For the final project, I wanted to make something that not only encompasses the majority of skills we will be learning this semester, but also a project that intrigues me for how it interfaces with daily life.
Ever since reading “Enchanted Objects” by David Rose, I have been fascinated with how technology impacts society and how we interact with products. Like Rose, I have grown increasingly discouraged by our dependency with smart phones and the way they pull our gaze away from our surroundings. As a mechanical engineer and product designer, perhaps I have a bias towards physical interactions between objects and humans. Therefore, for my final project I’m inspired to make something that takes our attention away from our phones and puts us back in the physical realm.
The one particular project I’ve had in mind is inspired by both Ambient Device’s Ambient Orb and Ken Kawamoto’s tempescope.
The Ambient Orb is a glowing orb that connects to your choice of data feed via Internet connection and changes color to reflect the data values. For example, your personal stock portfolio could change the orb red on a bad day and green on a good day. Instead of digging through your phone, you can get a feel for how your investments are doing with a simple glance. The same model can apply to your commute time to work or weather.
Similar enough, the tempescope is an Internet connected device that replicates the weather forecast for the following day inside its glass box. For example, if tomorrow will be sunny the device glows bright yellow and clear, but if there is a storm coming the device will mist, fog, and flash with lightning. Instead of the familiar routine of checking the weather app of your choice, the tempescope allows you to visually experience the weather.
For my final project, I would propose creating a device similar to the tempescope that either incorporates the sense of touch or adds the ability for the device to track trends and display weather based on the data, just like the Ambient Orb does with color. An example of touch integration, might be if you touch the top a thermal pad mimics the temperature outside. So instead of sticking your head out the window to feel today’s temperature you can touch the device.
A concept sketch for the final project
Adobe Illustrator models showing three weather scenarios
(Alternatively these scenarios could be based on data trends such as stocks)
Coming into this class, CAD is one of my strongest skills. I have experience on a wide range of CAD packages, so instead of using those, I decided to learn a new way to illustrate 3D models. For this, I chose to use Adobe Illustrator and after teaching myself the basics of the software, I created a couple models that explore my ideas for the final project.
I generally do not like using CAD tools as part of the first stages of a design process, which is why I use Illustrator and sketching to explore ideas. However, it turns out that the assignment requires using a CAD tool. So I decided to model my final project in Solidworks! (I wanted to use some other tools including Antimony, but they did not support creating transparent/glass textures, which really ruins the viewing experience of a product where all the cool stuff goes on inside a glass box...)
Before coming up with an idea, I went through a couple rounds of inspiration and brainstorming. I routinely keep an ideas journal that contains lists of things that bug me in everyday life, cool things that I could build, and ideas for the next million-dollar invention. I went back and scoured through this list, pulling ideas that I felt fit the class. Next I flipped through tons of past projects in this class, looking for a better idea of things that have done in the past. Finally, I browsed through a couple issues of MAKE Magazine, looking at projects. When I had put together what I thought was a pretty interesting list, I started a massive brainstorm. I started with a creativity warm up exercise and then tried to generate as many ideas as I could think of. I ended up with around 50 ideas, ranging from a 3D Printer, a homebrew beer heater, a fake window for my office, and a new custom made fly-fishing reel.
From my brainstorm, I narrowed it down to three ideas that I wanted to explore further: an ambient device / weather replicating device, a pair of ambient long distance communication devices, and a pair of smart, mini-pen plotters. After some thought, my project preference would be as follows:
My idea for the smart, mini pen plotters came from a past design / tech art piece from a previous MIT/Brown/RISD collaboration, where we wanted to make a commentary on text messaging, by making a physical text messaging machine. The idea was to build two mini pen plotters that are big enough to draw on a post-it, and hook them up to a mini-computer and camera. Both plotters then can communicate over the Internet to each other. By writing a post-it note, and taking a picture of it at one pen plotter station, it converts the image into black and white and then sends an .svg of pen paths to its sister device, which then draws it out on a post-in note.
During our collaboration, we had everything built and working, except a reliable communication between devices. I figure for a final project, I could take what I learned from our previous failure and apply my new knowledge to finally make the project a reality!
Top Left: Initial Sketch of Idea
Top Right: Mini Plotter Under Construction
Bottom Left: Mini Plotter and Post-It
Bottom Right: Mini Plotter in Action
Top: Concept Sketches for a Plotter / Camera Stand Pairing
Bottom: Two Mini-Plotters Side-by-Side