This post is a journal for the module “Embodied Interaction” at Zurich University of Arts in the fifth semester of the Interaction Design course.
17.09. Monday – Kick-Off
Like most modules, our docents began with a short kick-off for the whole module where we were introduced to the overall topic and received all the necessary information for the following five weeks.
To begin, our teacher Joëlle introduced a small challenge for the next 24h. The assignment was to track data or traces from our body in an analog way. This should help us to get a little into the topic and make some more thoughts about it.
I found my topic really quickly because I was fascinated a lot by the field of skin conductance, more precisely Electrodermal activity, short EDA.
Actually, it’s quite a simple thing. If we get stressed (generally), we tend to sweat on our fingers. This can be easily measured by the change of conductivity on the skin caused by the sweat. The fascinating thing is, that this can change within seconds so correlations can be easily made. On the other hand, this also makes it hard to interpret it since our body is so sensitive. At least it’s very hard to control by the body and often times are driven by emotions we feel. Also, it is technically relatively easy to measure.
This sensor is – in combination with other sensors – is used in falsely called lie detectors. But since these sensors only show discomfort or kind of stress, it’s not really possible to completely identify a lie and so this machine shouldn’t be called like that.
To measure my sweaty fingers, I decided to draw a spot with a soft pencil in my notebook, put my thumb and my index finger on it and drag smear my finger down to the page. With the gradient of the track, I was able to see how wet my fingers were.
I repeated that after sitting on the atelier terrace, after the bike ride, while cooking, while eating spicy food and after doing dishes. Instead of doing it on a fixed timescale, I wanted to examine some certain events.
The actual thing that interested me was the effect from my body on my fingers but after washing the dishes (and drying my hand) my fingers obviously were very dry. This is more an effect from outside directly on my fingers and not through my body and brain. But I also continue to observe these things.
17.09. Tuesday – Introduction in the topic
I continued with my data tracking after I woke up and when I drove to school, back home (because I forgot my notebook) and back to school (I’ve been really sweaty, not only on my fingers).
In school, we presented our work an received a little bit of feedback by our teacher Joëlle.
Methodology, case studies
Also, Joëlle made a very interesting presentation about methodologies and case studies. The methodology included datagraphy, personal data that could be gathered (body data, physiological data, live stats, network-based data, and admin data).
Also, she introduced us to a taxonomy of digitally fabricated data outputs. I think this helps us a lot to not get completely lost in this field which still if fairly new to us.
- Data Sculptures
- Form Chasers
- Fixture as Structures (metaphor for expressions i.e. sofa -> brain waves)
- Performers (Interactive, music from answers)
- Mavericks (machines that are different i.e. satellite path on a card)
- Body as interface
Following ways to translate data into a representation:
- XYZ translation (into 3D space)
- Metaphor as data
- Existing grammar
- (unreadable on my notes)
18.09. Wednesday – Bodystorming and Inspiration
This morning started with a small assignment that was given to us on the previous day. The idea was to make a short performance of approximately three minutes to display the analog data we collected. It was very funny and still interesting start and sometimes we couldn’t hold it back to laugh very hard.
I decided to represent the data with sound. So, I took the OP-1 pocket synthesizer (which helps me in all situations) with me, chose a synthesizer and pitch, and mapped a single note on a step built-in step sequencer to make sure the note is always played with the same length. I translated the gradient I had in my notebook from putting my finger on the pencil spot from the previous in the decay of the note I played. Therefore I went back into synthesizer mode and mapped the decay of the sound to the gradient I perceived and mentioned the event I was recording my sweat on the fingers, such as while cooking, after cycling and so on. It maybe wasn’t a “productive” exercise but still, it helped me to gently get into the topic.
I think the fascination about data is more than it could give us accurate, unbiased and objective insides when we do not even have to think about it. These advantages are usually not here in an analog way. But especially because these measurements are biased, it helps (in my opinion) much more to be aware of what we are measuring and the overall situation. It doesn’t tempt us to focus too much on every detail and this is especially helpful in the beginning.
Performance about another person
After our personal performance, we were asked to form groups to observe the traces/data a group partner leaves and make a little performance afterward again.
Dani and decided to do that together and spend lunchtime to observe each other. We found a few tricks about each other but we were not really satisfied with this idea. After a while, we met a girl which was having her second day at Cast (audiovisual media) who introduced herself very friendly but also in a weird way. We noticed how hard and awkward these situations can be so we decided to make a performance as if we meet each other the first time. Included was an awkward asking for the right room, the question what we are studying and a weird handshake/clap/hug.
Research Verena Ziegler
Verena Ziegler introduced us to her research which changed from architecture to “interactive” fabrics, all with new digitally fabricated technologies.
Along with that, she has shown us tons of great inspiration in the field of embodied fabrication.
- “Walking City”, Archigram, 1960
- “Body Extension”, Lydia Clark, 60s
- “Cool Himmelblau”, 1971
- “Finger Glover” / “Einhorn”, Rebecca Horn, 1970
- “Mobile Office”, Hane Holler, 1969
- Lucy McRae
- Iris van Herpen
- “Shrink”, Lawrence Malstrat
- James Merry (Björn)
- Nero Oxman
Data output repetition
After our brains were completely blown away by the projects that have been done our docent Joëlle made some repetition. It included:
- Data mapping
- XYZ Mapping
- Existing grammar
- Machine Properties
- Purpose driven design
- Data driven design.
This should prepare us for the following brainstorm session.
Since I’m not such a fan of brainstorms I tried to make something different. I knew that we were making a speed dating brainstorm and from my previous experience, I knew that sometimes it isn’t working with every person. So instead of pressuring me, I accepted that sometimes I had no idea but I asked questions to my brainstorm partner to challenge them for some ideas.
After all, we found some pretty interesting ideas which we all collected in front of the class and briefly discussed.
The goal of the day was to build groups and find a direction of the topic we want to focus on. During the brainstorming sessions, Daniel Holler and I had a great flow so we decided to go further on our ideas. After a ping pong session, we agreed to focus on sweat and do some general research what sweat can mean in society.
20.09. Friday – Working on the topic
This is a post written by my co-worker Daniel E. Holler on his Blog.
The project is slowly gaining some shape and color. On Wednesday, the big performance day, we had the chance to enjoy some theatrical, didactical and funny performance presentations from our classmates. After having had the first contact with personal data and how we can creatively express it, we had to dig deeper in the afternoon and closely observe some ticks or little habits of strangers, and again perform it in front of the class. This lead to a more concise finding of ideas, in the form of a creative speed dating.
After the speed dating my idea slowly crystallized about the same subject as Vinzenz’s: We want to work with sweat. We were intrigued by its simplicity, its raw nature but especially by its very variegated purpose for humans and animals.
This morning after having made a quick research session about the subject, our ideas started flowing and flowing. From highlighting sweat and making it a (fashion) statement to make a portable sweat diary, to have some sort of second skin where sweat could be represented.
Currently, we are having a little trouble to connect the dots: the measurable data, the product, and the purpose. We also dove into some metaphors which are related to sweat. Quickly we found the strigil, a sort of scraping tool used by ancient Greeks, in order to cleanse the skin before and after doing sport.
A typical strigil
The significance of sweating in the ancient cultures we found something really interesting: Sweating was regarded by many cultures spanning the whole globe as cleansing. Sweating cleansed the body psychologically and physically in a sort of ritual. This sacral importance of sweating completely lost its meaning in nowaday’s society, where sweating is regarded as something to be frowned upon.
The Concept (?)
The current state of our very raw concept would connect a simple monitoring of when and how much a body sweats, transcribe the data into a digitally fabricated object (preferably sturdy and durable materials) and for example, wear the solidified sweat (as we all know sweat probably the most ephemeral secretion of the body). The solidified sweat would hide bodyparts but at the same time, the “undesired” sweat is made visible. Furthermore, we would like to connect these aspects of our concept with the metaphor of rituals, but we will start to experiment first with the sweat sensor in order to guide our concept into the right direction.
20.09. Friday – Rhino & Grasshopper Introduction
Drawing, Primitives, Boolean Operations, and Loft
Since we already had an introduction in Rhino last year, the overview in the software was a little short. We right away jumped into the curve drawing tool which we used to draw an arrow. A handy tool is the search bar where all commands just can be typed and the command bar when the drawing tool is selected. This way you can select the starting point first (comma separated for x and y coordinates) and after pressing enter the actual length of the stroke you want to draw. The drawn curve we than extruded. To have a better view on it we changed the preview method to a version which was previewing the model in 3D instead of just lines by a right click on the camera perspective name.
Later on, we just played around with primitives such as cubes, cylinders, spheres, text, and pipes which was a curve combined with a circle curve.
Boolean operations were actually very straightforward as we know it from other graphic softwares. But there is a huge catalog with different operators which are still to explore.
At the and we combined two simple curves into a simple loft. This loft can be rendered with straight sections so that it could for example cut onto a flat surface which then again can be assembled into a 3D structure.
Then finally we started with Grasshopper to generate some cool stuff. First of all, we had an intro to the overall interface but it’s really messy and hard to learn. The nice thing is, that a double click on the Grasshopper canvas opens up a search bar similar to the one in Rhino where elements to place can be found.
First confusing thing is that there are two different ways to draw primitives. First, draw it in Rhino and connect it to an object by right-clicking on the Grasshopper element and selecting to connect an object. These Grasshopper objects have a hexagon shape around them. Second, is to generate an object in Grasshopper and this is just done by adding the same kind of element but without the hexagon.
Generate and Divide Loft from Three Points
Later in Rhino we drew three points and connected them with Rhino (select multiple points) draw a line between them which then were generated into a plane which we divided into two numbers (chosen by a number slider) into parts (with “Divide Domain^2”) and then created a box out of them with “Isotrim” and “Surface Box” where the height was controlled by a slider again.
Going on with the previous work, we draw a so called “Bounding Box” which contained a sphere which was subtracting it from the box. This “Bounding Box” then was added into every section we previously divided from the loft. I did not really get how we made this but I guess that’s fine.
The next one was much easier to grasp. We drew two curves, divided them into points and connected these points with a curve. A pipe then let these lines look much cooler.
These pipes then can be shifted by a certain factor.
Working With a Face
To finish all up, we scanned a classmates face with the software “Skanect” and then continued to modify it with Grasshopper.
The scan was built up with a polygon structure which is widely used by many 3D tools. Each polygon has three points which we separated using list item and an index for each list item. The function “InCircle” finds the inner center of three points where we generated an area inside and extruded it to a certain amount and closed by the function “Cap Holes”. Then we scaled X Y and Z coordinates and we had a cool kind of parametric work on a scanned human body part.
26.09. Wednesday – 3D Printing Intro
For the whole day, an introduction to 3D printing and serval software tools was planed. Therefore, the whole class met in the 3D printer corner of the low-level workshop in ZHdK with Roman Jurt, Co-Founder of the Fablab Zurich and lecturer at industrial design.
Material Archive 3D Beacon
First of all, we were introduced to the new printers Roman assembled and put onto nice racks. The first exercise was to print new beacons for the material archive at ZHdK by turning the model that should be printed in the preparation tool «UP Studio» to get a sense how to achieve the best result of printing and to avoid to much support structure on the print.
I tried to very extreme and placed the object beacon on a tip of the edge expecting it to fall down. But actually it was printed without a lot of trouble, only edges were not perfect and the extruded letters were not very clean. In the end, almost no support structure was needed.
Roman continued with a presentation with projects he made and tools he used. This was very inspirational and I think also important to get a little the way he approaches these projects with much more experience than we do.
Also, he introduced us to serval tools with his own touch to approach it. First, he gave us a little overview of what are the differences and what’s available. Major differences are knobs based and polygon based tools. Knobs are like vectors we know from Illustrator. Very simplified, you can draw curves and process the space or surface in between those curves. More comparable to pixels are polygons which are used in other tools. It basically works with three connected points in the three-dimensional space which provide a surface which can be connected with more polygons to a bigger and more variable, big surface. There is also kind of “3D Pixels” which we know from Mindcraft and are mainly used in VR tools (which can also be used for modeling) but are rather niche products.
Tinkercad is maybe the simples 3D tool available and super straightforward. Since we played around with it in previous courses it wasn’t a big deal anymore for us. Still, it was a refresher and Roman could introduce very cool new features in our workflow. So, it’s possible to draw an object duplicate it (CMD + D), move, rotate (or edit it in another way) and duplicate it again with the shortcut. This way, all the edits will be applied to the duplication in a further step which is great to make cool pattern very quickly.
We already heard many things about Onshape from our Industrial Design colleagues but never worked with it. It’s a professional online 3D CAD to work collaboratively in real time and with a version control. It’s an amazing piece of software btw. But of course the learning curve is much, much higher than Tinkercad but as Roman says still easier than other CAD. And indeed, after getting the basics it’s pretty straightforward. At the end of the afternoon we had a group challenge to build a space rocket with the whole class working at the same time which miserably failed because no one had an idea how to deal with the software. So Roman took over and used it as an intro to Onshape.
It’s hard to get for what Meshmixer is actually useful for. But Roman showed us some tools to make a beautiful mesh out of a model, how to close holes and to analyze the object. Also, it has a way to build support pillars inside of the model which would be hard with the auto creating support structure of G-Code software. Sometimes it’s better to have full control over it.
Most of the afternoon, we had time to work on our project in doing some experiments.
Daniel experimented in Tinkercad to produce a different kind of structures to give the material a feeling for excitement or uncomfortableness to find a balance in the material and examine when it starts to change.
I continued to work with Grasshopper to learn more about how it works. Therefore I watched some Youtube videos and tried to apply some tings I learned in the previous course. My goal was to find out how to apply data later on in the 3D models.
28.09. Wednesday – Refining Concept I
In the previews day, we made experiments to scare some of our friends and measured their finger conductivity on their fingers. We found out that after the short shock, they became much more relaxed which was also supported by some research we found. To move on by we decided to finally focus on work context to force people to not be stressed at work. By scaring them we can first force them to stop buying too much into the current rhythm and help them to relax.
We first looked up some references to for wearables to get a little of aesthetic view for it and built something like a mood board. Also, we looked up for similar projects in the field and why they were made.
Then we also found an interesting article for a device that was able to recognize if a real (natural) or a synthetic voice was speaking. Very cool and interesting with the emerging of artificial intelligence which enables always better synthetic voices and could lead to serious problems in communication when people are not used to it and trust voices. But the very interesting thing was how the user was warned of the synthetic voice. It was a small Peltier element that was cooling down as soon a synthetic voice was detected. So we wrote that down for the next task to do.
How to Scare
There are many ways to scare people and mostly they are very well interconnected with our senses so we react before we actually can think about it. This actually is essentially getting scared.
But most ideas such as flashing light and loud noises were too distracting or not as unexpected such as something that pressures you. So, after short brainstorming and discussion, we decided to test the cooling with all the properties that are also working in an office environment.
So we went into the thrift shop “Brockiland” to buy super cheap bags with straps to attach something on our body. In the meantime we let some water froze to use it after. In the thrift shop, we found a cool backpack with an aluminum frame which we could strap on our bag easily and enabled us to test all sorts of attachments on our body with ease.
On the way back to school, we passed by our favorite electronic store Pusterla to ask for a Peltier element. We were not surprised that they had multiple elements but unfortunately they were too big with 45 mm on each side. This would take a lot of flexibility from us in terms of the size, because we need to build an even bigger cooling system around as well as with the power supply but also how we attache it. It was also not necessary since we don’t want to cool down a small fridge. We also assume that smaller elements would cool down faster.
With the ice, we tried to scare each other and see if the reaction was the same as just scaring people before which was successful.
From that, Dani began to sketch some ideas of an advanced prototype so we can better communicate with each other but also with mentors to move on quicker.
Support From the Lab
In the meantime, I wrote a mail to Clemens Winkler, one of our lecturers from the IAD Lab. We knew that he would have some experience with it and could help us along.
02.10. Tuesday – Refining Concept II
03.10. Wednesday – Mentoring, and Sickness
In the morning we had a mentoring. Because Daniel had to work during the night, we switched up with some groups and were the last group for the mentoring. We met some before and created together a short summary of our journey of work. This is always a good chance to structure your concept and reflect like writing this blog.
We enthusiastically presented our work to our mentors and the feedback was quite good. They liked our concept but highlighted the following points to be careful with:
- Is it necessary to compare with other (worse) health gadgets?
- They would not recommend it.
- There are many really bad and useless health gadgets but we should not overgeneralize this. There are also gadgets which a lot of respectable science is behind and really help people without giving wrong promises.
- Not collecting data is great but we should also highlight why this is important i.e. that insurance companies are really looking for this.
- We said we don’t want to be our device be taken seriously. That’s a bit an easy cheat to also not work seriously. According to our intentions, we should rather name it playful.
- We criticized the promise as a magic cure which some devices make. This is a bit harsh, generalized and sometimes even some “magic things” work. We shouldn’t think black and white.
To not risk too much, Dani went home to get some rest because he really felt sick.
In the meantime, I continued to work with the Peltier element. It was very straightforward. Connected to the power source it cooled down on one side and heated in another. Then I did some research on hardware that is missed and we need to get from the Lab.
Also, I prepared for the presentation we had in the class. Therefore I just continued to nail down the presentation we made for our mentors and made it more beautiful. I changed the things that were criticized and ask Dani to check it out at home.
Then I prepared our prototype for the presentation by attaching our prototype element to the backpack frame vertically and horizontally with straps. In the style atelier, I froze some water in forms that were exactly fitting for the prototype element.
I also felt a little dizzy, which was why I decided to go home a bit earlier to prevent to get sick.
04.10. Thursday – Presentation, Sickness, and Tech
Dani still wasn’t getting better. Actually worse. So, we decided to have him just for the presentation and then leave home. The presentation was very similar to the previous one we had with our mentors and the feedback was mostly good. Unfortunately, there was not a lot to add but we again realized that we need to work more on the embodiment.
As planed, Dani left immediately after the presentation to go home and recover.
I contacted Luke from the Interaction Design Lab for some technical support. He said that he only had some minutes but that was enough for me.
In the afternoon, we met in the lab. He gave me a new Peltier element with the cooling element (heat sink) already glued on one side. Additionally a battery with 1.5 volt which was close enough to the prescribed 1.7 volts, a transistor, a breadboard and some jumper cable for the Arduino. The goal was that I was able to control the temperature of the Peltier element by the Arduino. At this point huge thanks to Luke for the time and patience although he had many other things to do and also more important things going on in life.
The Arduino setup was quite simple. Between the ground from going out from the Peltier element I put the Transistor and connected the plus pole to the plus pole of the Peltier element. Thought the PWM output of an Arduino pin, I connected the Arduino to the element which then could break (with the PWM-Signal) really quick to change the “resistance”. Actually, the PWD signal and also the transistor turns on and of the connection so quick that it’s almost like a variable resistor. New thing for me.
One problem I had was that I thought the connection to control the “rhythm” of the on and off of the resistor was in the middle. This is called “Base”, the “input” is called “Collector” and the kind of “output” “Emitter”. So according to the data sheet this was not true. The base was left (number 1 / B), the collector in the middle (number 2 / C) and the emitter on the right (number 3 / E). Big shoutout to Michael Schönenberger for the help. Without him, I would have gone crazy and I learned a lot even how to measure electricity with a measuring tool. https://slideplayer.com/slide/6114082/
So technically, we are now able to control the temperature by Arduino although we only need an on and of a switch.
09.10. Tuesday – Building Fairly Advanced Prototype
With the fresh week, we already had a mentoring coming where we should present a fairly advanced prototype which should be in “real size” and going into the final direction we want to build the final piece.
Last week we managed to overcome our sickness but also to make a Peltier element run on a simple Arduino setup.
But when we tested it, we were not quite satisfied. The element was getting somehow cool, but as soon we touched it, it was getting warm. Obviously, the surface of the Peltier element was conducting heat/cold very well and so it was not very effective on something that warms like our skin. So there wasn’t really a shocking moment of cold.
On a (or few more) Friday evening beer the week before, our class colleague and tireless competition (joke) Aurelian said that it might be simpler to work with an ice spray. I kept the idea growing during the weekend and proposed it to Dani. After thinking for some minutes we bought a nasty smelling, ordinary sports cooling spray.
The first thing we did with the cooling spray was again testing. We tested it on us and as well on a female testing subject with the GSR sensor we already used a lot. As well here the result was clear.
So what to do with the spray? Simply spraying it on the back was too simple, not embodied and also kind of dangerous because the skin could be burned. So one of the simplest ideas was to get some plastic pipes in the workshop. In the pipe, we cut some holes and sprayed some spray through it. Close to the body, the result was literally pretty cool because all the pipe felt very intensively cold. The problem was, that it needed to be attached tightly to the body which was not easy with the plastic pipe. We stuck a lot of body hair in between which shows our dedication.
Since Verena Ziegler showed us her 3D prints on textile, it seemed as everyone wanted to try it as well and there were samples of it lying everywhere in the atelier. So, we also had to try it. It almost felt so natural to go there because all around was full with it.
So we tried to stretch textile and mesh textile. The flexible ones were not really able to let the 3D prints stick on the textile but the ones with a rough mesh were holding more strongly. Still, it was not really satisfying and we didn’t want to create a skin-tight piece of clothing.
So we very quickly had the idea of Kinesio tape. It could be attached directly to the skin like a wearable. The pipes could be directly printed on the tape and form to the body shape. This was our thoughts but now to practice.
So we spent way to much time on creating a 3D model (first with Rhino, then with Cinema4D) and printed it on the Kinesio tape which was attached elaborately on the printing surface with Duct Tape.
On the first trial, we recognized that more surface of the object on the textile would not give us necessary more grip on the textile but more surface to be ripped off while having the textile flexible.
Second thing was, that the shape or curve of the object was giving different properties on bending it. Sounds very obvious but is still very important.
Now we tried to have a shape that is curved so it should be more flexible to bend.
It was very time consuming and needed serval trials to print. We had a lot of problems with the model, the wall thickness, witch the Kinesio tape and with uncalibrated or damaged 3D printers.
That was very exhausting but we made a small piece before we were completely falling apart.
16.10. Tuesday – Production
Only two days were left until the end of the module of our project. Since we had to make a presentation with a performance we wanted to finish the production as much as possible to dedicate the following day fully to the presentation.
The goal was to have all models and have them all printed on Kinesio tape.
We had the technical constraint that we only had 3D printers that were able to print a fairly small surface. On the other side, the Kinesio tape would offer us to print long and thin structures on it. But because this wasn’t possible, we chose to make multiple modular parts that could be interconnected with small plastic tubes.
Therefore, we redrew all the so-called splines for the actual path on the tape and the cross-section of the pipe in Adobe Illustrator. As done in the previous days, these splines can then easily imported into Cinema 4D. We agreed to make three shapes with different bending properties to represent the possibilities.
An adjustment from the last experiments was that we decided to make the pipe flatter. This would give the print on the tapeless stiffness which then is better for the overall flexibility. This is very crucial because the tape is attached directly on the body and is exposed to all movements. Subsequently, we had to change the end and beginnings to connect the plastic tubes from the elements to each other and connected from the cooling spray to the first pipe element a bit higher end wider.
In theory, it would have been very easy to model the connector and attach it to the ends of the pipe we created before. But in reality, it was not. Modeling it was a big pain because we used the Cinema 4D “Sweep Tool” to connect two different cross sections (from the pipe to the tube height) to an expanding pipe. To connect all the parts correctly took us a lot of time but was fairly simple. We finally managed it thanks to the help of Alessandro Holler, the brother of Daniel and the assistant of Scientific Visualization at ZHdK. But that was not enough of trouble. Connecting the two parts — the pipe and the connector — was not really working. Alessandro was trying to help with his little time he had but obviously also had other things to do. After trying to unsuccessfully connect the polygons of both parts manually, all of a sudden it worked just with the regular boolean tool which connects two objects together but never worked at the first trial in this day.
Without questioning too much, we created the two elements and ran to the printers. But again we had trouble. First of all, the slicing software UP Studio rendered a raft and support structure of the print although we removed it in the settings. Trying for a long time and adjusting shapes did not help. But again, magically we figured out that if we turn the model by 90 degrees it worked. There’s no actual reason for it but it works.
But also while printing we encountered another problem: Some of the printers were not really calibrated well and just ripped off the Kinesio tape we attached on the printing surface. We did not even know that it was possible to calibrate the 3D printers but luckily, a guy from industrial design showed us how to.
Finally, after many hours, we were able to print almost six exemplars of two shapes each. We agreed to stop at this point because we knew that the next and final day will be exhausting and we should save some energy for the last run.
Nevertheless, I quickly modeled the last shape at home in the bed, hoping that the next day will be a bit more productive.