On my own terms

Time is more illusory than we tend to believe. We assume time is concrete and arrange our lives around marking it. My work challenges the notion of “keeping time.” I built an unconventional clock that has unexpected properties to reject the time pestered modern life. This clock gives control over how we interpret the passage of our lives. “On my own terms” is also about rage against time, growing old and inevitable death.

The clock in my project has three distinct behaviours that change the pace or direction of the time indicator LEDs:

  1. Smelling the rose pauses the timer as a way to freeze a moment in the most delightful flashes of life.
  2. Lighting up the candle slows down the movement of the clock to imitate how we hope time stretches when having a romantic/therapeutic experience.
  3. And the last feature is to make time go back by looking at an old photo. This feature tickles nostalgia to realize an impossible dream of going back in time.

For the output LEDs I chose green and red to reference traffic lights and how timers also dictate us to go/stop at specific points in life and how demanding they are.


Sensor and Actuators:

I am using three sensors in total for this project (LDR, thermal, Ultrasonic), and each sensor drives one form of response:

  1. Take a rest from a long day/Freeze the moment – I attached a light sensor to a rose petal so that when you move your nose closer to smell it, the shadow from the user’s face is detected. This sensor could also be mounted on a pillow as a form to freeze time while you are sleeping. I have used an LDR for this part, and the threshold is 100 for detecting the closeness of the face. Link to the video! ldr    screen-shot-2021-10-29-at-12-51-08-pm
  2. Cozy up and have a romantic dinner – In the setting, we have a candle beside the flower. The candle jar has a thermal sensor attached to its top (an inch higher than where the flame goes). Once the candle lits (indicating a romantic or attentive experience), the timer starts running slower to relax the user and encourage them not to rush out of it. The temperature highly relies on the exact place one mounts the sensor in the jar. But for my purpose, I chose the reading of 700 and higher as an indicator for the candle being inflamed. Link to the video!

    img_8586    screen-shot-2021-10-29-at-3-40-26-pm

  3. An old map of Toronto hung at the back of my setting that has a proximity sensor attached to the bottom of it. Once the user goes close to the frame and reads the map, the clock runs backward. This behaviour is to entertain the nostalgia we feel gazing at old photos. Link to the video!                                                 proximity-sensor    screen-shot-2021-10-29-at-12-23-00-pm

For the actuator, I am using single LEDs mounted on a circular plate to act as a timer. The LEDs are assigned to pins in an array and get turned on in turns. I got the most out of the single LED light by using the reflection from aluminum foil and the defusing effect of tissue papers. I am using 8 LEDs and pairing them with 200-ohm resistors.

Material: For the whole setup, I reused and recycled a lot of household objects. I reused a candle jar, a flower stem, and a photo I already had around for the input. I used a couple of paper straws, aluminum foil, and an aluminum pie plate for the clock (output). In terms of soldering and putting the circuit together, I tried to be mindful of the following usages and attach parts to disassemble them later. The only waste produced in this process is some tape and labels.

Calm Design Discussion:

  1. A user’s primary task should not be computing but being human: The interactions for this project are rational and not newly introduced. Lighting up a candle, smelling a flower, and looking at a photo are good old human actions that do not need any computing or machine-like performances.
  2. Technology should work even when it fails: The timer in this project is running even when the user does not interact with it. Also, the operation does not change drastically or fail in case of a misconnection or wrong reading.
  3. Technology can communicate but doesn’t need to speak: The clock is a familiar day-to-day object, so choosing a visual timer output does not disturb the environment and can run in the background.

Reflection: Using the experience from Exp1, I started with the sensors to make sure they do detect what I think they should. This practice saved me a lot of time in the beginning. For example, I intended to catch the user walking using the proximity sensor. Still, I soon realized the line of sight is essential for the ultrasonic sensor, and it has a smaller range for the maximum distance detectable. This realization shifted my design towards a more stable form of proximity (standing in front of a picture). Another challenge I faced was that the temperature sensor reading did not come down quickly, so I had to bend my design around that characteristic. With the LDR, the measurements were more real-time and reliable; I will link more diverse actions to light and shadow in my future projects. Furthermore, for the number of LEDs in the clock, I realized that too many would complicate the wiring while not adding much visual value. I will also be more mindful of pauses in the system, like how I pause the clock if the input is not reliable and reads the wrong number once, then the break in the system goes on for a few seconds while it is not supposed to.

Development images:

development-leds-lighting-up-in-turn   development-temp-sensor development-ultrasonic-sensor   development-led-effects

Main circuit (placed inside the gift box)

Main circuit (placed inside the gift box)

Github link: https://github.com/ZhinoTheCoder/CC_Exp2/blob/main/SesitiveObject

Circuit diagram:


Video links:

Rose – https://www.dropbox.com/s/7qctddh46mudbg8/Timer%20stops.MOV?dl=0

Candle – https://www.dropbox.com/s/smf57qunq9agroj/Timer%20slows%20down.MOV?dl=0

Picture – https://www.dropbox.com/s/hzix3642lceqnq5/Going%20back%20in%20time.mov?dl=0


Ultrasonic sensor – https://www.maxbotix.com/articles/how-ultrasonic-sensors-work.htm

Artworks about time – https://www.studioarts.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/LL18_TickTockCat_F3_WEB.pdf

Cyborg Botany – https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/cyborg-botany/overview/