Class notes for an introductory electronics workshop I recently taught at The Public School are now available at http://la.thepublicschool.org/class-notes/253. This page, and the 8-bit Lab initiative at TPS is still a work in progress.. a couple more classes that are coming up soon are 8-bit Lab: LEDs on May 23rd and Practical Electro-Mechanisms on June 20th.
The January/February issue of Technology Review features a beautiful photo gallery of integrated circuit images from 1950’s till now, entitled Moore’s Law. I guess my mac mini has what the second image shows on the inside.
Click the image to view our 2009 greetings card.
Some pictures from a sensors workshop we ran recently for a corporate client. We had an afternoon to introduce designers who are complete electronics novices to analog and digital sensors, providing them with a context for brainstorming and designing new kinds of interfaces. We used pre-programmed Arduino boards and a hand-picked set of components to get the participants playing around and thinking about space, human scale and scenario.
Last month we spent about two weeks in Europe working on a project sponsored by Vodafone together with Experientia, an experience design consultancy based in Italy. The first stop was Düsseldorf (pictured above), home to one of Vodafone’s R&D labs. We didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, but one of the highlights was a delicious pork hock procured in a local beer hall.
Next we traveled to beautiful Torino, Experientia’s hometown. We had a great time exploring the city’s miles (er, kilometers) of arcades, museums (Egyptian cat mummies!) and a bit of countryside on the slopes of Alps near Ivrea thanks to our host and project lead Jan-Christoph Zoels :)
A bunch of circuits that arrived last week courtesy of Sparkfun’s BatchPCB. There are a couple of electroluminescent driver board designs, a set of little round circuits to be used in a small installation project we’re planning for this fall, the latest DELO revision, and a circular PCB for another as yet unannounced watch project :)
Three recent additions to the projects section of the site: FutureBoston is an urban data visualization tool written in Processing, Reactive is a collection of motion graphics stills created over the past year, and Ouip! is a hand-held Linux device we recently finished for think/thing.
The latest issue of the Communications of the ACM focuses on “Organic User Interfaces,” and includes a short article we wrote about various display technologies. The term “organic” in this context refers, not to chemical composition, but to the physical flexibility and non-planarity of form that are becoming achievable for computational devices. As devices become less rigid and regular, our interactions with them can become so as well.
Having personally sewn hard, rectangular PCBs into hidden pockets to simulate flexible electronics, as well as worn a rigid (and heavy) LCD on my back for another research project, it’s very cool to see so much focus, design and technology-wise, on materiality.
There’s a website organized around this issue, with online versions of all the articles plus additional links and a blog, at organicui.org
We recently wrapped up a project that utilized EM-X270, a small embedded Linux development board by Compulab. The board is powered by Intel’s PXA270 CPU and designed as a handheld computer or cellphone platform with features like 512Mb Flash, Wi-Fi, GPS, SD card, 3.5″ LCD, Cellular voice and GPRS modem, all in a 97×66mm package. Compulab sells a (somewhat pricey) EM-X270 dev kit that comes with a guarantee of one-year email support, including help with LCD driver development.
Although we did not require all its built-in capabilities, we decided to go with the EM-X270 since it came with a working version of X Windows environment based on Ångström Linux distribution. After installing necessary libraries, we were able to get some graphics programs running pretty quickly. We started out testing the speedy DirectFB library first, then switched to Cairo for its higher level functions.
Our project also involved interfacing custom-designed electronics and a larger LCD to EM-X270. This was a bit more challenging due to the fact that Compulab does not release schematics documentation on their board. Their support proved reliable overall, but very slow to respond at times. An additional hardware issue were some problems with WiFi connections, which are alluded to in product documentation but did not seem to be fully resolved.
The final result of the project was a handheld device prototype that utilized motion sensing and sound (via custom hardware) as an input to several graphic programs that explored interface and visual feedback ideas for interactions like tilting the device, moving it in 3 dimensions, shaking, etc. More project details coming soon..
A recent article in Technology Review featured an image of a contact lens with electronics embedded inside it. The tiny grid in the middle is a matrix LEDs meant to superimpose images onto an eye’s field of view. The article goes on to state that “in preliminary studies in which the device was not turned on, a rabbit waring it suffered no adverse effects”. Looks like we have a little while yet before rabbit borgs take over ;)