The Emoting Lamp is a creative computing experiment that utilizes remote sensing, emotions, and light. Designed as a two-person interaction, this project is comprised of two lamps which aim to mimic the non-verbal auras and cues exchanged during in-person communication. When one person’s mood changes, they approach the lamp and press the button. This will send a signal to the other person’s lamp, which will change colours, and will signal to the other person that their partner’s mood has shifted.
Vice versa, the other person can also signal their change in mood to their partner by pressing the button on their own lamp.
The aim of the project was to expand and deconstruct the themes of this fifth and final experiment: “remote sensing” and “connecting physical environments”. Many of the guidelines and related works presented to us for this project focus on physical presence or phenomenon’s that can be tangibly measured or witnessed. Physical presence, however, goes beyond just being physically present: there’s touch, odours, warmth, sounds, tension, emotions.
The power of feelings
We chose to focus on the latter, because emotions can have a presence of their own. Someone’s mood can command the room, and even affect the other people present. We have all met people whose joy is contagious, or stepped into rooms where, as the youth say, “the vibes were off”. This energy isn’t as easy to transmit virtually. Our pixelated, two-dimensional avatars and voices can only communicate so much in terms of non-verbal cues. Plus, removing yourself from someone’s negative emotions is as simple as logging off, disconnecting from the Wi-Fi, or turning off your computer.
Although the act of pressing a button would signal to the other person that their partner is physically present and near the lamp, the display of colours is the heart of our project. The coloured lights emitting from the LED visually embody the other person’s mood and energy in a room. At night—when we tend to reflect on our day and emotions—the colour cast becomes even more overwhelming. This was also an opportunity to take advantage of the time difference since Candide lives in Ottawa and Patricia lives in Nairobi.
Emotions take on an additional layer of complexity when we consider how we often feel the need to mask our emotions in public because the situation calls for a more socially acceptable display of emotions. Negative emotions also tend to make people uncomfortable: just think of a time when someone was sad or grieving, and you didn’t know what to do or say. We often reserve these vulnerable displays of emotion for people we are close to (or for ourselves), but this project encourages us, Patricia and Candide — two strangers a mere months ago — to share our feelings in abstract matter. By removing the barriers that language can present, and by eliminating the expectation of a response / by simplifying the expected response to a sound composition, we hope to encourage an honest exchange of emotions.
The constant presence of the partner’s mood is also a way to decenter ourselves and nurture empathy. As we spend an increasing amount of time in front of screens and engaging with digital platforms, we have to be cognizant of how the algorithms used in a lot of these interfaces tailor the content we see based on our personal tastes, interests, location, etc. using invasive technologies such as trackers, cookies, and more. Instead, The Emoting Lamp asks us to consider how someone else’s day is going, and how they’re doing.
Fabrica, Akshataa Vishwanath, Giorgia Zanellato, Leonardo Amico, Federico Floriani, Reda Jouahri, and Alice Longo. 2014. “Patch of Sky – Share the Sky above You.” Patch of Sky. 2014. http://patchofsky-static.appspot.com/.
Footwork is a musical dance game where players are invited to press on footpads based on the pattern on the screen. Each dance pad is equipped with strips of copper tape connected to a touch sensor, coloured arrows, and foam sandwiched between two pieces of corrugated plastic to add some cushioning. When the user touches the correct pad in sync with the moving arrow, they are awarded points. Footwork is set to the song “1er Gaou” by Magic System.
As I was pondering on Experiment 3’s theme, Tangible Interfaces, I was reminded of one of the assigned readings for the Critical Theory seminar: “Engenderings: Gender, Politics, Individuation” by Erin Manning. In it, the author discusses the politics of touch while weaving in anecdotes about tango dancing (Manning 2006).
Dancing, like music, plays an important role in many cultures; it’s a medium that can communicate emotions, histories, and traditions in ways language cannot. I was reminded of this while brainstorming for this experiment, when my little sister, who is in middle school, needed some inspiration for a school project on dances from a chosen time period. I suggested she present a Congolese dance, as a way of sharing our culture with her peers.
I started to think about how the pandemic has forced many places to close and cancelled social gatherings where people could dance together in a large group. We, instead, have to stay home and dance alone, with our household (partners, roommates, family members), or with others over Zoom.
Although I wouldn’t call myself a dancer, I really love dancing games. The great thing about them is that you don’t even need to know any moves ahead of time, overthink what you’re doing, or worry about how you look doing it. All you have to do is follow the directions. For those who are able-bodied, this presents a low-barrier of entry.
As a kid, I was very fond of this Flash game hosted on Télétoon’s website called Hip Hop Don’t Stop, despite never making it past Level 3. The player had to press the correct keyboard arrows, which also generated dance moves from the three “dancing divas”. Later, my sister and I discovered Just Dance on the Wii at a family friend’s social event. We fell in love with the game series and purchased our first console and Just Dance games sometime later. In the following years, Just Dance created a version for the Xbox Kinect, where holding a controller is no longer necessary. Last year, I got to try BeatSaber at my previous university’s Tinkering lab, the latest iteration of these dance games.
That said, one of the most iconic examples of a dance video game, in my opinion, is Dance Dance Revolution, DDR for short. DDR is a particular genre of game called Bemani, a type of rhythm/music video game produced by Konami, a Japanese conglomerate (Behrenshausen 2007, 237). Other Bemani games include GuitarFreaks and DrumMania, a precursor of Guitar Hero (Wilson 2010). Bemani games, which turn the body into a performance, can typically be found in public arcades and make use of metal foot pads as dance floors (Behrenshausen 2007, 237). DDR was a near-instant hit when it debuted in Japan in 1998, and saw similar success in the United States and around the world (Behrenshausen 2007, 237).
Dance Dance Revolution‘s worldwide phenomenon has spurred versions for home video game consoles, replicas on mobile such as Tap Tap Revenge, a modding community, and even an open-source alternative called StepMania.
I’ve always been intrigued by Dance Dance Revolution, but never actually got to play it in person (at an arcade or on a home console). Now, as more and more arcades are forced to close because of COVID-19 (Thamer 2020), my chances of doing so are slim to none. Although, as mentioned earlier, we can now find VR and computer vision versions of these types of games, I wanted to recreate the classic DDR game right here in my living room, and give it my own flair.
In all of my years playing dance games, I don’t remember any of them incorporating any African musical styles like the ones I grew up hearing. I decided to set my version of a dance game to the tune “1er Gaou” by Magic System, released in 2002. Magic System is a Zouglou musical group from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and this song made the Top 10 on music charts in Belgium and France, while also charting in Switzerland. This song holds a special place in my heart because although I don’t entirely understand the French-Ivorian patois lyrics, the song was played at almost every Congolese wedding reception/party/social gathering I attended as a kid, and it seems like it’s the case for others within the African diaspora.
How it Works
Thanks to Dance Dance Revolution’s popularity, I was able to find tons of tutorials on how to build my own dance pads at home. However, a lot of these tutorials required some form of construction, and I didn’t have the capacities, time, tools, or expertise to undertake this safely. After much searching, I was able to find two “cheap and easy” methods to create the pads:
A tutorial by PBS Kids that used folded carboard as a spring and pad to activate a light (PBS Kids Design Squad 2007), and
A tutorial on Adafruit’s website that used packing foam as a spring and corrugated plastic as a pad (Beaudet 2018)
I tried the latter matter first, since I had purchased corrugated plastic and it seemed sturdier than cardboard. I used dish foam as the spring, and folded thin strips of it to add a bit of space between the top and bottom pieces of plastic. In both tutorials, aluminum foil is added at the top and bottom, and the foot press “completes” the circuit, allowing for the foot press to be registered. From what I understood, this is how traditional dance pads work. However, I quickly realized that this wouldn’t work for a touch sensor (because the skin has to touch the conductive part… duh!).
My next dilemma was deciding which conductive material to use, since this material would have to be visible in order for me to touch it with my foot. I wasn’t a fan of how the aluminum looked and how prone it was to wrinkling and tearing. I opted instead for long strips of copper tape along the pad, which gave a nicer look. I repurposed the black construction paper I used for Experiment 2 to cover the corrugated plastic. I also cut up some paint chips that I took while I was at Home Depot to make the arrows.
Once the pads were done, I moved on to the code. On the Arduino side, I reused the code provided in class to send comma-separated-values, but limited the output to 4 values.
On the Processing end of things, I was lucky enough to find an existing Dance Dance Revolution game by Jon Castro created in Processing that used the arrow keys on a keyboard (Castro 2017). Since I wanted the visuals to be displayed on my TV, I began by changing things like the size of the game so that it would 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels (the original game was 600 x 800). Because the sizing of the other elements wasn’t relative to the screen size, I had to spend a few hours adjusting them. I then redesigned certain aspects of the user interface (colour scheme, arrows, etc.) to match the footpads I built, and swapped the music to the one I selected. I also wanted to spice up the visuals by adding a music visualizer. To do so, I incorporated parts of a music visualizer code by Andre Le (Le 2014).
The customization was smooth sailing until I ran into a major hiccup: converting the inputs from keypresses to the comma-separated data from the sensor. This was important because the original code for this game used the key presses to print success/failure messages and track the score. I was able to do part of this conversion thanks to instructions and code by tobyonline. The web page explained how to use the Java Robot Class to simulate keypress events using the Arduino serial port (tobyonline 2018). Although I was able to emulate the arrow key presses using the Arduino serial data (which was clear from my computer’s interface and the Processing’s Console), it didn’t translate as well in the Processing sketch. Some of my foot touches seemed to be detected in the game, while most were not.
All in all, though I was disappointed that this last part of the project (the visual feedback) didn’t work as well as I had imagined, I still had a lot of fun creating this. Moving forward, I will likely stick to the version that uses the keyboard arrow keys. 😅 If I were to do this again, I would probably try sewing a fabric mat, which would be easier to store and would allow for the wires to be tucked away nicely. I also think a touch sensor may have been the wrong type of input for this project, as the sensor is very sensitive to touch and would sometimes register nearby movement as a touch. Perhaps a sensor that registers pressure would have been best, or perhaps another kind of (and simpler) visual output could have been considered.
Cheok, Adrian David, Xubo Yang, Zhou Zhi Ying, Mark Billinghurst, and Hirokazu Kato. 2002. “Touch-Space: Mixed Reality Game Space Based on Ubiquitous, Tangible, and Social Computing.” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 6 (5): 430–42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s007790200047.
CandyDrop is a Halloween candy dispenser designed for our socially distanced world! As trick-or-treaters approach the doorway and extend their bags under the CandyDrop, an LED inside the home is switched on, triggered by a light sensor underneath the CandyDrop.
The person in the home can then place their hand over the second light sensor, inside the home, which triggers the dispensing mechanism, controlled by a servo, to drop the candy into the trick-or-treater’s bag.
Process + Experience Video
How it Works / Development / Context
As the cliché goes, we are facing unprecedented times because, of course, of the pandemic. Though I didn’t really celebrate Halloween as a kid (in terms of trick-or-treating and giving candy), I know that the festivities are important to a lot of people, both young and old, here in Canada.
Alas, here in Ottawa, our medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, has cancelled trick-or-treating for this year (Chen 2020). In the spirit, though, I’ve decided to conceptualize a way to distribute candy while maintaining social distancing. This was also the only thing I could think of that would fit the theme of inside/outside (besides the obvious examples shown in the lectures).
I began by researching candy dispensers (using both Arduino or just through manual action) to see if the idea had been implemented before, and how:
Automatic Halloween Candy Dispenser – Engineering Process (Barkers Random Projects 2019): Uses a conveyor belt and the trick-or-treaters had to press a button–not very COVID-friendly. In one of their sketches shown at the beginning of the video, however, there’s a mechanism where a quantity is made ready in a mini bowl, and as it rotates, it stops the flow. Since the servo motor is pretty slow, and I don’t have access to a soldering iron, I decided to implement that idea in my experiment.
How to make Automatic Candy Machine with Arduino (Dawar 2018): Uses a proximity sensor, and the candy chute opens in a lateral motion. My worry with this tehnique was that too much candy would fall off.
Arduino powered candy dispenser / Arduino Süßigkeitenautomat (simonlevy 2017): Uses a lateral motion and a button. This model seemed to work best with small, round, unwrapped candy. I know that unwrapped candy is a big no-no for trick-or-treating, so I passed on this one.
How to make a Chocolate Dispenser Machine using Arduino Nano, Servo motor & IR Sensor (Robokart 2019): This example provided an interesting way of controlling the flow of the candy. However, I wanted to avoid building out a complex contraption with cardboard.
How to Make Candy Dispenser with 3 Different Taste at Home (Mini Gear 2017): Use an interesting system where the candy drop is triggered by pushing down on a lever that springs back using an elastic. I also liked that they used plastic bottles to hold the candy.
Desktop Candy Dispenser (pneumatic addict 2018): This model required laser cutting, but, I really liked that they made use of the mini-cup idea that was mentioned in the first video.
How to Build Candy Dispenser (Crazy Mr.Hacker 2017): Use a button and eleastics to drop the candy, but buildig the model uses materials that I don’t have access to.
How to Make Candy Dispenser from Cardboard Easy DIY (Pinc Share 2017): Used a cool maze layout to control the flow, but I was trying to stay away from more complex cardboard builds.
Though they weren’t exactly candy dispensers, I was also inspired by these projects:
Remote Control Pet Feeder (Mathew 2018): This was a similar idea that was implemented in a very simple manner. It uses a lateral movement to control the flow. This project also gave me the idea of using a plastic bottle as the container.
Dropping Spider on Doorbell – Halloween Scare Prank (Blåsol 2018): This Halloween themed project inspired my to add fake spider and spider webs to my project, as well as having the candy drop from the bottom.
Once I decided on the mechanism, I purchased some materials: Halloween decor, plastic bottle, cardstock, stickers, and, of course, candy.
I began by building the receiving tube and mini cup that would drop the candy. Next, I attached one of the servo horns to the cup. I then built the sensor system that was connected to the servo with the help of TechMartian’s “Light-Controlled Servo” Instructable.
Afterwards, I added the LED system, tested the entire mechanism, and added some finishing touches with decorations.
Unfortunately, when I was testing the CandyDrop outside for my final set of documentations, the Arduino dropped. Ever since, the servo motor has been glitching and hasn’t been able to drop any candy. Despite troubleshooting the issue over the next few days, I was unable to get the CandyDrop to work again. It’s unfortunate, but at least I got to enjoy the process (and the candy!):
Screwed Body Reverberations is a series of auditory experiments by me, Candide Uyanze, that invite users to generate their own “slow and reverbed” version of an audio track using their bodies. For each experiment, users can perform an action to control either the audio rate, reverb, panning, or all three.