Digital Canvas


The future of canvas art has arrived. I was recently reading a Reddit Ask Me Anything by Daniel Shiffman. Shiffman helped found the Processing Foundation which maintains the open source projects p5.js,, and Processing. He also creates brilliant tutorials on youtube to help with creative coding and physical computing. Reddit AMA allows for users to ask a particular person (usually a celebrity or well known person) questions. I found this thread very interesting as I learnt a lot about Shiffman and interesting physical computing and design coding projects. One that really stuck out to me being digital canvas art.


Daniel Shiffman

This idea replaces the standard art canvas you have hanging on your wall with a digital canvas screen that allows for you to stream art work onto it. Instead of buying paintings, you can buy code art and run them on the custom screens. Two examples of these products being FRAMED and Electric Objects. Electric Objects comes with a phone application that simply allows you to swipe to change art on the screen.


On this AMA, Shiffman also recommended a creative coding artist who’s work he enjoys. I went over to his site. Rune Madsen has a large online portfolio of his physical art work. One piece of work that stood out to me most being the Write Me project.

Write me is a interactive sculpture made of paper and strings hanging from the ceiling. The sculpture records visitors drawings, and plays these drawings back, serving as a cumulative memory bank of past visitors. The user will draw on a piece of paper and hit submit to send the art work to the sculpture. The software was written in C++ and OpenFrameworks, and the source code is open sourced on Github.



Sensel Morph

Technology for the most part is innovative, but the way in which we interact with computers hasn’t been challenged in a while. Touch screen being the newest form of interaction. The guys at Sensel have won Best Concept in the Interaction Design Awards for their innovative input device, the Sensel Morph this year.

Sensel Morph is the way forward in regards to computer interaction. What they have created is a multi-touch pressure-sensing technology which is about the size of an iPad and integrates more than 20,000 sensors! Sensel Morph translates the detail, speed, expression, and power of touch unlike any other input device available on the market. Because Sensel’s technology measures force, not capacitance, it can detect far more than just the fingers and stylus pens required with today’s capacitive screens and trackpads. In the video above you can see all the alternative ways this multi-touch pad can be used for. You can use a paint brush, and all the characteristics of a paintbrush on paper will translate into the digital world.

Sensel have also created interchangeable flexible overlays that transform it into virtually any instrument or tool imaginable. Piano overlays, dj deck overlays and standard keyboard overlays are just three examples. Sensel have made their sensor open source allowing for individuals to create their own custom overlays and interfaces using the Sensel Morph.


Sensel Morph is the way forward, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

DIY Pressure Plates

For my final year project my team and I are creating software that allows Parkinson’s sufferers carry out their required daily exercises in a fun and enjoyable way. I was guided by my lecturer Trevor to create a type of pressure plate mat that would be used as the controller in the exercise software we create. At the moment, I am creating a miniature version that will allow me to user test this concept for our final year project.

I followed online tutorials and my lecture’s advice in creating the pressure plates. To do so I cut up cardboard into 2 rectangles. I also got a sponge and cut a hole in the centre of it. I also cut two pieces of aluminium foil the same size as the cardboard.


I then placed them on top of each other in the sequence of the image above. Taping a wire to each sheet of tin foil. I then taped the whole thing together.

I connected the wires to an Arduino. When you press down on the plate, the two pieces of foil touch which will in turn send a message to the Arduino that that pressure plate was activated. I then hope to create 7 more buttons, placing 4 next to each other. When you hit a button it will tell the computer it was touched.


My first attempt is pictured above, I misinterpreted the task at hand and only used two sheets of tinfoil for the 4 buttons. I have since changed that as there needs to be individual tinfoil sheets for each button. Along with individual wires for each sheet of tinfoil for each button.

I have also been inspired by this particle tutorial bellow.

Auto Lacing Shoes using Arduino


Blake Bevin a member of took inspiration from Marty Mcfly’s Nike Mags from Back to the Future II, the self lacing hightop shoes, and created her own version using an Arduino board and sensors. He called this project, ‘Power Laces – the auto lacing shoe’.


“Operation is quite simple – step into the shoe and a force sensor reads the pressure of your foot and activates two servo motors, which apply tension to the laces, tightening the shoe. A touch switch reverses the servos.”

What he used:

  • A shoe
  • Arduino
  • Motor shield
  • Force sensor
  • Servo Motors
  • Sheet metal 4″ x 4″
  • LED and a couple of resistors
  • 9 Volt case, with built in battery clip and switch
  • Insulated copper wire
  • Plastic zip ties
  • Plastic 1/2″ cable loops
  • 1/8″ braided nylon paracord

Soldering iron, screwdrivers & hot glue gun
A USB A to B cable                                                                                                                                  Computer to load the Sketch to the Arduino




From what I have gathered, this prototype was developed in 2010. Fast forward to 2016, Nike have launched their Nike Mags, and Casey Neistat the gadget youtuber has been chosen as one of the first people to trial out the self-lacing shoes.


I tried to find details of how these new Nike Mag replicas were made but I couldn’t find anything online. But I assume it was made using pretty much the same sensors and equipment as Blake used in her Power Laces, only using a lot tinier and aesthetic pieces of hardware. Step into the shoe, and pressure sensors set off the laces. The laces fasten to a comfortable position, which is calculated by finding the amount of pressure put on certain sensors.

This project by Blake is within the top 20 Unbelievable Arduino projects of all time, proving how easy it is for anyone to create a piece of physical computing technology from their homes.

Reach into the computer and grab a pixel

Today I watched Jinha Lee’s Ted talk on physical computing and embodied interaction. I was so interested in his inventions and his passion for pushing the boundaries on how we interacted with the computer.

He starts off talking about how over time, the gap between human and computer has shortened. For example he shows a series of images to describe this process:


We now are so close to the computer we can physically touch it. He poses the question, what if there could be no boundary at all?

Lee creates a tool that allows you to penetrate into digital space, simple press upon the screen and the physical body of the pen turns into pixel versions. Designers can materialize their ideas directly in 3D, and surgeons can practice on virtual organs underneath the screen.”


Whilst this tool breaks the boundaries, it still leave our hands outside the screen. Lee then creates a transparent screen, where by your hands can go behind and control digital things on screen. He says, By combining a transparent display and depth cameras for sensing your fingers and face, now you can lift up your hands from the keyboard and reach inside this 3D space and grab pixels with your bare hands.”

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 21.10.08.png

Now that he has successfully conquered entering into the digital world, Lee wants more. He wants the digital world to be able to enter the real world. So he did, with his advisor Hiroshi Ishii and collaborator Rehmi Post, created one physical pixel. They did this by using a magnet as the 3d pixel. Both computers and people could move this object to anywhere within this little 3D space. 

“What we did was essentially canceling gravity and controlling the movement by combining magnetic levitation and mechanical actuation and sensing technologies. And by digitally programming the object, we are liberating the object from constraints of time and space, which means that now, human motions can be recorded and played back and left permanently in the physical world. “


This invention could push the boundaries of learning and creating. Allowing interaction between the human and computer physically in our world.

Some of the coolest Tangible Interaction pieces


Tangible Interaction creates sensory installations where people participation is key. Our work taps into some of the most basic human instincts, to play and explore. It also generates talk value through a shared experience. has brought some of the coolest embodied interaction pieces to life. From the Zygote Balls to Digital Graffiti, human interaction is at the heart of their work. They create installations that get people talking.

The Zygote Balls are used at festivals and concerts with one of the most prevalent occasions being the 2010 Olympic opening ceremony.  The Zygote balls are filled with helium and react to touch by changing colours.





The digital graffiti wall is one of their other popular tangible interactions. Using a large LSD screen and digital spray can. The user holds and uses the spray can as if it was the real deal. You can chose your painting width, opacities and drips. When your spray onto the digital wall, you will hear the spray sound from the can.


The digital graffiti wall has been used by many companies and by numerous celebrities.


Tangible Cube Interfaces

Smart Home Controller


The innovative people over at Family of the Arts came up with the concept of a cube that will control your smart home by using simple tangible gestures.


Each of Cube’s touch-sensitive faces controls a different part of the home — lighting, heating and cooling, music and media, and so on. Pixelated black-and-white icons glow on each of the facets, and whichever one is on top is currently active. When the music face is up, for instance, giving Cube a firm shake changes the song, while turning it like a knob changes the volume. Flip it to show the lighting face, and that same knob-like gesture dims the lights.

With Bluetooth proximity sensors added to light switches and wall outlets, Cube can be aware of which room it’s in and limit its commands to nearby devices accordingly. As you carry it around the house, you’ll always have control over the parts of the home that matter at the moment, while leaving the rest undisturbed.


Cube is an attractive alternative to app-based controls — and it leaves your smartphone free to do other things. Unfortunately, so far it’s only a concept. But Family of the Arts are actively seeking a partner among the established smart home players in hopes of bringing Cube to market. I can’t imagine it being too long before this device will come to market and change the way smart home users control their house.



Home Monitor

Another example where cubes are being used in regards to tangible interfaces can be seen in the use of CubeSensors. CubeSensors are little cubes that are used to understand how your home or office is affecting your health, comfort and productivity. Inside the cube is a range of sensors which monitor external factors and give advice to improve your relaxation, productivity or, in conjunction with a Jawbone or Fitbit tracker, sleep quality.


The wireless CubeSensors themselves are stylish and unobtrusive little cubes which can be deployed in most rooms without worrying about disrupting the decor. Once in place they use an array of sensors to monitor aspects of the environment including air quality, temperature, humidity, temperature, noise, light and pressure. Feedback is given based on what you want to do in that room, either with a shake-prompted glowing light, or in more detail via a web app.

CubeSensors a painless operation which simply involves plugging everything in and going to the set-up website. In the box you’ll find a micro USB power adapter, a base unit which connects to your router via ethernet cable, along with the CubeSensors and micro USB charging cables (the CubeSensors can last a month on a single charge).

Like i mentioned above the Cubesensors can be used in conjunction with devices like a Fitbit or Jawbone. Which will allow you track your sleep and see when you woke up, thanks the CubeSensors you can find out why you woke up because of the feed back they are monitoring. The little devices can go unnoticed and you don’t have to keep the app open to check if your environment is right for you. Simply shake or tap to see the feedback in a colour form shine through the cube. Blue means everything is fine, while red means you need to check the app to see what’s wrong.

Not only does it let you know of specific readings but the app provides real world actionable advice in a “Ways to Feel Better” section. This could tell you to “Open the windows as soon as possible” or “You might be comfortable with extra heating”.




Tangible Musical Interface


The Reactable is an innovative electronic musical instrument that uses a tangible interface and shapes to manipulate and add sounds. Reactable uses a tangible interface where the player controls the system by manipulating real objects (cubes and other shaped blocks). By putting these objects on the Reactable surface, turning them or connecting them to each other, players can combine different elements like synthesisers, effects, samples and control elements in order to create a unique composition. The resulting sonic flows are represented graphically on the table surface, always showing the real waveforms that travel from one object to the other, turning music into something visible and tangible.

Reactable have also created an iPad app that allows virtually anyone learn to play. This new instrument is called Rotor and can be played without using the tangible shapes. But you can purchase the Rotor controllers separately to interact with it tangibly.

Drone’s & Embodied Interaction


Due to the decisions made on our first Physical Computing assignment, I felt it would be very beneficial to look into the software and current projects surrounding drones and embodied interaction. Me and Aoife came up with the idea of an exercise companion, that comes in the form of a drone (with the appearance of the golden snitch from Harry Potter).


Its important to know the types of sensors used in drones, so we can properly understand how our idea could possibly come to life. Bellow are some of the most common sensors used:

  • 3 axis accelerometer 
  • 3-axis gyroscope
  • Magnetometer
  • Barometer
  • GPS Sensor
  • Distance Sensor etc.

Whilst researching I came across a project similar to ours, except it lacks the amount of embodied interaction our idea will have. This is the Joggobot.


The Joggobot is the latest study into humans and drones undergone by researchers at Exertion Games Lab in RMIT University. The purpose of their study is to see how drone technology could be used to motivate runners. They created a drone that stays 3m away from the runner and tracks their moves using a built in camera and tag detection software. In the image above you can see the pattern on the runners top, this is what the drone uses to follow the runner.

An interesting quote on the Exertion Games Lab reads,

We believe the match in focus on the body can facilitate more engaging experiences, for example joggers might “relate” more to Joggobot because it has a body, they might even develop empathy because both have a body-focused experience.

I find this really interesting in linking it to embodied interaction. This technology is so similar and relatable to a human than a fitness app, as both human and drone get tired. They are both effected by weather etc . While an app is simply a display on a phone, it doesn’t relate to a human.

In our project, The Snitch will not only respond intelligently to body movement as the user runs/exercises. The Snitch is activated (turned on) by touch, the user can set a pace by hand gesture and the companion will change colour to signal when the user is going over their set pace or under to motivate them to work out accordingly to their goals.



Makey Makey

logo-boarder-clearAs mentioned in the last post, I said I would delve a little deeper into MaKey MaKey.

I discovered this technology when browsing crowd funding websites, and was immediately drawn to it. I found it so fascinating that someone had invented a piece of hardware that allows you to turn any object (that can conduct electricity) into a button/function. MaKey MaKeys most common example involves the use of food as a means of carrying out a computer function. For example a banana being a button that allows you to jump in a computer game. Then using an apple for the right arrow key, and an orange as the left arrow key. By simply tapping the fruit, as you would the arrow keys on your computer, you can navigate a world in a computer game. Once they are connected to the MaKey MaKey board via alligator clips.


It seems silly. Why would you want to use food as a physical artefact to represent a keyboard. Food is made to be eaten.

While yes I agree food is meant to be eaten, its a clever way to get children and adults clueless about circuits and coding, interested and wanting to learn. It also broadens the mind, allows us to think creatively and imaginatively.

This all falls under the heading of Tangible Interaction. The use of interfaces or systems that are in some form physically embodied.


How MaKey MaKey works is relatively simple. In regards to the picture above, a small amount of electricity is flowing from the computer to the apple. The human/user must hold a ground wire, for when they touch the apple the electric current will flow from the apple to the user and back to the computer telling it what to do.

You can make these circuits more elaborate, and you can also code instructions to create more complicated reactions.



How does a MaKey MaKey work?

Smart Bed Light | Arduino Project

I was curious this week after our tutorial, to looking into Arduino projects that exist in the world. After being introduced into the world of sensors I was even more keen to find out what other things have been done with them.

In class we used a vibration sensor, we connected it to our Arduino board, added an LED light and created a sketch that read the vibrations and then portrayed the level of vibration through the LED light. We also used a joy-stick style sensor.

I discovered an Arduino project based on motion triggering sensors. A bed was fitted with lights under it, when the person gets out of bed or moves towards the bed, sensors sense motion and turn on a light. The purpose is to serve as a smart night light, allowing you to get out of bed safely. It only turns on when its dark.

All the instructions are available on this site to make this light. All you need is:

  • Arduino (uno)
  • bit of protoboard
  • LDR
  • pir sensors
  • 10K resistor
  • 1K resistor
  • TIP122
  • 12V ledstrip

and the written sketch   provides!