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:

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!

Responses, First Thoughts

1. Tom Igoe – Igoe seems to have most of the trends covered, the only thing I could potentially see being added would just be adding any artifact to the “Internet of Things”. People have fallen in love with making things “smart” and it seems like they are willing to try it with anything and everything, which to me, seems like a bit of a fruitless venture that does not offer very high ROI in terms of helping people solve real problems. I’m sure there are still “smart” artifacts that have not been made “smart” yet and people have to push the envelope to get to those, but the concept has come up a lot in recent memory. I also think that there is some overlap in some of the concepts that Igoe mentions that have also been a major part of the interactive art installation trend that has emerged. Groups like teamlab ( and Artechouse ( have been designing and showcasing interactive experiences using physical and digital sensors that play with and affect different visual displays (*couch* LED fetishism), soundscapes and visual components. I think there will continue to be a trend to use physical computing for art’s own sake compared to having a function.

2. I feel like Banks’ thoughts on the man and and his “smart” space-suit illustrate the achievements and dangers of great design. On the more obvious end of the good stuff, the suit is able to care for and assist the man who is slowly being burdened by sickness, malnutrition and injuries, carrying him farther than he could have ever carried himself. I have always learned that good design is good design because a user doesn’t even realize it is there. Deeper than when people talk about their phones being an extension of themselves, the space-suit becomes intrinsically tied to the man’s being. By the end of the story, the lines have blurred to the point where neither “being” knows where one starts and the other begins. In some ways, that is great design in that it allows the “artifact” to best be used/know how to help the user. On the other hand, that is one of the pitfalls of great design in that sometimes the “artifact” may not give the user the space to be a user, instead forcing him or her to rely on it so much to where they lose their own sentience at the artifact’s expense. The story itself seemed to be cautionary tale for designers, to balance the role of the user and the artifact and the relationship between the two.

3. Not sure if this was supposed to be part of the blog post, but just to cover my bases… In addition to the pre-reqs, I did my undergrad in mechanical engineering with concentrations in design, manufacturing, and psychology,  I have done a semester of improv, I have worked with designers to make accessible museum exhibits and experiences, I took an Intro to EE class in undergrad about microcontrollers, my Senior Design Project was a thermal energy control system run by Arduinos, I know SolidWorks and CREO and Maya, and I’ve laser cut and 3D printed and milled and used most woodshop tools you can think of.

Week 01 (M) Reflection/Assignment

Reflection/Assignment #01

  1. Review Tom Igoe’s page that we looked at in class. Any changes you would make?

As a design major student, I think that it is (extremely) difficult to create a thing that no one has thought about. Sometimes, I have to confront the reality that my creation has similar aspects with others’, even though I didn’t even know anything about them when I was designing something. I do agree with the idea that we all came here to make new and meaningful things, not the duplicate of the previous ones. However, I’d want to say that since we (at least, I) do not have much experience in designing physical interactions, and t might be helpful to think about what makes those works in Tom Igoe’s page popular and interesting. That would be a great start.


2. Descendant Review

It was interesting that the writer saw the relationship with a human and a machine (a smart suit) from a different perspective. Also, even though I do not know anything about the background or the premise of this fiction, the clues kept being thrown through the conversation between two characters. I could understand they both participated in a war and they became lost on a planet by a wrecked module after the explosion.

I could guess that the premise of this story is in the far future – because of the smart suit, which has full intelligence so that it can make a decision by itself. Also, it seems like it is equipped with various types of technology, such as sunlight panel and self-recycling system. But things that I could see in the present days are also shown. Especially, the camera is the item that holds all previous memory of the person (dead body).

The communication makes the border between the human and the intelligent machine blurry. It was impressive to see that the machine says “I hurt.” at the end of the story. How can we differentiate human from the AI machines? Is this how human-machine symbiosis look like? Which one is alive and which one is dead? Some serious questions pop up into my mind while I was reading this story.


3. Related Skills:

I am an interaction/UX designer who is studying at the Master of Design program. I have an industrial design background for my undergraduate.

It would be helpful to write keywords of my experience – Design Thinking, UX/UI, Interaction Design, User Research, Service Design, System Design, Industrial Design.

The tools I could use for design/prototyping are Sketch, Principle, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Rhino 3D, Fusion 360, Keyshot, Laser cutter, 3D printer, and etc. I did some simple Arduino projects before, but not that proficient at coding. I’m open to learning more about it!