This course focuses on thoughtfully and critically embedding computational media into the physical world. We will make, tinker, and experiment with high tech and low tech materials. The final projects will be themed around biolectronic interfaces, and the winning team will present their work at the Biodesign Challenge. This course is taught by Stacey Kuznetsov, assistant professor at the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering. The TA is Piyum Fernando.
1865 Coffee Shop
The shop has a typical coffee shop vibe in which individuals and groups work on projects while music plays in the background. The space is relatively large and empty feeling in comparison with the number of people there. There is a window into the kitchen in which all of the coffee and grilled cheese is made. The coffee shop has a Christian intonation to its decorations with a chalk bible quotes, religious music, and a wifi password “jesus_saves”.
One corner of the coffee shop is covered in decorations about London. The wall is confusing in comparison with the flow of the rest of the shop. On this wall also sits a large unused flat screen tv and cupboard. This wall could potentially be a great place for an installation.
1) “Would you use our installation if it was in your store?”
“We don’t produce that many coffee grounds but I believe that that’s something people would like”
2) “Do you think customers would like it? If so, then why do you think they would like it?”
“Taking something old and repurposing it, our store has a lot of that. We have biodegradable bowls so I know our customers would like it.”
3) “Would you like the installation? If so, why would you like it?
“I like it because it might inspire us to get a compost and recycle more”
1865 Coffee Shop
Questions asked to Shelby Baker, the manager of the store
1)What does your shop do with its coffee ground waste?
“We were saving it for a while and someone would use it in their garden, but it’s been a while since she’s moved so we do just throw it away. We’ve been wanting to do something better with it”
2) Do you have any idea about how much coffee waste you produce in a week and how it is stored before heading to the trash?
“I would say maybe 5-10lbs at least per week. When we toss it, we just throw it in the trash. We have our drip coffee grounds in the paper filters and espresso grounds that are pressed into a puck; both are just dumped in the trash bin. When we save them to give to people, we put them in an empty coffee bag that the beans were in.”
3) Would you be interested in using the coffee grounds for a piece of sustainable bioArt?
“Yes! That’s super cool!”
We went to a local coffee shop called “Chop Shop” and interviewed different employees about our coffee based art installation. I asked them the three questions stated in the ask category and, after getting their permission, recorded the data I gathered from the interviews.
Thoughtless acts: When drip coffee is made the beans and filter are thrown in the trash. When espresso is made, the puck of ground coffee is hit into the trash as well which is right next to the machine for convenience. A separate container could be put there on these grounds.
Opportunities: There is an opportunity to use the 5 pounds of waste grounds a week as a foundational compost for an installation. There is also a significant opportunity to continue the chalk theme and unify the other end of the store with an installation that utilizes the large tv and wall space occupied by miscellaneous London themed paraphernalia.
Thoughtless acts: Some of the employees were not willing to be interviewed. One person said he did not want to be interviewed, instead, he chose to focus on cleaning the store.Another employee was standing in the background and joined in the interview unexpected once she heard we were discussing compost. She appeared to be very passionate about the process of composting leftover food, which taught me that this project is something that people can become passionate within the first minute of a brief introduction.
Patterns: Every employee that I interviewed at the coffee shop agreed that they would enjoy the coffee compost art installation. Furthermore, 2 out of the 3 agreed that the customers would enjoy the coffee compost as well.
Opportunities: An employee at Chop Shop stated, “Taking something old and repurposing it, our store has a lot of that. We have biodegradable bowls so I know our customers would like it.” After hearing a second employee agree that this would be something that the customers would enjoy using, I learned that this installation could potentially be a very successful product if implemented at the right type of coffee shop. Coffee shops that already make it a habit to participate in economically friendly activities would likely be more accepting of the installation than a coffee shop that does not specialize in the same activities. For example, “Chop Shop” would enjoy and use this installation more than “Starbucks” would.
Look, ask, try, learn – indoor reactive plant matter
To investigate how our design could exist in the actual world we visited the videography office for Herberger in PEBE West on campus, because it represents a good variety of environments we’re targeting for our installations: Office lobby, public space, indoor, mixed purpose. The building is an old gym that has been repurposed for a variety of classes, sports, and office spaces, so traffic in the lobby/entrance area is varied.
We spoke to the employees and asked about the aesthetic experience of the building as well as the physical quality of the environment, especially the air and temperature.
They described their general displeasure with how unclean, outdated, and ugly the gym itself was (all true) and expressed great interest in the aesthetic improvement the hypothetical installation of our design would bring. A redesign is clearly in order, and one that relates directly to the health of the space would be particularly meaningful. Biologically, we couldn’t test it the way hotel inspectors would, but we can only assume there is some serious bacteria present; an actual test of present substances would be needed to determine the exact needs of the space in terms of what toxins need to be fought by our plant materials (and thus determining which plants would be selected for this particular installation)
Employees responded equally positively to the health aspects of our proposal, they spoke about the quality of air feeling drab and not fresh, needing to step out for a walk every so often. They also experience bugs, which may be a larger facilities problem, but is something our proposal could hypothetically affect also. Their questions about weather our plants would attract more or different insects made us evaluate that aspect of it that we hadn’t thought about before.
During this process of exploring the space and doing interviews, our activities mirrored that of the average person in the building: walking from room to room and spending a lot of time sitting. One thing we noticed over time was the quality of air, like they said, and the light, being a cold artificial fluorescent throughout. It was also rather warm in the rooms, where several people were.
Reactive plants in this space, if we were to postulate a sort of home-makeover-show type installation, would seriously improve the health and aesthetic. Plants or lichen that specifically filter air toxins, are anti-insect, and require little light, would be our selection for here specifically. Going through this exercise though has really brought to the surface how site specific our proposal really is, we originally thought of this as a general idea, but the needs of each potential space are different in more extreme ways than anticipated. This aspect is something we will definitely spend more time focusing on in our final proposal.
For this assignment we used Damon’s living space as a place to test what was happening. Our mycelium trash can is still growing because it caught mold when we tried making it last, but we put the mold in his apartment to see how his roommates interacted with it.
Look: The roommates did not pay much attention to it. The mycelium can was placed directly next to a regular trash can in the common living area much how a recycling bin would have been placed. One of the roommates did ask why this second can looked like it had “seeds” in it. It was later explained to them the concept of our project and he liked the overall idea, especially being that it looked like another normal trash can until a closer look was given.
Ask: Damon has a friend that studies Biology at the University of California, Berkley that we asked for this part of the assignment. His feedback was positive and he expressed that if mycelium can indeed devour plastic then it could easily change the landscape of how society disposes its plastic. He did express concern with having a live fungi in a person’s home and said that it may be a better idea to have it as a larger can that sits outside a person’s home and people come collect it every week like any other type of compost system.
Try: We tried placing the mycelium can in different spots both outside and inside the home. Some spots such as close to water or an eating area were places that probably should not have a live fungus such as mycelium near it. Outside seems to be the best place for this project.
Learn: The biggest take away from this is seeing how this may affect a home’s natural state when introducing mycelium to it. Because mycelium is still in it’s early stages of development, placing it in the home may cause unforeseen circumstances to arise. Also since our mycelium can is rather small, it went unnoticed in quite a few places, so it definitely would need to increase in size to catch people’s attention. Overall, the feedback we got was that this is definitely a project that would benefit a lot of people. Disposing of plastic in a natural way such as this is appealing to everybody that heard the idea because of the well known fact that plastic is destroying our oceans and our environment in general.
For our Look, Ask, Learn, and Try assignment, we set up inside of Stauffer B asking various Digital Culture students to try playing with our prototype. We did not use our finalized prototype as we are stilling working on it, but just a smaller circuit that demonstrates the technology we are incorporating into our project.
Look: Some people find our circuit prototype that they played with a little underwhelming. Others find it really intriguing that a sensor they are used to using as a speaker for playing audio could possibly produce voltage to power a circuit without the use of a battery. The overall reaction to our entire concept is really positive and people say they’d love to see our concept replace traditional lighting and power systems in the future.
Ask: Feedback we received are incorporating more or larger capacitors into our circuit to keep our LED lit for longer periods of time and the suggestion to use sensors that require less work for a user to produce voltage. Our piezo disks require a lot of charging with human pressing for such little output of light.
Try: We’ve included a video of us trying the prototype and a photo example of people trying it out. This trying helps us gather ideas on what we can change to make producing power easier.
Link to Video:
Learn: Problems we see with our idea is how we might handle rain, wear and tear, and other conditions that could destroy our circuit/pressure panels, ultimately making our idea unsustainable. They could be too much maintenance needed if the product we made isn’t sturdy and protected from elements that could cause fires or other safety hazards. Electricity can be dangerous and our circuit could even be safety hazard for people walking on it if it wears over time.
This one was a little weird for us because our application spans across several paradigms so it was hard to scope exactly who we were going to study and ask questions about. However Brint Carlson, a personal friend of mine, is currently a tank engineer in ROTC here at ASU and since he was an easy point of contact I went ahead and brought the idea up to him.
Look: I observed him doing some training out in the desert, this time in particular it was medical. I was granted permission since it was a school project however I was not allowed to take any photos or video because it’s the military so they weren’t super stoked about that. However the exercise was to discover fellow soldiers in need, asses their issue and respond accordingly.
Ask: I asked them what typical things happen ‘in the field’ and how does one go about helping them? They responded that most often there are a team of medics and they are usually the only ones qualified to handle said situations. Not many people are equipped with the tools or expertise to asses a soldier in need.
Learn: I learned that one of the biggest problems is communication and that it is hard to find the people in need or when they do locate them, they realize they didn’t have the necessary equipment for the task at hand and thus they need to go back to camp and grab the gear which can sometimes take too long, resulting in a fatality. We couldn’t exactly ‘try’ this activity of course but we can speculate that if we have some kind of equipment to alert local medics about the condition of a soldier it could save a lot of time locating them and bringing the correct equipment for the job.
Try: As far as ‘trying’ goes, I have started to implement a machine learning aspect to the eeg helmet that can try an categorize different conditions of the brain. eMotiv actually has a large database that you can subscribe to that will show you common data structures for different things like seizures, massive sudden pain trauma, elevated endorphins etc. So at some point I would like to train some data sets and see if I can detect matches to different scenarios and situations. Of course I don’t want to fake a seizure or something so the scenarios will have to be more mild like being happy or sad or frightened.
So far we have implemented the more hands-on portion of our project by testing out both the Google glass and the Epoc+ helmet from eMotiv. It is taking a bit to get the two to jive as far as the data but we are able to harness visual data and eeg data simultaneously which was basically the end goal for the proof of concept aspect of the project.
Below is a simultaneous reading of my eeg signals while wearing the Google glass to display data and record video. This displays all the necessary eeg waves while recording the environment.
In the coming days if we have the chance I would like to pipe the eeg data into a max patch if it is possible through the serial port and do a small machine learning aspect with wekinator. However this is not a priority as our speculative design is much more important for the bio-design challenge.
The real next few steps are to design one or more speculative designs that are futuristic in nature and can span across different markets. The end product wouldn’t be and eeg helmet and a pair of glasses but more of and instertable or a wearable device tailored for the application at hand. For example we could make small instertables for elderly folk in a nursing home, special military applications for a group on a secret mission or even given out to the population during a natural disaster time. Each speculative design would have it’s own capabilities and implementation. The elderly home may be equipped with a heart rate monitor and gps in case the patient has a history of wandering off which happens quite often when elderly people suffer from dementia. The military application could track pain through eeg signals and alert neighboring forces if someone is in trouble. The populous wearable could be equipped with whatever is necessary for the disaster at hand be it a wildfire, hurricane or tsunami.
From here on out we will do the following:
Geran- Continue developing Google glass / Epoc helmet to get some consistent results to show a more usable application in the future. Also help with speculative designs.
Kyle- Develop ideas for different speculative designs with Terrence. Also organize and prepare our presentation and exactly how we plan to tackle the correct audience for the product. Narrow down our research and end goals.
Terrence- Develop ideas for different speculative designs and how many different applications we may want to involve ourselves in. Make some 3D models of potential designs and how/why they would work.
For our project, we observed an urban public space on campus to try and understand better how our green building technology would effect pedestrians within a city.
Look: For the look portion we used the “fly on the wall” approach. The area we observed was surrounded mostly by buildings with some landscaping. One interesting observation we made was the number of bugs just from having some simple landscaping in the area, as well as people’s aversions to areas with more visible bugs. Mitigation of pests in environments constructed mostly from plants is definitely something we need to consider when thinking about our project.
Ask: We decided to elicit feedback on our general idea from normal people in the area we observed by simply telling them our project idea and asking for any opinions or thoughts they had on it. Most people gave general, brief feedback. Most of the answers were along the lines of “that sounds really interesting”. However, one person took a bit more interest. He was mostly interested in the structural integrity of the technology. Having this conversation made use realize our lack of answer for this question. This is something for us to take into consideration. however, our understanding of this facet of our project is definitely considerably limited my our lack of expertise in that area.
Try: Based on some of our observations from our Look activity, we wanted to personally experience being in the different microbiomes within the area we were observing. We tried sitting in areas near more obvious bug populations and in areas seemingly void of bugs, as well as areas of more and less dense plant population. Something interesting we experienced was a noticeable drop in air temperature in the areas more with denser vegetation.
Learn: based on our observations from both our look and try methods, we learned more about the impact our technology could have on outdoor public spaces. It could be beneficial by providing shade and cooler environments, however it could also invite unwanted pests to the public areas as well, causing people to be less inclined to conjugate in those areas.
These were the three main sports we observed.