A Simple Sensor Network

Phil Groman and I got together to work on an assignment for Sensitive Buildings this afternoon. Together we followed the instructions of our class textbook, Building Wireless Sensor Networks. Using our collective 4 ZigBee’s, 2 Arduino’s and a smattering of sensors and resistors we built a network that could communicate wirelessly the pressure being exerted onto a FSR and the state of a simple potentiometer.

Check out our setup below.

Damn Lamp Redux

The “Damn Lamp” was a lamp my friend Sarah Lowe made for her MFA thesis at San Jose State. The Lamp was a visualization of mortality of the plague in 1665 London. She would call it the “damn lamp” because of both its embodied data and the stress involved in producing and exhibiting it.

I now have my own damn lamp, though it doesn’t embody any particularly damning data. As you might have gleamed from my previous posts on the matter, I’ve had several ideas that I’ve chased in my quest to build this lamp, all ending in failure for one reason or another.

After almost giving up I came back today and pulled on some of the lamps I’ve found most inspiring. It turns out the most inspiring lamps (to me) are the ones that play with ready made materials and put them together in different ways.

I first thought of building a faucet light, switched on by turning a spigot. This was inspired by one of the many trips I made to the Home Depot to try and get materials for the failed lamps I have half built. While wandering the piping isle looking for bases I found a spigot with a red handle that just stood out to me.

I started putting together my faucet lamp, but out of frustration with embedding a switch inside the tight shaft, I gave up and re-examined the materials I had available and the constraints that were forcing my design decisions. With the time remaining I decided I had to work with materials that were going to be easy to work with. Instead of soldering LED’s which hadn’t arrived yet, I had to reconsider the LED based design. Lighting Plus on Broadway was a source of immense inspiration. I found the bulb couplers and I couldn’t stop playing with them. I purchased a few and then reimagined my faucet lamp instead as a wall lamp.

Focus on Focus Groups

This week all 16 of us are participating in two focus groups with tenants from 240 Central Park South to better understand what they are interested in as tenants.

As students, artists and interlopers we can only glimpse a slice of life at 240 CPS and to help us understand a bit more we turn to the age old technique of asking and chatting.

Paraphrasing, these are some of the points that help me best understand what life was like for the four tenants we spoke with:

“240 CPS is like the center of the world to me, everywhere I go is relative to here.”

“It’s hard knowing your neighbors, it’s much easier to know their dogs.”

“The staff here are wonderful and seeing the doorman every day, coming and going, makes life here just a little more pleasant.”

“Technology is great in the building, but I kind of miss having to talk with the front desk and checking for mail and packages. Instead we just get emails now.”

“Noise is unbearable, and it’s the one thing that might make me move. The changed traffic patterns and constant construction have made it difficult to find peace.”

You can see more of what my classmates noticed in the same focus groups by looking at Phil Groman’s post on it, or Engin Ayaz’s recap.

Lamps Update

So I went back to Material Connexion on Friday with my friend Nora who has had considerable experience with fiber optics. I explained to her what I’d like to do and how I’d like to do it, and we looked at the variety of materials available to us at the library in Manhattan.

There was the beautiful Lumiblade OLED panels that would work, but wouldn’t be as flexible as I’d like them to be. http://www.lumiblade-experience.com

Along those same lines was the Sensacell panels, that you see in a lot of interactive installations. They also sacrifice flexibility but instead you gain a considerable amount of interactivity. http://sensacell.com

But ultimately, the materials I’d like to work with turns out to be the Lumitex fiber optic sheets. Material Connexion didn’t have any in their library but they did  have the Italian brand Luminex fiber optic fabric. Unfortunately, the Luminex is very dim and as a result a no go for what I’d like to accomplish. Nora mentioned she has some Lumitex at her studio and I plan on visiting later this week to play with it, but at this point I’m considering an alternative construction.

Enter Origami.


Chat’s and Doorbells

We had two assignments recently for Sensitive Buildings that were meant to get us more comfortable the ZigBee’s and the XBee wireless network systems. With one we built a doorbell using a simple sensor, two ZigBee’s, a button and an Arduino. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to document what I had with the doorbell, but when I worked in a group with Sheiva Rezvani on the chat assignment we made a few videos. Check it out below and then go read Rob Faludi’s Building Wireless Sensor Networks.

Sensitive Buildings XBee Chat from Sheiva Rezvani on Vimeo.

Fiber optics / Lights

I’m often surprised how little people have used fiber optics to create lamps and lighting solutions. I have seen some examples, they’re just rare, which makes me wonder if there’s an inherent problem or if designers just don’t like the materials. Regardless, I’m thinking about playing with this material from a Material Connexion to design a flexible desk lamp that lights up. 


We’ll see what happens!

Playing with Printers

I’ve been doing a lot of printing these past few weeks, which is wonderful. I build a lot of code and to finally have something physical to hold and display is validating. For Ideas Taking Shape we’ve been building a lot as well, including spending some time at the MoMA this past week to research and build an object in the style of an artist or designer from the 20th century.

The design exhibit at the MoMA is wonderful but it’s also very limited, the Cooper Hewitt is by far the better museum when it comes to designed objects, nonetheless there were a number of very interesting pieces. Instead of choosing an industrially designed object I became fascinated by the work exhibited next door at the architecture section, in particular the model of the Sevilla Parasol.


Parasol in Seville

The organic shapes and airy beauty of it is just captivating to me and I wanted to try to create something like that. So I took to my 3D software of choice (SketchUp) which I had used successfully before in architectural drawings but when it came to creating organic shapes, I was hopeless with.

I was adamant however that I print my object this week so I printed it out and created my first 3D printed object using the MakerBot. This insistence might partly be due to the fact that I visited the new MakerBot store near NYU two weeks ago to see their new Replicator 2 and then heard about FormLabs and their new product. Exciting times for 3D printing.

What I ended up printing turned out to be a lot less exciting, due to a lack of technical skill with 3D software. I got a few tips from classmates though, which hopefully will lead to a better version of this before the term ends. I’m looking into Rhino for Mac and the Plethora Project, which seems to be an amazing resource for anyone interested in learning about generative art and 3D modeling.