Monthly Archives: March 2014

So for the progress update meeting in class, I created my second flower, the rose! It was a lot harder than I expected because I had to make more petals than the first, but I’m very pleased with how it looked by the end. I bought a different tube to see how it looks as the stem and it looked okay, but the main problem was getting the flower to stick to the top of the rod. I also went ahead and coded so the LED will light up whenever the wire roots are touched.

The roots were actually kind of finicky. Not every strand reacted, and it sometimes just down right didn’t work. Luckily it worked for the duration of my meeting with Steve so he knows basically what I was trying to accomplish. The LED magically lit up as well when he touched the actually flower which I was not expecting because it didn’t work the night before! Steve suggested I change the resistor to a stronger one so I have better control over the values of the interaction. My biggest issur right now is trying to drill a hole in the bottom of the vase so I can feed the roots through there instead of over the top of the vase down.

Overall the meeting went well and one more flower to go!

So after the feedback from the first user test, I decided to change the interaction between the flowers and the users. I didn’t really like how lighting the soil doesn’t really convey the concept I was striving for. Plus, since there was only one photoresistor, sometimes it didn’t work when people were flashing at different areas of the pot. What bothered me the most was the brightness of the flashlight and how it kind of overconsumed the LEDs in the flower.
So I thought of another interaction that involved IR proximity sensors where when someone places their hands near the pot and flower, the LEDS lit up. I liked this idea because it’s like the user is directly transferring their energy to the flower to light it up. Because of my cheapness, I got IR emitters and receivers (seperately) from Active Surplus because it was way cheaper than Creatron’s premade (combined) versions, and it turns out that it is a pain the ass to work with. When David explained how I had to do this and that to get it to work effectively, I knew it wasn’t going to end well especially with all the other work I still had to do. My cheapness actually costed me $10 in the end.
Luckily, as we continued to search for alternatives, David reminded me of the exercise we did last year with the aluminum foil and how I can maybe emulate the effect of IR proximity sensors just by using capacitative sensory. Which then made me wonder if the wires are actually conductive in itself, to react to the human touch. Lo and behold it actually works! So I came up with the idea that roots (made with the wires) will sparse from underneath the pot and the user interaction will be the physical touch on the roots. Here we go!

The day of the user test! I got everything up and running and here is the my flower for the user test:


I added this metal frame thingy to the bottom with a label to give people hints in what to do. I also put a flashlight beside the piece in case their phones didn’t have a flash function.


I really wished that the pieces were smaller so it looked like actual soil. Some people pointed out it looked messy and conflicts with the cleanness of the flower which I 100% agree. I think I will try and use a blender for the next step!


I was pretty pleased with how the flower looked when it’s lit up (especially in that room where it was dim).


Lastly, here’s a video of the interaction:

This is where things started to go downhill. The original plan was to get the flower to move (along with the LEDs lighting up) whenever someone shines a light to the soil (where the photoresistor was). I initially wanted to use a servo and have the top petals rotate, but it didn’t work out because it would cause all the LED wiring to tangle along the middle. Furthermore, I couldn’t get the coding to slow down the servo speeds. So instead of spinning the petals, I thought having a motor that moves the petals moves in an up and down motion. Steve suggested that I use a stepper accelerator but seeing the prices at Creatron made me cringe. But the bigger problem is not knowing if it will actually do what I want. Plus, the actual mechanism was so big it hard to make it work with the LED wiring and extremely difficult to hide it. I wasn’t willing to take that risk because I’m sure I won’t be able to figure out the coding by the user test, so I decided to just stick with LEDs. I was actually quite disappointed in myself because I had to downgrade my original concept.


For the LEDs, I wanted it to do a fade effect whenever the photo resistor receives light, and fade off when the light is removed. The coding was a lot more complicated than I imagined. I wrote a bunch of different code but none seemed to have work. I had really no choice but seek for Steve’s help (which at that time was not for another 3 hours?). So I took the time to start creating the decor in which the flower will be placed in.


I began smashing scrapes of electronics I found and it was HARD. They were invincible and impossible to break effectively. I wanted really refined, small pieces of circuitry as the soil and I was very disappointed I couldn’t achieve that. Since it was the day before the user test, I decided to let it be because the coding was far more important at this point. 

Long story short, I was the second last person to leave Hack Night. Steve helped a lot with the code and we finally got it to work the way I want it to. All that was left to do was assemble the piece and present it the morning after.

Over the reading week I started making my lily flower in preparations for the user test. It was definitely a lot harder than I expected. I knew that it was going to be time consuming but physically building each petal was a pain in the bud. However, I pulled through even after stabbing myself nonstop with the wires. Here is what it looked like when I connected the petals together in a triangle shape (3 for the top and 3 for the bottom).


Next was trying to figure out what in the world I am going to use for the stem. It took so long to wrap little petals so there was no way in hell I was going to wrap a long thick tube. Plus, I needed it to bend easily, allow me to stick something through, and maneuver without disconnecting any wiring. So I made a stop to Home Depot and luckily found this long silver tube that worked perfectly with my flower top. It’s is some sort of toilet tube connector (yay toilets)! I also created wrapped two wires together with bronze wire to create the stamens of the flower. This is where I will attach the LEDS at the ends. This is how the flower started looking when I put everything together.

IMG-20140224-WA0003The next step was finishing up the wiring for the LEDs and writing the actual program code. Things are turning out very nicely at this point in time so hopefully everything will continue running smoothly.

(notes taken by Kurt)

Arusha kicked the meeting off and we discussed her research in the context of acquiring more details for further work.
– Jeffrey suggested more scholarly sources to supplement the survey she’s done
– Kurt added she perhaps could look for more specificity in her questions
– looking to narrow the topic down
– Arusha read us a few examples of things she collected, wondering how to narrow things down

Jeffrey has done more surveys and research, talked about his work
– Canadians want to travel because of food
– BUT most ads advertise sightseeing. Not food. Interesting disconnect
– Narrowed down research to Asian Canadians
– Can link to Arusha’s work- how does advertising/media contribute to people’s decision? In Jeffrey’s case to travel
– Expressed a concern for where theis topic of travel is going

Discussed Kurt’s work
– progress in interviews and interesting discoveries

– discussing the findings of her most recent research
– people say you can read body language and its more personal, that’s why they prefer speaking in person
– but online is more convenient, making it the most frequently used method of communication for most online users
– discussed the value of face-to-face interviews in comparison to online. How the change in method might affect her results

Chat with Kathleen, who opened up some new perspectives on our research and the topics we discussed
– PEW RESEARCH CENTER is a great resource for much of our work
– For Kurt, she suggested asking people about civil liberties offline and comparing their answers to their online behaviour.
– “Political surveying”, outlining scenarios for them, also taking care to avoid the white coat effect
– Karen talked about her newest sample
– in her initial survey she had a large number of respondents
– this week she wants to interview 5-10 people in person to see if asking the questions face-to-face changes the results
– Jeffrey feels that his topic lacks depth
– went through a mall, did face-to-face interviews- found that cuisine was the main reason for travel and tourism
– Kathleen brought up a really interesting article by the NY Times about TORONTO food culture. A good recommendation for Jeffrey’s research further
– Arusha noticed people perceive “media” as television, Facebook and Twitter. She is looking for specificity
– In the presentations, Kathleen made sure to remind us to STATE METHOD, STATE YOUR QUESTION, THEN TALK ABOUT FINDINGS

I received positive feedback as well as criticism from Steve and a few of my classmates and here are my responses to some of the biggest concerns about the project:

1. “the screen: could potentially be distracting from the three flowers  ; may not be necessary ; might hurt the piece more than aid it”
> my thoughts: I agree in a sense because I was worried about it taking away from the main core of the piece, which is the interactive flowers ; I thought about using tablets or maybe just audio but still have not decided yet. I think I will make an actually flower first for the user test so I can have some time to think it over. I definitely don’t think I will be using a big projection anymore though.

2. “idea is kind of cheesy”
> my thoughts: I like cheese. ESPECIALLY CHEESE PIZZA. I’m too into my idea right now to change, so if it’s too cheesy for your taste then eat something else.

3. “budget was unrealistic”
> my thoughts: I looked at the situation as an art proposal in the real world. When we leave Ryerson we won’t have the beautiful amenities of the cage and Barry to lend us beautiful high-tech equipment to use. The number obviously is unrealistic if you are looking at it as a student. I was thinking ahead, outside of school, and what a realistic budget would be. Buying a laptop for the project? I don’t know about everyone else but I have one laptop, so if I need a projection for the piece, adding a laptop to the budget is kind of realistic right?

4. “this may take a lot of time”
> my thoughts: I’ve always wanted to go all out on a project, and now that I have an entire term to do so, I am not holding back! I will definitely try to follow my schedule when it comes to getting things done so I don’t fall behind in the coming weeks. But to be honest, I have no doubt in my mind that something will pop up and all the sudden I’m like what, user tests already and I got nothing? damn

Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised with how most people positively responded to my concept and proposal. Next step for me is to start an actually flower and see if it to do whatever I want it to do !