Softness of things
view more photos of last night on flickr.
The Molding Chair
Inspired by my current problems with finding a comfortable place to sit that keeps me in good posture i started thinking about chairs. My concept was to make a chair that molds to the way we sit in it, more for awareness than for comfort.
We spend so much time sitting down and then complain about back and neck pain and rarely do we notice our own posture. So this chair wants to solve that problem by shaping to the way we sit and compensate for our posture problems by giving us more or less support. Memory foam applied to chairs, in a way.
My ideal material would be some sort of gel that changed color in the places where we’ve been putting the most pressure in order to understand our relationship to the space that the cahir gives us and the space that our body actually takes. I thought about memory foam, bean bags and clay but ended up with bee’s wax and wire.
wire 1/8th and 1/16th thick
bee’s wax in small balls
this is the structure of the chair:
and this is what it looks like with the “cushions” on:
As you can see, the bees’ wax molds to the position that the person sits in and stays in that shape.
It still needs a material to cover or replace the plastic but it would need to be something with a few of the properties of this type of plastic bag: great elasticity to stay in the shape that the wax molds to and not hold a lot of air inside it
I’d love to have a chair like this. See more pictures in my Flickr account!
The second idea I worked on this week is also about posture but at a personal level. Maybe the chair can’t really fix our back problems since we can’t always decide where we sit. I want to make a pair of suspenders that make us posture-aware. I believe that a garment like this with very subtle user interaction could increase our awareness and make our posture better.
So it works like this:
A pair of suspenders made out of a material that works as a variable resistor. when you sit down and stretch the back and neck to correct alignment it turns on (so it wont bother you when you’re walking around). switches (magnetic or tilt or…. ?) on the back will be activated when the wearer is leaning forward or leaning to the side and vibrate so that you’re aware of your posture problem and get back to a good posture. So later on, you wont complain about back pain and hopefully you’ll change your sitting habits for the better.
I started thinking of this as a tshirt but really it needs to be something you can wear under any clothes and that doesnt become a big part of your day but that gives you helpful feedback when you need it. Going through physiotherapy for over a year now, I know that bad posture when sitting is a problem that’s really hard to fix and perhaps awareness can help prevent this issue.
This project still needs a lot of research so I dont have a prototype ready yet but it’s something I’ll keep working on. Sketches coming soon.
i basically hack for a living. i use technological tools to be a personal assistant while being in NY. The most useful ones are my iphone, my computer and logmein software that keep me remotely connected even while im at the pcomp lab.
I’ve also been sick most of the week and lacking energy… so my thoughts have been mostly about personal energy and it’s use. I took note of people talking about energy and occasionally asked what gives them energy. I found out there are classes that give energy and some others that take it away, some of my friends get energy from stretching in the morning, having breakfast, coffee, chocolates and smoothies to stay focused in class (since having the food there prevents their thinking about food) and walking to school.
This took me to observing products that sell energy. Energy drinks and energy candy. Turns out there is also energy gum and energy mints! Most of them advertise caffeine, taurine or an exotic fruit like Guarana on their packaging (see this comparison of caffeine levels).
Sleep also came up as an energy booster. I have a friend who once gave me a small blue laminated card to put on the battery of my computer. He believes that electronic devices drain our energy at night, even if they are off they should stay in a different room in order to achieve proper sleep. A quick search online showed me that there’s all kinds of beliefs related to this, like the fact that using electronics, or drinking sugars and caffeine drinks up to 6 hours before going to bed, disrupt our sleep.
This took me to thinking about last week and working in a team. Energy levels in the team depended on all of us. And they seemed to keep compensating for each other. At one point I was tired and started making mistakes, Sandra took over. After a few minutes I felt refreshed and went back to working. Matt disappeared to take a nap a few times.
So… my week’s prototype is called “MYbattery” and it is an energy monitor. Because we don’t really understand the relation between what we eat and do and how it affects our energy levels. Logging it is quite hard because of all the factors that go into our personal energy but maybe we can be made aware of it by a small personal device and start to find our own patterns.
The device has the shape of a battery, perhaps because in Spanish it’s common to say that you are ‘low on battery’ to refer to tiredness. And it has a green indicator with 5 steps that reflect how energetic you feel. What I like about this is that it is entirely in relation to yourself and perhaps observing this patterns would give us more understanding of ourselves.
Pictures of it:
For two years i lived in a strange environment regarding energy: a boat. Generators for the electricity meant that everything might as well be on, since once the generator is running it ‘doesn’t matter’ if it’s just a few lights or all of them on. Changes in technology made it worthwhile to throw out 12 plasma screens at once and the garbage, responding to maritime laws, had to be stored in lockers. At some stages of the trips, there would be buckets for food waste that helped us fill the lockers up slower (and less stinky) since the food waste was tossed over board. This only happens at certain distance from land. All of this in a community where one person pays the bills, only a few influence the shopping decisions of everything needed to be consumed aboard by (on average) 20 people.
I’ve written many times about how waste in NYC bothers me. For the past month or so I’ve picked up at least one thing from the garbage a week. Shelves, a small rolling table, milk crates, feathers… I’ve started to notice the patterns in the garbage in the streets and i go out of my way to walk on the blocks where I’ve seen the ‘best’ garbage before.
At home we compost, and I emphasize the we because I’m not sure I would do it if it was just me. Both because I’d probably eat at home less organic stuff and because I’m not sure I would have the persistence of going to Union Square twice or three times a week to drop off stuff. But Ben does. It’s interesting living with an environmentalist, who gives me a hard time for wasting 3 drops of soy sauce that didn’t get used at a sushi place, I’ve taken it on to myself a lot more than he expected.
It’s definitely concerning to look at a lot of the products we consume. Specially in the way I grew up, it was fine to use something once and throw it out. Reuse rarely happened and recycling was a fun activity that sometimes happened to make pretty paper but that’s about it. And it gets much more concerning in this country with the amount of disposable and single-use things in the market.
So… my waste this week: about 4 bags of compost, a small bag of actual landfill garbage, a couple of bottles of cleaning supplies. I bought a new computer for work and a toy set for my internship which brought a lot of packaging, cardboard box, styrofoam and plastic. A lot of water has been wasted in inefficient washing of dishes and clothes. A lot of sunlight I didn’t take advantage of and definitely time.
So how do I relate to all this to the way I think of energy…
A good network is reliable. Common goals don’t always exist but in the functioning of all the pieces, they are achieved.
The protocol makes the network possible by giving a common language where, even when the overall goals are not clear to all the parts, they are able to carry out their individual tasks and make it happen. The functioning of the network depends first on the USB connections that enable the serial information to go in and out of the computer and then on the software since the system can react to it’s neighbors about available paths and changes in the street level; paths that are currently blocked and also the beginning and ending points. Each node knows it’s own state and the distance of it’s neighbors to the destination.
Flow happens as the result of our network.
“The first mistake would be to give it a common technical meaning in the sense of a sewage, or train, or subway, or telephone ‘network’.” Bruno Latour
When we sat down to brainstorm on networks, a lot of stuff came up. We talked about the human body, the subway and telephone networks, the difference with a cellphone networks and the way cell towers work. We went through many ideas, mostly involving mirrors and projection of videos of bathrooms.
Then we settled on street grids and traffic. What’s interesting about street grids and traffic flow since they are a network that allows transportation, but like Latour points out it is perhaps a network in it’s technical definition and not as an actor-network. So we attempted to make it an actor network.
Three streets been crossed by 3 more in a perfect grid make for 9 intersections. They, in turn produce 12 different paths you can go down.
So what if they did have intelligence? If each street was able to redirect traffic depending on its knowledge of the other streets around it and the overall grid.
As Matt defined it, we would need 9 “intelligences”, perhaps Arduinos, that were able to talk to each other about the state of the network in order to make decisions. In this case the programming is what’s actually intelligent and makes it work as a network.
So… our reroute system is an example of how traffic could go from being a technical network, to an actor-network.
See a video here:
and more photos on flickr.
How it works
Magnetic sensors in the bottom are able to detect the blockers in the streets. Up to two blockers can be placed in any of the intersections and the system manages to find a way to avoid the blockers and still make it to the destination.
We have 4 movable pieces, 2 blockers and 2 start/end points. With all of them in the map, the software is able to find paths between them.
In reality we have 2 networks:
- the mesh network in software where once there’s a route request it is able to talk to all the other nodes in order to figure out the best possible path, and
- the ‘hard’ network, where the input Arduino gives serial data to the computer and the computer gives information to the output Arduino.
We used magnetic sensors, a total of 18 to handle the two types of signals we can have on any given intersection. One expects the start/end marker, the other expects the blocker.
LEDs light up the path that is accessible. One Arduino handles all the inputs and the second one, all the outputs.
The input Arduino is using a multiplexer to run through 16 switches and 2 more go into digital inputs. The output one controls 12 LEDs.
Some pictures of the process:
testing the switches
testing the multiplexor
code, code, code
making the board
and the box
first time it all came together
first look at the top of the board working
making it beautiful
is a concept in itself.
what technologies are dead?
when do they die? maybe they are still used somewhere…. yeah, but then again, I consider then to be dead when there’s no longer production in this format.
here are some pictures of the altar to dead technology:
After thinking so much about connections I came up with this.
I’m interested in connection to the dead, culturally and personally. But in order to explore it I want to use a subject that we (at ITP) can all relate to? Dead technology!
When and why do connections break? Technology seems to simplify this deep question: it becomes incompatible. We can’t put diskettes into CD drives or use car cellphones anymore. So it becomes junk or gets recycled in ingenious ways but it leaves behind a certain nostalgic feeling for it… that we can all relate to and therefore connects us.
What was missing from my altar project last week was connecting it to specific person or thing. It worked fine as an example of a module but not really as a finished shrine. In dedicating it to technology this week, I’m trying toestablish that connection towards the technology it’s dedicated to and ourselves as ITP.