Sketching with Hardware 2012 2/6 – W.A.M.P

In August, our workshop “Sketching with Hardware” took place for the 6th time. In 7 days, 12 students learnt to use electronic components, to create new creative user interactions and realized their own physical computing projects. The overarching topic for this course was ”Outdoor Electronics”. Again, at the final presentation the crowd had the chance to experience six extraordinary experience prototypes. During the following days, all projects will be presented on this blog. Today: Part 2, W.A.M.P- Where are my People? Have fun 🙂

What is it?

This years topics for the sketching with hardware course dealt with outdoor experiences. We chose the subtopic “distance” for our Prototype.

Two thoughts lead to this idea:

Korbinian experienced a situation, in which he had a partynight with a friend, whose wife tried to track his position via his smartphone and was worried, as the signal showed a place on a lawn.
Thomas on the other hand, thought of an utopic tool, which would be able to find the position of anything you are looking for and showing the spot with an interactive flying arrow in the sky.
Also the Idea was concepted for couples. Recently being in love with somebody makes you think of that person all the time. What is she/he doing? Where is she/he at the moment? The WAMP is a concept to fix the physical gap between two people by displaying the position of the partner, which could satisfy the emotional need of being close.
Pretty soon we made up our mind to use a weather vane to show a person´s position. Its normal task is to show the direction of blowing winds and cardinal directions. The WAMP shows where you will find your girl- or boyfriend or other people you are tracking via their smartphone or computer. It is designed as a decorative wind vane with special features, standing on your balcony or terrace.

A simple sketch we made for the prototype while planning:

How does it work?

The basic feature of the WAMP is to show the direction to a place or a person. So if you follow the direction the WAMP displays, you will meet that place or person eventually.

For fix places it would just be necessary to save a gps-point in the code so far (as the prototype doesn’t offer an interaction interface yet, to save more directions or change them quickly). For the Presentation we saved the position of Marienplatz and London (because of the current olympic games).

If you want to know the position of someone, it is necessary that this person has a smartphone connected to the net, because you need its gps-location tracked.

Via Google Latitude, this location will be send to the operating computer connected to an Arduino. A Python-Script translates the position of the signal into a vector and sends an angle to the Controller.

A servomotor on top of the prototype turns an arrow towards the right direction, depending on the position of the WAMP. Because the Servo-Motor turns only within 180°, we needed a gear ratio of 2:1 to get the full 360°.

As the tool has 3 possible directions to show, you find 3 colored buttons, in the middle of the bar. A visual signal on top shows you, which signal you are tracking at the moment.  Pushing the red button for example, which could be linked to the gps-signal of Max Mustermann, will color the arrow red and turns it towards the location of the person.

If there is no button pressed, the arrow turns slowly around, from north pole to north pole. A tightly installed compass rose makes it easy to adjust the system to the north after moving it.

The original idea was also to display the distance of a person. Concerning the software it would have been no problem to calculate this, but concerning the hardware, we decided to leave this feature out, because of the multiple circuits we would have had to install. Unfortunately we ran out of time for this.

Values and Potentials:

Disregarding the modern and unique design of that toy, it satisfies the human curiosity. As a lot of people are addicted to spread information about their current status like on facebook, this tool also gives information about the location of people – if they allow it by offering their Google-ID. That might be interesting when you think about coming together with friends. Maybe you use the WAMP and recognize that a person is just two blocks away. So why not trying to catch him for a short meeting?

And there is still the emotional aspect for couples. You touch the bar and you know exactly into which direction you can send your kitschy little thoughts.
And you could also learn to estimate directions better. I recognized that people tend to depend on buildings and streets, when they try to figure out a cardinal direction. The WAMP could also be a practice-tool to get a better feeling for directions.

Next Steps:

In lack of time and because of hardware issues, this prototype does unfortunately not apply all the nice features we planed to build up at the beginning. So there are still some improvements. The biggest one would be the distance-display. We thought about using a LCD-display, which could show the distance between the vane and tracked aim (person) in numbers. We also thought that it might be more elegant to display this information on the direction arrow on top. So maybe if the whole sign is lightened, it means the aim/person is very far away, let’s say more than 1000 km. Two third lightened, means between 100 and 1000 km. One third means below. With better LEDs, one could install even finer display bars like this or a very simple, but well designed code system like roman numbers.


Feel free to download our Source-Code.

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