Author Archive

EMF Glove

Super Duper EMF Glove

link to gist:

link to schematic:



The EMF Glove uses a canvas/leather work glove to house the micro controller, speaker and copper antenna. The glove fits most hands, and is pretty comfortable to wear for extended periods of use. The device is powered by a small USB chargeable battery pack that can easily slip into the wearers pocket during use, ideally an updated version would have the battery housed within the glove along with the rest of the components.

To operate, the user will need to connect and turn on the battery. By pressing and holding the battery button, 4 blue lights will activate signaling that the device is powered. The device works similarly to a capacitive sensing device where a charge exists across the antenna and as the charge is discharged by surrounding electrical interference, the arduino calculates the difference over a short time intervals giving us a value that can be manipulated. In this case, the value is used to create sound that changes based on the distance from interfering objects.



I knew from the beginning that I wanted to develop a wearable device that could interpret the invisible signals that surround us in our daily life. While searching for solutions to my initial WiFi glove idea, I stumbled upon a neat little script for detecting changes in the electro magnetic field. Since it didn’t require any components I didn’t already own, I was instantly set on utilizing this method for detecting the wireless interference.

Construction was fairly straight forward. I constructed a coiled copper antenna with some scrap copper I’ve had lying around my workbench for a couple years, soldered a 3.3 MO resistor to one end, and a small, leading piece of wire to the other. inserted the lead wire into pin5 and the resistor end into ground.

I began testing the reactivity of the prototype, placing it near my computer, my phone, wall outlets anything I could think of that might create some interference. The results were fairly minimal on average, but I did discover that lamps and other lights caused very strong readings. I wanted to create a more entertaining output though, so I decided to use the tone library to generate some audio based on the values. The sound was ok, but was a little laggy. I discovered that you can analogwrite values directly to a speaker pin to get some really raw sounding audio so I ended up doing that instead.

I wasn’t totally satisfied with the output though, I felt it needed more ‘pizzaz’ so I tried getting my adafruit neo pixel to light up based on the interference strength. I hadn’t used the neo pixel ring before, and soon discovered that it need its own power source, the 5V from the arduino wasn’t enough for it and the res of my components to operate with. I was running out of time, so I scrapped the addition of neo pixel and started adding the components to the glove. Initially I was only going to prototype with the work glove, and would use a slightly classier looking leather glove I found for the final. In the end, I wasn’t able to affix the build to that glove though, so I instead stuck with the original glove.

Next Steps

Overall I’m extremely happy with the feedback the glove gives, it creates the exact kind of curious play I was hoping to incite when people try it on and start messing around with it. I am however, extremely disappointed in my own time management during the last 2 weeks of class. I had so many simultaneous assignments and I wasn’t able to complete any of them to the degree of success I wanted.

Moving forward, I hope to build the EMF Glove 2.0 over the summer. It will hopefully feature:
WiFi detection
Neo Pixel ring feedback
Smaller controller, maybe a tiny, lillypad, or some other IC\
Higher polish in build quality
More powerful speaker & headphone jack

SInce the only real cost and bulk in the components is the micro controller, if I can bring down the size and cost of it I may be able to produce 10 or so units to experiment with in a group setting like Nick suggested during the critique.

Office of Creative Magic Research

Jer Thorp is a techno-wizard



When we arrived at the front door of the Office of Creative Research, a third floor unit of a somewhat run-down, china-town apartment building, I could not even tell you what my expectations were. The neighbour hood felt like the first scene with Deckard in Blade Runner, noodle shops and neon signs, except under daylight. However, once we climbed the slanted steps of the building, and sat comfortably on the carpet and couches, we realized how cyberpunk this office actually was. Two massive Microsoft touch panels, one wall mounted, the other on wheeled easel, dominated the first half of the room. It was on those screens that we would experience data like nothing we had ever seen before.

Jer’s team had built a program to observer the functions and behaviours of ‘decapitated’ botnets. The software would intuitively display the data provided to his team by the security professionals at Microsoft in beautiful and imaginative ways. Some of the visual methods included particle systems that pulsed whenever the botnet attempted to send data, others were auditory and scanned through the last 24hours of data in both a wave form mode as well as a radial, sonar like mode. These different methods allowed the team to observe patterns that might previously have been hidden in more basic forms of data visualization.

Jer’s talk was extremely interesting to me as I love data visualization, but have never been very good at programming systems to do so. Since Jer and his team primarily utilize processing, a program DFI is quite familiar with, it really got me thinking about the power available through that free program. I’ll never forget about what he said in regards to the term ‘data’ which gets thrown around quite often these days.

“data is not the thing, data is a measurement of that thing and you constantly need to remember that when working with it.”

This definition made me rethink data vis as less of a hard science, but more of a playful endeavour to uncover the systems in the background. This guy is a freaking data-sage.

Q: Beyond visual and sonic methods, what other ways of interpreting data have you and your team experimented with? Tectile?

Q: Can you recommend any resources for processing that relate to the type of work you do at this office? Perhaps some tutorials or projects that inspired you when you first learned the program?

Q: Since you work primarily in ‘tool design’ rather than product design, what sorts of considerations do you think should be made when people design digital tools?

Independent Evening Activity – Sleep No More

Sleep no More
*spoilers and long sorry*
As suggested by the third year DFI cohort, as well as my sister, I took part in a theatrical performance known as Sleep No More. This was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever encountered, and even though I had heard so many little stories about it, nothing could have prepared me for it.
As soon as Daniel, Emma and I entered the Mckittrick Hotel we were greeted to an all encompassing sensor experience. Actors, not hotel staff served us, offering coat check and other amenities. We walked through a dark, twisting hallway, with subtle lighting guiding us, eventually arriving in a beautiful, 20’s or 30’s era speak-easy setting. Dim lighting, fog, and well dressed actors filled the room. We grabbed a drink at the bar and took a seat in front of the stage where Maxamillion, the hotel owner, entertained guests and called out the card numbers to be taken into the elevator. Emma and Daniel’s numbers were called before mine, I wished them a goodnight and watched them disappear into a dark room. As I waited Max introduced himself to me and I to him. 

 “Mr. Mason,” he said, “I like that.”

He called my number and directed the group towards the elevator passage.

“There’s always more room in the back, don’t be shy.” the doorman said as 20 of us crammed ourselves into a room filled with masks. Each of us was handed a ghoulish visage to hide our identities, we were also instructed not to speak form this point on. we left this room and were loaded onto a rustic freight elevator containing a well dressed operator urging us to step inside.

The elevator began climbing, and emitted an eerie hum. We stopped abruptly, the door opened to pure darkness. The operator extended his hand and ushered a girl out into the abyss. “Watch your step,” he said before slamming the door shut behind her. The elevator started up again and we continued ascending the hotel. Whoa, my heart started racing. Was this even real life?

We finally reached our destination and were all released into a creepy hospital asylum area. There were very few guests on this floor, most of the rooms were empty and dusty, super creepy. I began examining some patient records, making mental notes of the patient numbers in case they came up again.

“patient 2343 – suffers from insomnia and has an irrational fear of the wards cat, paisley.” Paisley, That’s my bunnies name, holy shit this is crazy. I crept around the room, toying with my new sense of complete anonymity. At first the other guests catch you a little off guard, the masks are simply terrifying, and they reflect a chilling bone white shade under the dim spot lighting of the ceiling fixtures.

I noticed a curtain at the end of the bed-lined room I was standing in and began lurking towards it. Pulling it aside revealed a maze like forest. Dead branches jutting from the cement floor created an impassable wall which cast long jagged shadows. From my vantage point I noted only one other person in the large space with me, they were standing still, observing a small wooden hut in the corner. As I walked slowly towards the hut, it was revealed that the only other person in the room was Emma. I gave a small hand motion to signify that we recognized each other and then immediately turned my attention to the hut, turns out we weren’t the only ones in the room.

With the hut window open, I was able to observe a nurse hurriedly and stressfully folding some small towels, and re arranging items on her desk. I watched her perform these actions for a moment when suddenly, she paused and turned towards the window. She didn’t stare directly at me though, her gaze looked as though it was trying to perceive something invisible, like wind, or the essence of something. As I stood there, unsure of what was happening, she eventually came close to the window and locked eyes on me, my blood froze. Next she carefully made her way to the hut door, opened it took my hand, guiding me up the steps and into a small wooden chair. After locking the door and window she sat across from me, knees nearly touching. Her face has nervous, but held a glint of optimism, a strange expression that felt out of place in this atmosphere.

She reached for my mask, I flinched, but she proceeded. Delicately, she removed the mask from my head, gave a smirk and then quickly stood up in front of the desk as if she had forgotten something. She poured a cup of tea for me, hot vapors rising from the fragile china loomed between our faces as she bent down to place the cup and saucer in my hand. Then she took a spoon and fed me 4 sips of the warm drink, after which she dabbed my mouth with a fresh cloth and then sat down again. Slowly she reached for me again, my hand instead this time. I had made note of some papers in the other rooms depicting palms and the symbolic lines that stretch across them and was reminded of those images as she began to follow the lines on my hand with her index finger. This was initially done in a calm, relaxing manor, but as it progressed it became frantic, almost desperate. “what was she looking for?” I thought to myself. Then she began rubbing at the base of my thumb, as trying to remove a stubborn smudge, but then without warning, her eyes met mine again and she recanted a disturbing tale:

Once upon a time there was a poor child
with no father and no mother
and everything was dead
and no one was left in the whole world
everything was dead
and the child went on search day and night
and since nobody was left on the earth
he wanted to go up into the heavens
and the moon was looking at him so friendly
and when he finally got to the moon
the moon was a piece of rotten wood
and then he went to the sun
and when he got there
the sun was a wilted sunflower
and when he got to the stars
they were little golden flies
stuck up there like the shrike
sticks ’em on a blackthorn
And when he wanted to go back down to earth
the earth was an overturned piss pot
And he was all alone
he sat down and he cried
and he is there till this day
all alone.

I became more and more uneasy as the story progressed, like wise, her intensity was increasing. By the end I was actually getting quite scared and uncomfortable. She finished by leaning into my ear and whispering “Blood will have blood they say.” Then she placed the mask back on my head, took me by the hand and led me out of the hut. I was shocked to see fifty or more people standing around the hut, eager to see what was unfolding within the staggered plank walls. As I returned to the crowd, she stood on the top step of the hut, staring at me, before finally closing the door again and returning to her work.

I had gone from an anonymous apparition to a member of the performance in just a few short minutes. I felt changed, as though this encounter was significant, not just to my night at the hotel, but to my life. I kept thinking about the even throughout the rest of my time in the hotel, trying to derive meaning, but I couldn’t. All I could do was remember the feeling of pure escape that initially surged through me as the nurse led me up those rickety steps and how I would never feel the same about narrative and audience experience after stepping back through the door to rejoin the horde of onlookers.

This moment changed the way I think about storytelling, and I can honestly say I don’t think that I’ll be able to enjoy traditional theatre to this extent. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had uncovered something about myself and about player experience’s within a game setting. In fact, after that point the entire night felt like a game, and I was an NPC, unimportant and non-essential. Traditionally the player is the force within the game, performing actions and progressing the story, but not here, not at the Mckittrick Hotel, the players take a backseat, and the story unfolds all around you, wherever you happen to find yourself.

I feel as though this excursion should be part of the narrative/digital storytelling atelier, the paradigm shift was so radical and inspiring, that it will be an essential asset next year.



photo credit Matt Crans

Win Bob Steins Money

Win Bob Steins Money


Featuring Bob Stein (photo credit Karina)

Bob Stein is a computer pioneer known primarily for his role in early CD-ROM development as a founder of Voyager, as well as the Criterion Collection. Bob’s major focus is the future of publishing and how its about time for collaboration to become an integral part of it. I found this to be very interesting as most of our class is looking to get work published. Bob never created rigid distinctions between the different mediums he’s worked with, print, CD-ROM’s, interactive game words as well as web based platforms, it was encouraging to see that intellectuals view these forms as equals.

Though his presentation was short, he was able to take us through his own history, along with the history of publishing and technology. Video’s he showed such as the Mother of all Demo’s and his work within the Halo universe on This Spartan Life showed how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Bob’s analogy of climbing a mountain and being able to see all that came before you was enlightening, especially because of the collaborative meaning of the message. Collaboration was the key theme in his talk, its something I’ve felt was essential to DFI being a success, yet the programs attempts at collaborative work always seem to miss the mark. To riff on his analogy, it always feels like we’re climbing different mountains, when we should be conquering the same one.

I was really inspired by Bob’s web based collaborative book system which allowed realtime discussions, linked contextually to specific moments in the books. It was a simple tool, but the results were effective. I’d love to design a system like this for DFI and integrate it into our ‘workspace’ should it ever materialize. Allowing us to share content that inspires us, discuss it, and build off of it.

Q: How might this collaborative system adapt to different mediums? Could the principles at play within the book system apply to a system that incorporates Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality?

Q: What are some other examples of  these digital collaborative tools? I personally find applications such as GoogleDrive not to be engaging enough to foster innovation or meaningful discussions.

Q: Inspired by a talk given by Kevin Kelly called the first 5000 days of the internet which encompasses the history of web 1.0, 2.0 and the internet of things, what do you envision for the next 5000 days of the web?

Shapeways for Days

Shapeways for Days
ShapeWays Factory


photos courtesy of Kate and Daniel

Shapeways is the top tier solution for 3D printing solutions. They offer a wide range of materials which can allow for higher detail or stronger models. Located within a ‘yellow’ warehouse (more beige than yellow) in Queens New York. As Eleanor, our tour guide and Shapeways community manager explained, this location is one of three offices that Shapeways operates out of. The other two are in Seattle Washington and Eindhoven Netherlands. Owning factories in North America and Europe allows Shapeways to increase profit margins by sourcing production close to the clients location, reducing transport costs and maximizing customer satisfaction via reduced turn around times.

The Shapeways factory we visited was Balkanized into several smaller sections to improve air quality in the design spaces and to keep the production line’s manufacturing flow consistent. We began by walking through the customer service and designer offices, a large communal space filled with creatives. This led over to the kitchen space where we were given a brief history of the company. Within the kitchen was the cliche foosball table and pingpong combo, surprisingly they hadn’t 3D printed foosball player sized depictions of the staff.

From the kitchen we entered the first room of printers. They were UV based systems that were affectionately named after the Golden Girls. These machines used a process of exposing the material to ultra violet light to harden the material, which would then be raised up, ‘pixel by pixel’ until the form emerged.

Next we entered a much larger and nosier room filled with 1million dollar printers. These machines could print several models at once and did not suffer from gravity limitations like other methods. A laser scans the surface of the sand like substance, hardening the material similarly to the ‘Golden Girl’ machines, and all the unhardened material is air blasted away before sorting and shipping.

We unfortunately did not get to view all of their production rooms, I was most interested in their metal printing services, as well as the experimental ceramic method they were developing. Considering that this visit was approved somewhat last minute, its understandable that there would be limitations on time and access, never the less it was a very informative experience.

This was an amazing facility and our host was very engaging and knowledgeable.

Q: Due to the limited profit margins of this manufacturing process, which areas of the production pipeline is Shapeways looking to improve in order to reduce the cost of the process?

Q: Is the Shapeways stance on ‘ethical’ unique, or is common practice within the realm of commercial 3D printing services?

Q: Other than ceramic, which I understand is still in a developmental stage, what other materials is Shapeways hoping to provide to its customers.

New York Times D&D err R&D Lab

New York Times D&D err R&D Lab

Location: New York, New York, New York Times R&D Lab

Q: Are these experiments with NYT content visualization for research and internal purposes only, or do you imagine them as the precursor to a new way for the public to experience current events, both global and local? As print media falls out of style will this digital style of storytelling take over?

Q: The line between creepy and cool in regards to data collecting tools is a very fine one, are we moving towards a society where our personal transparency will be necessary to benefit from new tools, such as ‘curriculum’, or ‘the listening table.’? Or can good design and ethics focused maker culture circumvent the creepy aspect, and provide privacy along with useful data tools?

Q: Rather than using a tool a tool to make things, this lab seems to use tools to make more tools. What are the tools that you and your team most commonly utilize?

As soon as we got to the lobby of the NYT lobby, I was blown away by what they were doing with data. ‘Moveable type,’ an installation by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen consumes your attention as you walk through the main hallway towards the elevators. It demonstrates just how much information NYT creates everyday and how they can re-visualize sections of articles, ideas and sentences in a way that might change the we perceive the data or may create a new interesting narrative. Little did I know that these encounters with beautiful data would become frequent over the course of this trip.

Displaying 20150317_104507.jpg

Upon arriving at the R&D lab’s floor, we were warmly greeted by Noah Feehan one of the “resident data artists” a term coined by a former NYTlab creator Jer Thorp. He showed us a few of their data visualization projects, some of which were drawing from the entire NYT database, while some were private programs that generated content based on the web queries of him and his co-workers. Over the course of the tour, Noah consistently talked about the ethics of working with data and the belief that transparency with that data leads to a better future aided by useful tools which can archive and contextualize our lives.

I was extremely impressed with their device know as the listening table. It reminded me so much of an app I hoped to created which I titled ‘context.’ I envisioned a system that would listen and react to keywords as it heard them. It would then query the web for these terms and look for the connections between them. The results would then be displayed on screen, passively, so as not to interrupt the conversation, but to provide additional information that may be unknown or unfamiliar to the participants of the conversation. I imagined it would be a handy multi-user-Siri-like tool for converting measurements, accurately recalling TV quotes or remembering who starred in what movie. So needless to say I was thrilled to see a group of highly intellectual and talented people playing around with a similar concept.

(photo lee saynor)

Kickstart my heart

Kickstart my Heart:
A visit to the Kickstarter HQ


Located on Kent street by the east river in Brooklyn, Kickstarter occupies a goddamn gorgeous old Faber Pencil Co. Factory. It was fantastic to see such a well preserved facade. The original brick and rusted steel reinforcement, embedded with efficient modern windows blended seamlessly into the surrounding architecture – unlike the ‘hip’ condo disaster across the street.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 1.58.15 PM

Evidentially Kickstarter is force for good in the world, preserving and improving history as well as the future. John Dimatos Greeted us at the large minimalist-medieval wooden entrance portals and led us through a treehouse like interior space, past a kitchen common area, into a cozy theatre room.

Throughout John’s passionate presentation, the ethical focus of Kickstarter’s culture became abundantly clear. When he discussed projects that he and his co-workers self funded because of how much they believed in the goodness of the product or service or about providing personal support and connections for creators it restored a lot of my faith, and quelled some of my fears about the future of the modern maker. Before this visit, I had no concept of the term b-corp, nor did I even know about the existence of Blabs who certifies businesses which score well on “social and environmental performance.” Clearly DFI is not the only group who can recognize good morals.

It was incredible to hear that the goal of Kickstarter’s founders is to be a social institution well into the future, to provide a launch platform for makers and problem solvers. I kinda fell in love with the culture of kickstarter, I’d love to visit again and talk to some of their designers and developers about their visions for future economies, and the role of the creator within them.

Q: Does Kickstarter intend on improving its support for customers who give to projects that eventually fail to deliver? I understand that the transaction is between the creator and the customer, so Kickstarter isn’s actually held accountable, but perhaps some sort of credit system that can be put towards other projects would be an effective way of reducing the loss.

Q: Would the founders be interested in supporting creators with incubation spaces? For small startups, finding and affording work space is of top priority. Kickstarter seems well positioned to incorporate physical spaces into their support systems.

Q: As a group interested in building our own businesses within the sphere of creative problem solving, what steps can we take to maintain transparency between our company and our clients/consumers that weren’t completely obvious when the kickstarter founders began to build their platform?

Hot Pop Till Ya Drop

Hot Pop Factory

Q: Where do you see 3D printing in 5 years? 10 years? Will the common consumer own their own Maker Bot just as they own a 2D printer? Or will it remain a specialized piece of hardware, only accessible to those with technical proficiency to use the software and tools?

Q: Do you feel as though the accessibility and proliferation of 3D printers will lead to a new kind of “plastic generation” where people fabricate objects simply because they can and not out of necessity?

Q: What are the tools that you most commonly use? Are their free versions or student licenses available / free alternatives?


Located in the basement of 215 Spadina Avenue, next to the relocated Sonic Boom Records, Hot Pop is a 3D printing service. Operated by its founders, Bi-ying Miao and Matt Compeau. Their workspace is small, but functional, and smells strongly of hot plastics. Bi-ying took us through the history of the company, from her and Matt’s origins as architecture students, all the way up to where they are now, designing a front end platform for their generative 3D printing store. While most of the presentation focused around their use of Rhino (a 3d surface modelling tool) in conjunction with a plugin called Grasshopper (node based programming assistant) and how it allows them to generate printable models / jewelry based on a few parameters.


Matt and Bi-ying were extremely open about their process, their tool set as well as brutally honest about the limitations and frustrations of the medium. It was very refreshing to hear a non-sugar coated perspective from a startup founder, it gave me a little more confidence in regards to my own hopes of starting my own small maker companies seeing as early on in their business they were just “winging it” and luckily found a market for small generative models. (jewellery)

The most inspiring aspect of Hot Pop was their use of the Rhino plugin Grasshopper, as it allows them to set rules for their 3D space and instantly generate unique designs. We touched briefly on using Python and Mel script within Maya to generate models and structures during 1st year’s sketching ideas course with Nick P. I’m very interested in revisiting that kind of workflow to generate models for game worlds, as well as 3D printed sculptures.

[ I had actually seen this installation the ROM a couple years ago, it was creepy as hell ]

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