After a few snags in materials and construction, Paola offered us a fantastic solution. She suggested placing fabric around the boxed structure and focus on using the materials that we know work (i.e. the elastic), instead of forcing the materials we considered more aesthetically in line with our concept. As mentioned in a previous post, the elastic works much better in getting a dynamic range from the painted on liquid graphite; the other materials, such as spandex and jersey, ended up breaking the connection too much after a few uses.
Below are the videos documenting our first working prototype for the final piece and a bit of user testing:
This paper is in SIGCHI format and was written for submission to the SIGCHI Conference on Tangible Embedded, Embodied Interaction 2012. You can download it here.
Modular toolkits and electronic textiles have emerged as highly effective resources to engage new audiences in computational learning. This paper will briefly review past relevant research in these domains, paying close attention to different taxonomies that consider the role of personal fabrication. Based on this analysis and user research, I will then introduce an interface prototype that is pedagogically concerned with user scalability and multiple points of entry. A specific focus is placed on the role materials play in achieving these pedagogical goals. I will close with plans for future iterations of the circuit mat and possible directions for development.
Video documentation for proof of (working) concept :: hooray!
My first attempt at salt and vinegar etching a PCB turned out to be a bust. I left the fabric in the solution for almost 24 hours instead of the recommended 12; this disintegrated the traces and lost all the connectivity. I am in the middle of a second attempt at the moment.
Two lessons to take:
For our final project in Soft Circuits, Kate Watkins and I will create a large scale interactive, fabric-based soft circuit. One of the key motivations for us in deciding on this project was challenging pre- and mis-conceptions of soft circuits, especially in terms of their possible functioning and durability.
Feedback and New Questions
We got some fantastic feedback and new focus after our first class presentation. The main questions and themes that arose were:
What are the assumptions we are dealing with? What does it mean to be durable? What are the terms and concepts we need to examine and define for ourselves? Moving forward, one idea mentioned is to associate each panel with a different assumption, which will allow users to push and pull it, discovering all the potential in between.
How can you exploit the cracks, literally and metaphorically – i.e. how can we use what we know doesn’t work to stretch the boundaries of possible interaction. For example, silk screened paint on fabric is not the most durable way to create a circuit because it will crack when overused, but this could be used as a switch: when the cracks come back together, they will still complete the circuit.
What types of materials will we use? And more importantly, how will they be executed within the structure? Will the materials be integrated or attached; i.e. will there be a panel of velostat that acts as the main material or will there piece pieces of it sewn onto a larger piece of spandex (or any other material). I think the former could be much more interesting for experimentation, but also much more expensive. TBD.
How will we get people to interact with our project? What are the interactions we want to see happen? Or at least how will we constrain the type of interaction to create a meaningful interaction for our audience? Cecilia rightly reminded us of how easy it is to assume people will telepathically connect with the concept and engage in the associated action (which is never the case). In doing so, she also insinuated the trap of a one off interaction, which is so easy to fall into and a terrible mire, or for loop better yet, to climb out of.
Moving forward, here are the requirements for our second round of prototypes next week:
Define interactions and interaction with materials
List of materials
Articulate how materials will integrated or attached
Our presentation is living here at the moment.