Author Archives: Shipra Balasubramani

Your Safe Space
Exploring the relationship between Consumerism and Privacy

By Anusha Menon, Rim Armouch, Taylor Patterson, Shipra Balasubramani




Welcome to your Safe Space!
Consumer behavior has been heavily impacted by auto-generated ad placement based on algorithms that track purchasing behavior
and movement. Most of this type of advertising is subliminal and happens with daily interaction within our personal spaces. While these ads
and their timing can be useful and convenient, they can also become an invasion of privacy.

Our research and design focussed on the following questions :
How do we get an audience to understand just how far these algorithms have reached inside the home and
how do we get them to explore the borderline dangerous relationship between consumerism and privacy?

Related works Research


Inspiration 1: Listening Post, Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin

Listening Post by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin is an art installation that uses text messages from thousands of live chat rooms and broadcasts them over a collection of 231 small electronic screens which are placed in a grid like manner for display. “The piece is also about surveillance, privacy rights, and data malleability.” (Rondet, 2016). 
Ben Rubin founded the EAR. Studio back in 1998. He directed the New School in NYC where he was a Professor of Design. Mark Hansen, designer and artist, joined Ben Rubin at EAR in 2007. Both have collaborated and created multiple projects together. (Mark Hansen: Science Museum Group Collection (2022). The complex network connectivity, public display of otherwise private texts and the focus on privacy being invaded makes this installation an accurate supporting project to our installation.


2aInspiration 2: Lauren, by Lauren Lee McCarthy

Lauren Lee McCarthy is a well decorated associate professor at UCLA. She’s received grants and residences from several well-known organizations. Lauren is the creator of p5.js and sits on the board of the Processing Foundation making programming more accessible. Lauren’s installation consisted of Lauren becoming an AI, watching over individuals in their private living spaces. Lauren anticipates actions and triggers the AI accordingly.  “LAUREN is a meditation on the smart home, the tensions between intimacy vs privacy, convenience vs agency they present, and the role of human labor in the future of automation.” (Lauren Lee McCarthy (2017) LAUREN.)

Lauren triggers interactions from a computer to household items prompting them to do an action based on the individual’s request/ preference. During the process, the line between privacy and convenience is questioned. The ability to connect ‘virtually’ to items in a common space made this project a great source of inspiration to the brief and our concept.


The Historical Context 

Advertising started out as one of the lower priorities in a business.  It wasn’t until the infomercial days when companies saw revenue sky-rocket that it became a standard/prioritized part of the business. During this time, the ads were in your face and blatant. Over time, the advertising noise was getting too loud and there was a shift to subliminal advertising. As the world became more technologically advanced, subliminal advertising was more undetectable and done through artificial intelligence and tracking. This project highlights the modern-day version of advertising in an exaggerated form to show the impact and potential privacy invasion. 


The Socio-cultural Context

Understanding the way in which ads speak to their audience encouraged us to touch on the standard interaction of day-to-day items. The simple act of entering a room, the plant, the magazine and the coffee cup are all part of the socio-cultural norms of today. The incorporation of specific ads in different languages targeted the aspect of Artificial intelligence that is representative of how such platforms present information and collect based on the consumers behavior. 


The Concept

1cThis project is a representation of recurring issues in the context of Sociocultural and technological environments. The concept was developed after an idea dump of trying to determine what we could do to engage customers while indirectly sharing a message about present recurring issues affecting everyday life. How do we create an experience where mundane items are used to represent a significant issue, what kind of issues do we want to highlight, economic, environmental, sociocultural, or technological? These were a few of the questions that came to mind.




Design Considerations & Technical Description

plant1 ezgif-com-gif-maker-13 ezgif-com-gif-maker-14For this project we were inspired by the project Lauren, by Lauren Lee McCarthy. Our main research question revolved around the idea of how technology has become a very important part of every household, and how we as consumers fail to notice the invasion of privacy.

We decided to set up the installation in the DF lounge space, as the scenography is ideal for the typical home environment. We also focussed on identifying the nodes/objects that would seamlessly be placed in the environment, leaving room for the user to survey and interact. While working on the prototypes we felt that not all nodes should be made obvious to the user, rather some were intended to be hidden in the set.

Initially the following objects were intended to be included in the space: Book, Cup, Plant and Phone. While working on the prototypes and during our testing sessions, we realized the challenges that come with using phones as a sensor. Considering time, we decided to reduce the interactions to 3 objects: Book, Cup and Plant.

Video1: Interaction 01.mp4
Video2: Interaction 02 1.mp4


Installation Design

We initially started with creating individual units, and conducted various tests on receiving data from the LDR sensors. As demonstrated in the
fritzing diagram, the LDR values are sent to the WebSocket, and further shared to P5.js that would then trigger the output. Each of the objects are placed over an LDR sensor, so when the object is lifted there is an increase in the LDR reading and that is said to trigger audio visual response on the TV. As the intent was to place some objects at the reach of the user and some hidden in the scene, two objects were placed on the coffee table and one above the bookshelf. This way the user is not tied to one area in the space, creating more scope for movement. We were also able to create interesting interactions for when multiple objects were displaced, creating an overlap and overload of audio visual content.

Installation dimensions: 3m x 3m
Number of participants: Single user

Hardware: 2 x Arduino nano 33IOT (with uploaded code), 5 x LDR Light sensor, 2 x Breadboard, 2 x Laser pointers, Pin plugs, Jumper plugs, Low profile jumper wires, Powerbank

Software: Arduino IDE, C++, P5.js, Glitch(WebSocket)

Set Elements: Coffee cup, Book(Magazine), Plant, Couch, Coffee table, TV, Table lamps(Ambient lighting)

Code Link:


Diagram 1: Sensors to Detect object displacement/ object moved

Diagram 2: To Detect user Entry/ Exit the installation


User Experience

The set is designed to depict a comforting, homely living space, inviting the viewer to walk in and sit down or interact with the objects. There is a TV, a sofa and a coffee table, along with other smaller items that can be picked up. While there is no movement (through digital visuals or otherwise), gentle music can create a soothing ambience to highlight the concept of it being a “safe space”. The experience begins once the viewer walks through “the door” into the space.

As soon as the viewer walks into the room, they are greeted by a computer generated voice, resembling common AI assistants like Alexa or Siri. If the viewer takes some time to look around the room and doesn’t interact with any objects for approximately 15 seconds, they hear an ad for a “Smart Assistant”, e.g. a Google home, playing over speakers that are not visible in the space.

Upon interacting with any of the objects in the room, the first ad will stop, if it is playing and a new ad for brands relating to the item picked up will play, both on speakers and with visuals on the TV. As the user picks up more items, the resulting ads will overlap over each other, creating an incomprehensible noise to induce discomfort or irritation in the viewer. As the items are set down, the ads will stop – for example, if the viewer is holding both a plant and a coffee cup, both ads will play simultaneously, but if the coffee cup is put back down, the coffee ads will stop, while the plant ads continue to play until the plant is set down. Multiple interactions with the objects can generate a different set of ads each time, as if the digital environment is trying to find the user’s preferred brands within their object of interest.

Finally, when the user exits the space, any ads that are playing will stop and the TV will switch off. A computer generated voice bids the viewer goodbye and wishes them a happy shopping trip as if to encourage them to purchase the products they just saw.




Future Development


Our larger vision for this project would be to create an immersive installation, where the user is allowed to explore and experience the space. There would be more items to interact with using seamless technology to work as imitation AI and have it learn the behavior and movement of individuals in the space within a certain time period.

The scenography is detailed to replicate that of a typical home environment, with various objects/nodes for the user to interact with. Every time a piece of data is collected from the user, there is an audio visual response to keep the user aware of their actions/movements. Playing with audio, the sound of a bell and tickers, projected on the walls of the room, is aimed to create some tension between the user and technology that surrounds them.

Upon exiting the exhibition, the individual would be faced with how much information was gathered and will be shown how many different platforms their information has been shared and saved to in an effort to clearly display the depth of privacy invasion in the home from AI.

Video: Future Version Video (With sound).mp4



Lauren Lee McCarthy (2017) LAUREN. Available at: (Accessed: December 4, 2022).

Rondet, B. (2016) The listening post, 21st Century Digital Art. 21st Century Digital Art. Available at: (Accessed: December 5, 2022).

Mark Hansen: Science Museum Group Collection (2022) Mark Hansen | Science Museum Group. Available at: (Accessed: December 5, 2022).





Sketch 5 _ Shipra


Sketch 5 : Metamorphosis 

For Sketch 5, I wanted to explore idea of using dynamic particles to create visuals. For this sketch I worked with Arduino, potentiometer and Touchdesigner.  The piece responds to the potentiometer, Arduino reads the value from the potentiometer, which is directly
related to the number of particles created. Lower the value lesser
particles, higher the value more particles used to create the 3D form.

Full Video
Link :
Screen Recording :

3D shapes & particles :

Connecting Arduino to TouchDesigner :





Common Materials Imitate Life
Challenging Materials to behave differently and bringing them to life

By Maryam Dehghani, Shipra Balasubramani



Our research and design focussed on the following questions :

1. What happens when you use a material in an unconventional context?
What if you bring it to life?
2. Can you challenge materials to behave differently?

We wanted to explore the idea of kinetic sculptures and origami, to create an empathetic material experience.
Adding motion and lights to make it seem Alive/Breathing emphasises the interaction of time and movement.

Related Works Research

p2Diffusion Choir | 2016
Diffusion Choir is a kinetic sculpture commissioned by Biomed Realty for the headquarters of Shire, a global biotechnology company, in Cambridge, MA.  Hypersonic worked with Sosolimited and Plebian Design to design, program, engineer and build this artwork. This is a kinetic sculpture that uses 400 folding elements to reveal the movements of an invisible flock of birds. Its movements are always changing, driven by custom software running a flocking algorithm. This served as the inspiration for our project because their movement and coordination together and furthermore their opening and closing evoked an interactive experience of dynamism and movement.

p3Alive and Timeless | Isha Pimpalkhare
‘Timeless’ – The Biophilia Hypothesis is a concept which states that we as humans have an innate and genetically determined affiliation to our natural surroundings. Trying to humanize the inanimate materials she works with, Alive is an attempt to exhibit the very essential act of breathing on fabric. ‘The sculpture almost works like the minute hand of a clock, where each element shrinks and blooms in a rhythmic, cyclic manner, displaying a constant change in state and time.’ This project was a part of her final thesis during her MA at the Royal College of Art, London. The act of animating inanimate objects and showing the act of breathing in origami inspired us to work on the idea of making an origami and moving it.



Hussein Chalayan | Paris RTW 2007
In this show, Hussain designed a long Victorian dress with a high collar, which starts shaking, moving and readjusting in this show.  The single-breasted top opened, the jacket pulled back, the hem began to rise, this was one of six incredible masterpieces of technology and conceptual interpretation at the heart of Hossein Chelayan’s show.  In this fashion show, it still has the power to surprise, excite and send the inner feeling created among its audience. After seeing this dress, we thought that this origami could be a part of wearable technology and could be a dynamic object on the dress.

Image :








We were inspired by the verb “to expand” from Richard Serra’s 1967 work Verb List and the material we chose to work with is parchment paper. 

Our main research question revolved around the idea of challenging the nature of the material and to be able to bring it to life. As a part of the explorations, we initially worked with aluminium foil as our main material, to create the origami units, and realised the challenges that arose with working the chosen material. We then worked with parchment paper, as it has added properties like non-stickiness, and resistance to humidity.

Origami, the art of paper folding, has inspired design in more ways than one. The aim of origami is to transform a flat piece of paper into a sculpture-like object. In modern times, the techniques of origami are being used in various design and technological industries to find inspiration for creating geometric pieces that are futuristic, original, and intricately designed.

We explored various folds that resonated with our action verb, to expand. We worked on creating individual units as a part of our prototyping and exploration stage, while doing so, we were intrigued by the idea of multiplying these units to create a larger piece and we were interested in understanding how these individual units/ organisms would interact and respond to each
other’s presence.




For the first prototype, we worked with the magic ball fold, and created the unit using parchment paper. We worked with a standard servo and a light sensor. The piece responds to the LDR sensor, it stops moving i.e goes to an idle state when the sensor is covered. When exposed to light, the piece comes alive and is in motion. The intent was to create slow movement, moving the standard servo from 80 to 180 degrees.

p6 p7

Image 1:

Image 2:


Design Considerations & Technical Description
Our larger vision for this project would be two applications, a large scale interactive installation and Fashion + Wearable Tech. For the installation, we envision these units to be multiplied into a larger composition, with more states of interactions. This could also be further explored into creating dynamic kinetic facades in architecture.

As for the other, Contemporary fashion designers have been always inspired by origami ideas and its sculptural forms; they realize that Origami art is a valuable opportunity to explore very futuristic and interesting ideas in fashion design. The origami art is the main idea to implement the 3D Geometric Dresses, so this research is focused on how we can benefit from the incorporation of origami art as three-dimensional sculptural forms into the Garment Design. But with the help of creative and smart tools and the combination of electronics, coding and origami, not only fabrics, but also origami elements can be used on clothes as wearable technologies.

Although nowadays the use of these elements in clothes is associated with limitations, but by taking steps in this field, using different materials as well as new electronic equipment, the capabilities of artists and the boundaries of art can be expanded.


Concept Visualisation:

For this project, we explored various folding techniques and finalised on working with one particular type of fold “Four Square Flasher”. We also realised that the advantage of using origami techniques helped in animating the elements. The four square flasher had interesting ways of anchoring to the surface and by just slightly moving from a single point, we were able to create a larger movement, ie, expand and contract.



Presentation + Documentation
Installation dimensions:
30cm x 30cm
Number of participants: Single/ Multiple users

Hardware: Arduino nano 33IOT (with uploaded code), LDR Light sensor, Bread board, Standard servos, LEDs, Micro USB cable, Pin plugs, Jumper plugs, Low profile jumper wires, Micro USB breakout, Powerbank
Software: Arduino IDE, C++

Materials: Parchment paper (main), wires, cardboard box, black paper, masking tape
Action Verb: To Expand

Hardware setup image:

Presentation image:





Fritzing diagram:

Project Video: 


Installation Design: We created a surface made up of various individual elements, which expand and contract in a rhythmic cycle. We worked on prototyping the individual units, then mounted them on the cardboard box. We also realised the possibilities this piece creates, when these individual units start interaction with each other.The box provides space to encase the hardware, wiring and the powersource(power bank). Slits and sockets were cut open on the top surface of the box, to hold the LED and Origami units. Wires are attached to the Origami units and connect through the slits to the servos. The slits also create a path for the movement of one servo angle to the other. The movement is aimed to be slow, to enhance the  feeling of being ‘Alive’.


User Experience
Idle state: The piece is in motion, the origami piece expands and contracts, movement is created using the standard servos. Each unit also contains an LED, timed and programmed to go High and Low, complementing the movement of the paper. 

Aware state: The piece responds to the LDR light sensor, when covered it stops moving, ie, responds to the user’s presence in its environment. The piece stops moving in response, and the LED maintains the brightness level from the time when the LDR was covered. When uncovered, it goes back to its idle state.

Feedback + Way-forward
We received feedback from individuals who observed the installation, and faculty members.

– Overall response was positive, it was interesting to see how the installation was perceived. Some felt the movement and sounds created by the folding origami units were soothing, while the others felt that it was chilling and terrifying to look at.

– Some were also interested to see other possible states and other patterns of movement.

Furthermore, should we decide to take this installation forward, we would like to explore the possibilities of creating a smoother movement and interactions between each of these individual units. We would also go back into the research process for identifying other possible materials to create this origami fold pattern. 

Kinetic Body Extensions for Social Interactions

Marina Leb “origami structure powered by arduino and proximity sensor”. Vimeo,2012,

Krijstelle Hyatt “Rhythmic Sleep- 2nd Design iteration”.Vimeo,2012

Paul Jackson. 2011. Folding Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form.

Lawrence King Publishing, London, United Kingdom.

“Transformer dress .” YouTube, uploaded by studioshillito, 25 Apr. 2011,

Links to the Artistic Inspirations

Hussein Chalayan

Diffusion Choir

Origami Four Square Flasher




Sketch 4 _ Shipra

s4_1 s4_2

Sketch 4 : Bloom

As a part of the exploration for project 2, I wanted to explore idea of kinetic origami sculptures.
For this sketch I worked with a standard servo and a light sensor.  The piece responds to the LDR
sensor, it stops moving i.e goes to an idle state when the sensor is covered. When exposed to light,
the piece comes alive and is in motion.

Code :


Sketch 2 _ Shipra Balasubramani



Sketch 2 : Stick Figure

For this sketch, I wanted to experiment with poseNet & LERP function. In this case, I used a gif for the bubble, and created a stick figure using the same.

Have fun!

Editable Code :

FullScreen Link V1:

FullScreen Link V2:

Sketch 1 _ Shipra



Sketch 1 : Pop the Bubble

For this sketch, I wanted to experiment with the mouse over function & adding sound to the action. In this case, I used GIF’s to create the bubble, and once the mouse is hovered over the GIF, it pops the bubble with the sound effect.

To play this game, make sure to keep the volume up & use safari for the fullscreen mode.

Have fun!

Editable Code :

FullScreen Link :

20 Screens _ Group 3



Concept Note : The idea was to play with the trackpad, scrolling horizontally to reveal colours as the first interaction. We also wanted to push the interaction by using a MousePress function to conceal the colours and then create a playful activity that would just go back and forth horizontally. This can potentially be taken forward by associating a sound with each colour / key.

Link :

Team :
Kevin Ilango
Ricardo Quiza Suarez
Shipra Balasubramani
Yueming Gao