoughts

Tom Igoe

Hearing all of this up front is good, I think.  In my field, I know I get slightly annoyed or frustrated whenever I see something that has been done a thousand times before, so this list as reference will hopefully make working with everyone more friendly.  While I think there is definitely creativity to be had in all of these genres, being pushed to make something totally unlike any of them will do us all good overall.


I enjoyed the reading.  The part that sticks with me the most is how we as humans choose to personify things, tools, etc.  Here, literally giving voice and sentience to the suit.  It feels almost like the main character died once he stopped having the imagination to view his tool (the suit) as a living thing.  Imagining it as a hallucination dehumanized or deanthropomorphized the suit, and happened right before he died.  Tools as extensions of ourselves instead of separate, clunky, orbiting things feels like the philosophical lifeblood of what I’ve been taught in any industrial/product design I’ve taken.

Another small thing I really liked was the suit’s conversation with the drone missile at the end.  It felt like Toy Story in that our playthings or tools may have lives of their own outside when we are using them.  Given that the suit is sentient, that’s to be expected, but still a nice thought to be had when empathizing with others’ lives outside of our contact with them.


I’m a computer scientist by training and job experience, taken robotics and microcontroller courses, some Electrical Engineering and Physics related to circuity.  I also worked in a woodshop for a couple years and have a good working knowledge of it all.  Currently, I’m a designer.  Looking forward to working with you all!