Cap’n Kirk’s Replicator


I have been interested in exploring intersection of two worlds; more so two worlds talking to each other. I have tried to bring the world of Start Trek into mine in this experiment. Being a Trekkie and an ardent follower of the Star Trek Original Series, I wanted to transform my workspace into making me feel I am in the USS Enterprise starship whenever I come to my desk. A computer that belongs to Captain Kirk in his quarters called the Replicator, is capable of materialising anything one wants in the starship. I wanted to bring that affordance into the object. I thought up a scenario where Captain Kirk asks, “Computer, I would like a cigaretter please” and the replicator 3d prints one for him. So similarly the object I was trying to make was going to offer me a cigarette when I ask for one. Being intelligent it would also bring in the layer of nudging me into quitting smoking if it could. So the object will ask me, “Are you sure?”. This may not be much but if you ever really take a moment on that you may actually consider that suggestion and just drop the urge of lighting one up. I smoke occasionally but when code doesn’t work, I am lighting one after the other as though nicotine seems to help with the debugging. To help me quit smoking I thought this was a perfect sensitive object to get augmented into my environment in a playful way.

Calm Technology Principles Used

It should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity. Like a Kettle that user can switch it on, forget about it and once it is done heating, you are free to pick it up, make use of it or not, etc., this dispenser aims to live in your environment in a similar mode.

Technology can communicate, but doesn’t need to speak. So the mode in which it shares information or its status with you ought to be inconsequential versus the actual information. I was looking at using LEDs to light up a simple cutout of PU foam from behind so that the letters “Sure?” are visible and the message comes to visually. User replies ‘Yes!’ as a confirmation to receive a cigarette handed to them by the device (more of popping one out for you to pick up from the stack).


The Process



The design started with a concept sketch of making LEDs emulate the sonar array scanning the starfield (shown in the image below) inside what looks like a computer from the starship as shown in the image on the right. I wanted it to have the old-style duotronic sensor array sound which appears in the bridge of Starship and has a scanning cycle of three seconds with a pinging sound. As it would have required a lot more of components including an SD card reader, that approach was dropped but the LEDS were retained to show the Prompt of “Sure?” from the system to the user. I ran into a lot of USB cable issue because I thought my house grounding seems to be faulty. So each time I would have something working, the next moment it was not the case; ended up using two separate Arduinos. Used the first, Arduino Uno, for distance detection and lighting the LEDs.


cigarette-dispense replicator-2


The second,Nano BLE 33 Sense, uses TinyML library to read “yes” or “no” from the user. I have modified the microspeech example and tied include the servo motor actuation inside the detected ‘y’ routine in arduino_command_responder tab. The challenge was even though global variables were defined in the main tab/page, it was not being picked up inside arduino_command_responder tab/page. Defining it again and modified it to use values directly there in the particular page was a learning step.

Also found that HC-SR04-Ultrasonic Range Finder was delivering better results than the proximity sensor in Nano 33 BLE Sense. A range of 0 – 400 ensures if someone sat down in front of a work desk and the system activates the LEDs.


The Experience | How it Works  | Arduino Code


The Circuit



Star trek Computer 1

Star trek Computer 2