Open Show for Introduction to Physical Computing, Friday, 1pm, SCI

The students of IDeATe’s Introduction to Physical Computing (60-223) will have a class show, open to the public, this Friday, 8 December, from 1 to 4pm.  We are being hosted by the Studio for Creative Inquiry in the College of Fine Arts (this studio is ADA friendly).

The students will be showing their final physical computing and art projects for the class and discussing what they’ve learned this semester.

Class Notes, 14 Nov

Class Notes, 14 Nov

Appropriating technology for form, retaining functionality

Dazzle” was invented in WWI to protect ships from being seen by observers

Automobile designers have used it to protect/hide the shapes of new cars while they are tested on public streets.  Dazzle also prevents digital cameras with auto focus (like your mobile) from focusing on the car.

Now, dazzle is used to modify makeup and hair styles to protect individuals from facial recognition by systems using machine learning/AI software.

Applying one field’s form to another field

In the early days of music video and MTV, many videos were awful.  Video equipment was expensive and out of the budget of bands, but you have a friend who can “borrow” some equipment over the weekend…

The Toy Dolls, “Ellie the Elephant” (which is a classic punk/skater track)

Or you shoot your band playing live in a garage(?) then mix it with footage from movies, Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia

Or you hire an up-and-coming filmmaker and let them do what they do, make a movie, not a “music video”.

Jonathan Demme:  New Order, “The Perfect Kiss“, shown in movie theaters after trailers and before his Talking Heads Movie, “Stop Making Sense“.

Other movies made about music worth watching, Laurie Anderson, “Home of the Brave” and Tom Waits, “Big Time“.




Piccadilly Circus billboard uses recognition technology to deliver targeted adverts

Piccadilly Circus billboard uses recognition technology to deliver targeted adverts

“A new digital billboard in London‘s Piccadilly Circus uses recognition technology to display targeted advertisements based on the make of passing cars, and the gender and age of pedestrians.


Class Notes, 7 Nov

Not shown in class, a guide to making mechanical automata.  I think many of these could be made on a laser cutter or 3d printed.

507 Mechanical Movements.

Multiplexers, shift registers, and how to read a data sheet

The Arduino Playground guide the 4051, including the spiffy Arduino bitRead() call.

Instructables page on how to use the 74HC595 shift register.

The Sparkfun guide to reading a data sheet.

An interactive toy that passes “the tigoe test”

Paro, an interactive therapeutic robotic toy, now used in treatment for a variety of mental health problems.

Assignment 6: Final Project Proposal

Assignment:  written proposal for a final project

Our final project will show that you’ve learned not only the basics of physical computing but that you can create an interactive art project showing off those abilities.


It should fit on half of the tables we use in A10.  If you can make a case for doing a bigger project, we will try and make space.  If you are doing a wearable project we’ll need to figure out how people can try it on or if you’ll just demonstrate it while wearing it.

Sound and light levels

Try to keep these low enough to not interfere with conversations or other projects.  By the time of the show on Friday we will know enough that we can assign people to tables in a way that minimizes interference.

Project fundamentals

  • physical computing, including inputs, outputs, and state machines
  • form: how it looks and sounds is as important as how it works
  • content:  why does your project exist?  who is it for?  what can it do?

If you have any questions I have office hours from 1-4 on Friday.  Jake and Sydney will post their hours in the next few days.


Week 11
Tue, 7 Nov: proposal review, lecture on multiplexers and library 101
Thu, 9 Nov: work day

Week 12
drop pass/fail
Tue, 14 Nov: lecture on problems discovered in week 11, work day
Thu, 16 Nov: work day

Week 13
Tue, 21, Nov: Rough draft/prototype crit, graded
Thu, 23 Nov:  TURKEY DAY

Week 14
Tue, 28 Nov: work day
Thu, 30 Nov: work day

Week 15
Tue, 5 Dec: work day
Thu, 7 Dec: Projects DUE, grades will be based on this crit.
Fri, 8 Dec:  Final show in Studio for Creative Inquiry, set up at noon, show starts at 1pm

Background research

  • required reading: Tom Igoe’s post on physical computing projects.  What Tom wrote a decade ago is still true today.
  • NYU’s ITP shows are the inspiration for our final show in SCI.  Remember this is work by graduate students, many of them could teach Phys Comp.  What I like is the variety, the density, and how enthused they are about their work.
  • why form matters — anyone in class could make this project using supplies in A10.  What’s unique is that it’s made as a concept of a toy and has the correct visual and interaction languages of a toy
  • look at another class’s projects for inspiration, not for performance quality
  • obligatory Lady Gaga reference for the relationship between form related to content

Proposal Content

An outline for the proposal, add to it as much as you like.  My examples are terse and don’t have any drawings or images, feel free to take a paragraph or two for each element of the outline.  If you can’t draw, then use CAD or find images on the Interwebz to illustrate your ideas.

This isn’t about the details of how your project will be implemented, but the concept of what you want it to do and a rough plan for how you’ll work the next few weeks.

Abstract / concept statement

In a paragraph, describe the fundamentals of your entire project.

Example:  An electronic piano with that teaches you to play songs on the piano using LEDs, piano keys, and speakers.  The LEDs are assigned to keys, when an LED lights up you press the key and hear the correct note.  It will have two octaves so it needs 24 keys and 24 LEDs.  Maybe it can keep score and grade how well you perform.


The rough list of things you’ll need to do this project.  “I don’t know” is an ok answer for some components.

Example:  Piano keys x 24, LEDs x 24, at least one speaker, something to hold all the components together that looks like a piano.


What software will you need?  Again, a high level description is fine, so is “I don’t know” for some of the elements.

Example:  I’ll need software that can read a music score, display the score as LEDs over the piano keys, read the piano keys, then make sound on the speakers.  I need to be able to change the music score and keep track of someone’s performance ability.

Order of construction and testing

This is a critical part of your proposal.  Stop and ask yourself: “In what order will I build things over the next few weeks?”  You can’t do the entire project at once — divide it in to discrete parts that you know you can complete and test.


  1. make a single piano key, LED, and speaker work
  2. make three LEDs and piano keys function with three speakers
  3. figure out how to drive 24 LEDs and read 24 switches (ask jet or Sydney or Jake)
  4. design the enclosure that will hold all the keys and LEDs
  5. find out how many keys and LEDs I can drive with a single Arduino; if it’s only 12, then I’ll just do one octave
  6. make the enclosure based on how many keys I want to use
  7. show it to someone who isn’t in phys comp and ask them to try it out
  8. fix all the things that didn’t work
  9. repeat 7 and 8 with a few other people
  10. make an information poster for the final show
  11. write up my artist’s statement for the final show

Assignment 5: Prototyping 101

For Tuesday, work out a prototype for the project you want to do for the 30th.   My example project was: eight buttons that play eight different notes of a scale and the scale tonic changes based on how much light is in the room.  For a prototype, I’d get two buttons making sounds and ask questions like, “Do I want to hear two different notes at the same time or just the most recently activated note?”   “If the light changes while I’m playing a note, do I change the current note or change the next note?”

Post to this category by 11:59pm, Monday, 23 Oct.