Forty Four Sunsets

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One of the amazing things about the building at 240 Central Park South is its history, and throughout our focus groups and research of the building and its inhabitants we’ve been reminded of this. One bit in particular stood out to a few of us, author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry lived in the building and wrote a portion of the best selling children’s story The Little Prince while living there.

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As a group, Sheiva Rezvani, Luis Daniel and I were fixated on this point and the beautifully illustrated stories of Saint-Exupéry. We each read the book again and we decided to try to recreate the experience narrated by the prince of watching sunset on his little planet whenever he felt sad.

A cursory search of webcams online led us to a wonderful website The Eternal Sunset where you can watch sunsets on a series of curated webcams around the world. We utilized this set of webcams as well as others we found from EarthCam and coded everything into a Processing Sketch (github) that would cycle through the sunsets, analyze the sky image and decide if the sky was light enough for a sunset or if the sun had already set and then transition on to the next.

We also had heard from the residents during our focus groups that noise was a ever obtrusive element in their lives at 240CPS. We decided to weave a little noise into the picturesque Sunsets to transform the piece from a simple screensaver-ish piece into more of a visualization of the peace of mind of the residents as well as a reminder of the colorful history of the building.

At first we tried to inject noise through a physical interface by stripping the electric magnetic shielding and then warping the signal along the VGA cable. You can see our experiments below.

 

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Glitching a Video Signal from Luis Daniel on Vimeo.

Ultimately we decided to concentrate on keeping the noise software-based. Utilizing the sound data feed that Michael Uzzi and Alex Olivier built for their group project Hive240, we added a few lines of code into our sketch to create noise that would fade in and out based on how loud the data stream indicated it was outside.

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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.

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.

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.

The Power of Observation…

Sensitive Building’s is about understanding as much as it is about creating. To that end, Rob Faludi, our professor and ITP Alumni, first assigned us to simply observe.

After chatting with Michelle Boisson, my classmate and partner on this project, we decided to try to head down Ground Zero on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to observe people as they experience the site. We first arrived at the Cortland Street Station but we meandered south from there to the edge of Zucotti Park, on the corner Trinity Place and Liberty Street where last year Occupy Wall Street had encamped.


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We had originally planned on going straight to the memorial just a block away but it was closed to the public for family of the victims of the attacks. This turned out to be fortuitous since a second part of our observation exercise was to have another group from class go to the same location at a later date and observe what they could. Our counterparts, Michael Uzzi and Gavin Hackeling decided to attend on the following Sunday and Monday which happened to be the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Our observations can be seen in the presentation below.