The Connection Box

 

The connection box is a quirky tool meant for lovers, encouraging commitment to conversation during arguments through mandatory open, mirrored body language and a fun ‘penalty’ for breaking this commitment.

The box requires that both parties face each other and hold down a button with each hand, aligning their shoulders and preventing them from fidgeting with phones or other distractions. When all four buttons are pressed, the device is silent, allowing a conversation to take place. If any of the four buttons are released, one of four cheesy love songs are triggered, featuring generic lyrics like “Please Don’t Go”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Stay With Me” etc.

 

Connection Box

 

 

Conceptual Project Development Overview

This idea emerged only at the very end of the project cycle, after having to re-route from my original plan to implement a Kinect tracking application to play super hero music when a power pose was registered. After days and days of troubleshooting Kinect applications, versions, compatibility etc, eventually I had to admit the technical challenges involved in Kinect coding were beyond my abilities and the time constraints of the assignment.

After a brainstorming session, I started working with the idea of meetings, cell phones, distractions, and attention spans. I considered a round table where every person held down a button to symbolize their attention, but realized a free hand would still allow phone interaction. After settling on two hands for full engagement, a face to face set up seemed like a good fit and that was how the romantic component emerged. The next step was mining the internet for songs with appropriate lyrics, downloading / formatting / editing and curating said songs.

 

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Technical Project Development Overview

The initial idea of using Kinect saw a serious investment of time, and I’m happy to say I made some great progress. I managed to get the Kinect SDK working on multiple systems, and for the first time experienced low latency skeletal tracking. The Kinect is used in many coding frameworks (including Processing & P5.js), but trying to figure which ones supported skeletal tracking, and how to code it sent me down many, many habit holes of research. Despite investing too much time in something that didn’t come to fruition, it was a powerful learning period that helped me get closer to something I’ve wanted to explore for a long time.   Getting a feel for the gesture input / tracking has inspired me to use this technology in the near future (with more time and help).

In terms of the end  project, the brain of the Connection box is an Adafruit ‘Audio Fx’, 16 meg micro controller. The board provides an elegant solution for audio triggering, without the use of an Arduino or bridge, and features a number of different trigger modes simply by renaming file types. Once a concept was solidified, I ran some early tests with two buttons, to see if the button matrix would work. When the proof of concept was a go, I then began the song search / reformatting / editing stage.

When it came time to copy the files to the board, a number of technical challenges emerged. Trigger logic changes when using multiple songs on one pin vs more pins, and this cut the usable list of songs to four (while originally I had reformatted and edited more than 10). Additionally, the board is excruciatingly slow to copy files too, with a reformat taking 40 minutes and the 15 megabytes of data taking half an hour.

Eventually, the circuit logic was settled, files were all on the board and all that was left was to build a box and solder the circuit.  The next day in the maker shop I was unable to build the box as someone was cutting acrylic on the table saw, and therefore went with a shoe box as a faster solution.

 

Video Link

The video is a bit long, and was hard to edit down without loosing context. Please feel free to take a look here:

Link: https://vimeo.com/192846525
Password: Ocadu

 

Video

 

p.s. although the Connection Box uses a NewBalance box for its prototype, it does not endorse Trump in any way!

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