Wiring Challenges 2: Information Gadget

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by Lina Antolínez in collaboration with Jaime Patarroyo and Carlos Mario Rodríguez

This challenge was designed as an exercise for beginners. It is a basic approach to tangible interactions and prototyping with electronics. We assume that all the people involved in the resolution of this challenge have a previous knowledge in basic programming platforms like Processing and that Wiring software has been downloaded and installed.

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Brief Design a friendly interactive device which transforms a condition of the environment in information for people using
light, sound or movement. This information device must have a relevant application based on an specific physical
phenomenon such as light, touch, force, presence, distance, humidity, position, temperature and sound. Each group
can work with one or two of these phenomena and consider the next 4 questions to solve the challenge.

  • What do I want to measure?
  • Who do I want to inform?
  • Why is it relevant for them?
  • Where is it going to be?

What do we need?

  • A Wiring i/o board per group
  • Generic USB cable
  • Sensors or Actuators for each phenomena selected
    • Temperature: LM35
    • Light: Photoresistor, LEDs, LEDmatrix
    • Movement: Potentiometer, Switches, Tilt sensor, Mercury Switches, Motor
    • Sound: Microphone, Speakers
  • UTP cable without endings(3m)
  • Soldering iron, solder wire and paste
  • Multi-pin socket connectors or 8 wire assembly jumpers
  • Wire stripper, diagonal cutter and pliers

How to develop this challenge? If this challenge is going to be used as a workshop, it can be developed in 2 days. The first day, the Understand phase has to be developed in 3 hours and in the second day Build, Adjust and Test phases should be developed in 6 to 8 hours.

If this challenge is going to be applied in an academic context for a class or similar, it can be developed in 3 weeks with a 3hour meeting session per week. Understand phase has to be developed in the first session, Build and Adjust phases will be developed out of the meetings but checked during the second session. And finally Test phase has to be developed in the third session.



Step 1: Introduction

What is this challenge about?

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We live and spend all the time of our life interacting with physical phenomena that we rarely understand. We know there is something called light, humidity pressure and temperature. Furthermore we can say light changes during the day, that humidity changes between a place to another or that temperature changes depending on the seasons, but for sure we don’t know how they are measured or simpler what does 80 lumen mean.
We are not familiar to that information because we cannot feel it or see it or because it doesn’t mean a thing unless that information is saying something about a place or a specific context. For example if I’m driving a car in a normal highway and the dashboard shows 80mph (136.7km/h), for sure I know that I must reduce the speed if I don’t want to get a ticket or if I don’t want to die soon : ) .
It is only until those phenomena are transformed into different languages, such as form, light, sound and movement in the dashboard, that we can say we understand them and that we can find a meaning or a relevant use in that information.
The challenge this time is to understand one physical phenomenon so that we can transform or translate that information we collect, in some friendly information devices to enhance, improve or make happier our daily life.

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Cc license.png Images above are under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license
and belong to SOLSTICE CETL and FrancoisRoche, Flickr users.

Step 2: Starting Point

How do we understand and interact with different physical phenomena and how can we transform them in relevant information for ourselves?

This is the moment to present the brief and the focus of the projects to be developed in the challenge. The focus can be toys, gadgets, spaces or space interventions and apps.


For a workshop challenge at Los Andes University we chose paper toys. The files for printing and folding can be downloaded bellow. Participants can use them to create their own interactive paper toy. Feel free to use other designs and materials for the toy.

Paper Toy 1 download for Wiring 1.0 i/o board

Paper Toy 2 download for Wiring S i/o board


For an academic challenge in Interactive Media course at Los Andes University we chose information gadget. This time students were allowed to choose their own phenomena.

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Teams or teachers can also propose a new focus for projects. Toys and gadgets focuses are ideal for short workshops sessions. Collaborative work has to be done between groups when space focus is chosen.
* If you want to share your new focus with Wiring community and add it to this challenge, feel free to send an email to challenges[at]wiring.org.co.

Step 3: Inspirations

What could be useful to solve this challenge?

Select and present projects that show different ways of solving the challenge appropriately. The following projects were chosen as inspirations for this challenge and are particularly outstanding for presenting simple information in a relevant context and translating data captured in meaningful and friendly devices.

Social-environmental Station by Estudio 6 2008-1 class of Los Andes University + Hernando Barragán + Felipe Mesa Website

Wch2 EstaciónSocioAmbiental.png

Just as there are traffic lights that help us regulate traffic both vehicular and pedestrian, why not talk about environmental signals? They could give us information not only from different phenomena but also the environmental state of our ecosystems. We can imagine these lights in different parts of the city, in parks, contaminated or abandoned contexts.

ECOPODS by Erez Kikin-Gil Website

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Are a series of eggs that capture information related to different physical phenomena. This information can be visualized in an application that recreates scenarios in which these phenomena are important, such as light or humidity when there is a growing plant. Children can interact with these eggs to modify data captured and visualized.

Step 4: Content

What do we need to know to solve the challenge?

In this challenge it is important to do some exercises to understand how to use specific electronics components that could be useful for some projects. With these exercises students or participants can become familiar with components and i/o board connections. Exercises of the Getting Started section are ideal for this but we will change some analog sensors and include LED matrix programing exercise.

1. LED Blink Turn on and off a LED

2. Photoresistor Connect a photoresistor and turn on a LED when reaching a specific value.

3. Switch Connect a Switch and turn on a LED when pressing it.

4. Digital Read Read and print data from a digital pin.

5. Analog Read Reand and print a value from an analog pin.

6. Sending Multiple Data Sending data from Wiring to Processing

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For academic processes we suggest that students read fist chapters of Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte* before the challenge.
* Tufte, Edward, Envisioning Information. Graphics Pr, 1990. ISBN-10: 0961392118, ISBN-13: 978-0961392116 .


Step 5: Planning

Which is the interaction experience for every device?

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Participants should think about their own projects and design an interaction experience for their devices.

When designing toys, every team should draw a little life story for that toy, so that it could be easier to think about the narrative for the experience. Think about how the toy looks like? How does it feel or act? What is his world like?

When designing other devices, we suggest you to give each team a phenomenon so that they can investigate about it and think in different scenarios and contexts for it. Then, they can think about spaces, objects and people in those scenarios and consider the four questions at the beginning.

Share sketches and present the experiences designed by each team to get feedback and opinions of others.

These are some of the projects developed during version 1.0 and 2.0 of this challenge:

The Library v.2.0 by (pending)

File:Wch2 bocetoBiblioteca.png

The library is a concept developed for reading and research spaces, it was thought for schools and colleges. A “noise sensor” located in these places will control the level of the light, so that when there is people talking, light level will go down and people wont be able to read. In this way everybody should be quite for not interrupting others in the space.

Fúrico Sketch by Carolina Agudelo, Diana Sánchez and Juan David Contreras

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Fúrico is a paper toy based on Temperature physical phenomenon. Because it was developed during a short workshop session its interaction experience had to be very simple. Fúrico is a grumpy toy that likes to be alone and don’t like people to touch him. Fúrico will start vibrating when somebody grabs his hand because he is getting mad. Fúrico doesn’t want to be bothered, so it is better to leave him alone.

Undersky Sketch by Sergio Muñoz and Sebastián Navarrete

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This umbrella was designed during an academic exercise. Undersky can display 1 to 4 constellations of stars when the sky darkens, maybe because it is cloudy and it is going to rain. The more it is raining, the more it is cloudy and dark in a place. Undersky feels light level from the environment and transforms it in constellations. The more constellations are displayed, the less light level and the more it is supposed to be raining.

Step 6: Implementation

What do you need to make real the interaction?

Understand actions, phenomena, components and identify which are the right ones to build a prototype and why.

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Undersky team did a very nice work in this part. They chose illumination phenomenon and decided to use a photoresistor, placed in the top of the umbrella. This position will facilitate measuring the amount of light, pointing directly to the sky when someone is using the umbrella. They also chose 4 different colors for LEDs to display constellations on the inner surface. LEDs allowed them to “draw” each constellation in a very “cheap”, practical, neat and nice way.

Step 7: Connections

How do the components should be connected?

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After choosing the electronic components, they have to be tested in a breadboard before welding any component. Once the components work you can install them in the prototype structure and weld all the connections.

Sergio and Sebastian, form Undersky team built the circuit over the breadboard and tested the photoresistor working together with the LEDs. To create the connections they followed the schematics in the Learning section. When the light changed (or photoresistor was covered), Wiring sent the value captured by the photoresistor and turned on the constellations according to the value.

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It is important to be sure that the connections are well done to avoid burning any component and that the wires are protected at the moment of integrating them to the prototype.


Step 8: Problems and Adjustments

What problems were identified and how were they solved?

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Participants must identify the problems that they had at the moment of integrating the circuit to the prototype and make different plans to solve them. Examine the most common problems and make necessary adjustments for each problem identified.

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One common problem is the Limitation of Components because of considering a component before designing the interaction. This mistake will lead the team to design something attached literally to the component. For example, pressing a switch with the finger like a simple button to turn on a toy. What if, the toy is turned on by shaking it to wake him up?

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For building Undersky umbrella, team passed the wires through the shank and they broke it because wires were very thick so they had to change them for thinner ones. Because of this, they also had a problem of portability. Wires were too heavy and Wiring 1.0 was too big to hide. Sergio and Sebastian made the right decision: they used a Wiring mini.


Step 9: Presentation

Participants of the challenges should present their projects and the process till the last result. The explanation of the interaction should be clear and demonstration should be preferable in the real context. Every resulting project has to have a description showing how it works and has to be documented with photos and video to be added to the Wiring Challenges Exhibition


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In case of an academic context, the team or the teacher should evaluate some criteria during the competition:
Interaction: Does the device allow the user to intuit naturally the actions that he has to do? The actions that the user does are coherent with the phenomena?
Robustness: Does the device works well at the moment of the presentation and keeps working anytime after it?
Finishings: Is the prototype completely finished? Is its physical aspect coherent with the interaction experience? Is it a finished prototype, robust and clean without the use of expensive or final materials?
Components Choosing: Are the electronic components the most appropriate to measure the actions that the user does?

Step 10: Certificate

In this last step the certificates of participation should be given to the participants. For doing this, the team should download the file bellow and print the necessary amount depending on the number of participants and fill them with the information about this challenge. You can also send it by email and save paper.

Download Certificate of Participation: Wiring challenges 2

This challenge was developed twice at Universidad de Los Andes

Version 1.0 – October 2011

Leader Team: Lina Antolínez, Jaime Patarroyo and Carlos Mario Rodríguez.

Support Team: Sergio Galvis and Sebastián Galvis from Tienda de Robótica.

Photo and Video: Juan David Contreras and Jaime Patarroyo.

Version 2.0 – March 2012

Leader Team: Lina Antolínez, Martha Maldonado, Jaime Patarroyo, Carlos Mario Rodríguez and Luis Alzate.

Advisors: David de los Reyes and Lina Huertas.

Photo and Video: David de los Reyes.

Language: English  • Español
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