THE BEATING BLOB

An interactive sculpture that beats faster as more people use the gym

Product: Peripheral Display
Course: Reactive Spaces & Media Architecture
Skills: Programming with sensors and microcontrollers
Duration: 3 weeks
Tools: Arduino, servos, laser cutter
Collaborator: Pedro Veloso

 

PROJECT OVERVIEW

 

OBJECTIVE

Create an interactive peripheral display in the environment

For the class Reactive Spaces and Media Architecture, design build a device or experience that communicates what we would otherwise not perceive. As the designer of a system, determine what information within a room is useful to the user. Analyze that information and project it back into the world in an unobtrusive form.

 

PROBLEM

There are no indicators at Carnegie Mellon University that helps users know when the fitness facilities are crowded

 

SOLUTION

The Beating Blob mimics the physical activity of the people inside the space it represents

The Beating Blob mimics the muscular beating of the human heart. The sculptural arms inside the Beating Blob move fasters as more people enter the Carnegie Mellon University fitness facilities.

Designed the mimic the pulsing, flexing, and stretching of a muscle, The Beating Blob mimics the physical activity of the people in the space it represents. 

Using computer vision and TSPS, a cross-platform toolkit for sensing people within spaces. We used Arduino microcontrollers, servos, and scrap material to piece together a reactive sculpture.

 


MY ROLE

As a student in Reactive Spaces & Media Architecture, I wanted to learn physical computing skills

My role in this project was mainly as the designer and builder of the physical prototype; however, I had a lot of help and input from my partner Pedro. Pedro Veloso is a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon with expertise in computational architecture. I was very lucky to have been paired with him for this project. I told Pedro that I wanted to ( 1 ) build an interactive blob that had something to do with fitness, and ( 2 ) learn about the physical components of building an interactive prototype. He was very supportive and immediately built upon an idea of an interactive blob. Pedro focused on writing the Processing sketch for our prototype while I fiddled with laser cutting, wires, resistors, and servos. Pedro allowed me to be involved in the conceptual architecture of how The Beating Blob's code would work. We decided together how The Beating Blob would react and what user's input would be. With each iteration of his code, he walked me through how the coding matched with what I was building in the physical space. I gave my feedback with each iteration of the code. He gave his feedback on the construction of the prototype. In addition to focusing on the physical design, I also gathered the materials, wrote test code and tested the mechanics of the prototype, sewed the fabric cover, and designed the final presentation. 

 

DESIGN PROCESS

 

BRAINSTORMED IDEAS FOR PERIPHERAL DISPLAYS

We chatted about what we might build that push data to users in a room in a meaningful way

We considered weather data, trending news, twitter feeds, and other sources of data to connect to sensors within the environment. From chatting about different use-cases and needs of students on campus, we came up with the idea to display occupancy data and chose the fitness facilities as a great example.

 

EXPLORED FORM

We explored various architectural forms this beating blob could take

We considered a beating sculpture on a table, as a lamp, or in the middle of campus as a large sculpture.

 
 

EXPLORED MECHANICAL COMPONENTS

We tried solenoids then moved to servo motors

We first considered solenoids as the driver of our sculpture's movement. We quickly learned solenoids only allow control of the length of time between pulses, not the speed. We then considered using servo motors with customized pieces for translating movement of the servo into linear motion. We gained inspiration from the Automino modular construction kit (pictured above).

 

BUILT SEVERAL ITERATIONS OF A PROTOTYPE

We scavenged for parts and burned through a ton of scrap wood 

 
 
 
 

PROGRAMMED THE BEATING BLOB

We wrote a program using Arduino, Processing, and computer vision to make The Beating Blob interactive.

 

FINAL CONCEPT