Sketching with Hardware 2/5: Like a Bird

In March, we celebrated the 5th anniversary of our workshop “Sketching with Hardware”. 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  ”Bionics”. Again, at the final presentation the crowd had the chance to experience five extraordinary experience prototypes. During the following days, all projects will be presented on this blog. Today: Part 2, Like a Bird!

by Marion Koelle and Marius Hoggenmüller

{lastname}@cip.ifi.lmu.de

The bionic paradigm?

Birds have a sophisticated technique to survive the frigid temperatures of winter. They possess a dense coat of feathers which can be puffed out to trap little pockets of air close to the bird’s body. These airpockets insulate the bird’s body and protect it from excessive heat loss. With this technology birds can sustain their body temperature of approx. 40° C even at extreme frost! At chilly temperatures they therefore often look like small fuzzy featherballs (see figure 1).

sparrow in winter
Figure 1: Sparrow with puffed up feathers

[Daniel Lingehöhl: Vogelwelt im Wandel – Trends und Perspektiven. 2010. Wiley VCH Verlag GmbH.]

[Image source: http://www.sxc.hu]

What is it?

For our project we adopted the birds‘ anti-freezing technique and integrated it in an environment-aware interactive headpiece – at first glance: a simple, every-day bobble hat.

The basic principle is very simple: if the ambient temperature drops below a certain value or the user feels cold the heat-insulating functionality of the hat is activated and the ‚feathers‘ of the hat are puffed out. The hat’s control system involves two modes, one based on the sensing of the ambient temperature and another one which is based on user-input via a touch-slider located at the hat’s brim .  It is possible to switch between modes by turning the hat’s bobble.

How does it work?

Build-up

The skeletal structure of the headpiece consists of two rows of inflatable ‚feathers‘ made from a customary air mattress, which are comprised by a cover made from felt  (see figure 2).  If the compressor is turned on the air takes its way through a system of flexible plastic tubes located at the hat’s back and bloats the inflatable pieces which causes the hat to puff up.

Build-up 1Build-up
Figure 2: Inflatable ‚feathers‘ and felt cover

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Sketching with Hardware 1/5: AmbiLEON

In March, we celebrated the 5th anniversary of our workshop „Sketching with Hardware“. 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  „Bionics“. Again, at the final presentation the crowd had the chance to experience five extraordinary experience prototypes. During the following days, all projects will be presented on this blog. Today: Part 1, the AmbiLEON!

by Frederick Himperlich und Tanja Neumeyer

{lastname}@cip.ifi.lmu.de

What is it?

When you look at the chameleon in the picture, you see an animal climbing a tree having a green body and a red head.
Chamaeleon
If it’s trying to hide itself, it definitely failed!

During our research in bionics we learned about chameleons that they use their ability to change color not only for hiding but as a reaction to their surroundings. We were ecstatic about this fact and wanted to use this in our project.

Group Ambileon 1

Changing colors is the essential thing about our AmbiLEON-Prototype. Our idea was to develop a kind of lamp which creates ambient light in not static or random colors but in colors which express certain states or happenings.

How does it work?

When we began to build AmbiLEON, we knew the most important things were the RGB-LED-lights.

To create a random color with a RGB-LED you need 1 digital output for every color so three outputs for one LED-Strip. Since we wanted to use many LED lights, more than the ArduinoUNO could handle, we decided to use the Arduino Mega with a total of 14 PWM digital outputs Since the LED-Strips need a 12 V power supply we used transistors to control the 12V LEDs with the 5V digital output.

Now the base was given to let AmbiLEON change its color. The most important ability of our prototype was camouflage. To make that possible we needed the Ambileon to “see” its surroundings. For that we added a Camera to the Ambileon and wrote a little C# app that did the capturing. The captured camera pictures are separated in four columns (one column for each LED-strip), for each coloumn the average color is calculated and send back over serial port to the ArduinoMEGA which changes each LED-strip’s color accordingly.

The Ambileon
Image 1: Camouflage mode

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Sketching with Hardware: Multisensorik und Multimodalität

Im Sommersemester 2011 fand zum vierten Mal das Blockpraktikum „Sketching With Hardware“ statt: Sechs Teams mit je zwei Mitgliedern gaben acht Tage lang alles, um bei der finalen Präsentation einen bleibenden Eindruck zu hinterlassen. Der Kurs bot zunächst eine Einführung in die Welt der Elektronik. Wir betrachteten Bauteile wie Widerstände oder Kondensatoren und behandelten Grundlagen wie Löten oder das Lesen von Datenblättern. Außerdem beschäftigten wir uns mit dem Herzstück der späteren Prototypen, dem Arduino, einer Platform für einen einfachen Start in die Welt des Hardware-Prototypings.

Diese Diashow benötigt JavaScript.

Die zweite Phase war von Brainstorming und Konzeptentwicklung bestimmt. Die Teilnehmer arbeiteten an Ideen und Plänen für ihre späteren Prototypen.

Dann ging es in die heiße Phase der Umsetzung. Fünf Tage lang wurde ausprobiert, verworfen, geschwitzt und geflucht. Doch vor allem wurde der Kurs von enormer Kreativität und schier endlosem Durchhaltevermögen geprägt. Die Ergebnisse können sich jedenfalls sehen lassen! Weitere Eindrücke und genaue Beschreibungen der Prototypen finden sich auf dem Blog des Praktikums. Vielen Dank an alle Teilnehmer!