physical computing



“Hope” a marionette project by Joohyun Jin, Laewoo Kang (Digital Media Design dept. BFA, Hongik University)

This movie is a low resolution with lots of noise (as it was raining cats and dogs during the final presentation in Interaction Design Studio) but, you will get the idea. Below is their project site that has a better presentation. “Hope” by Joohyun Jin & Laewoo Kang

A little description about this project. The marrionette is hand-sewn by Joohyun Jin & the project was a collaboration between two students. The translated abstract is below.


사람과 사람사이의 갈등,
치유할수 없는 상처

슬픔과 악몽의 수확자,
그래서 깨어날수 없는 존재의 슬픔.

Conflict among people

untreatable wounds

Receiver of sadness and nightmares

Tragedy of un-wake-able being

I see that this project can be improved by more dramatic expression in sound on what they are trying express & cleaner mechanical presentation. However, over all it was an interesting project. 🙂

It was frightening to watch it move on late afternoon with pouring rain outside.

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Thanks to Jonah Brucker-Cohen & Make, one of the Digital Media Design students’ projects that I wrote about in last entry got some attention & interest.

Here is the Makezine blog: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/06/emoticon_mask_will_make_y.html

& Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5014085/emotion-mask-brings-kekekekeke-to-life

& Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/2008/06/06/mask-of-emotion-displays-your-feelings-via-led-emoticons-we-cry/

Hmmm… How interesting that it didn’t even take more than a day to spread words around!

Let me add my translation of their abstract from their blog site in English:

The idea of this project started with a question,
“What is the first media to communicate my emotion to the others?”

Perhaps it’s facial expression that is being expressed before one communicates his gesture or words.
It’s not that easy to hide feelings on facial expression. However, people don’t show their feelings to the strangers today. I often wonder about other people’s emotion when I am in crowded subway or in downtown street of Jongro, Seoul but, they all just stare at outside of the subway window or stare down at their shoes with emotionless face. Some just scan newspapers. They only look ahead while walking in the crowds. Modern urban people are limiting their emotional communication with others trapped in their own world. The mask is a tool to hide one’s feelings or oneself into. At the same time it is to bring out a communication with others by bringing out emotion loud with emoticons.

The Mask of Emotion is to reinterpret the look of mask in a modern term and to evoke communication with strangers by heighten the facial expression by LED emoticons. It is designed to research if emotion is positively received to the strangers when the wearer walks in the crowded street and interacts with urban citizen.

Some students might have felt like what’s the use for whenever I made them to document their design process as a part of the requirements but, I’m sure they will appreciate it later. Kudos to The Mask of Emotion team from Interaction Design Studio 1, 2007 class!!

If you have been following what I’ve been doing, you must have noticed that I’ve been designing fashionable computing projects, integrating circuit boards into fabrics, light emitting parts, sewing clothings and etc. I’ve been also teaching Interaction Design Studio which is a 4 hour studio class that is made of mainly a short lecture, discussion & workshop or presentation. Although this class isn’t about wearable computing, I guess my background does influence some students’ works. There have been so far two wearable computing projects in my class last year.

One was final project in Spring semester – first semester I taught there.

The first one is titled, “Mask of Emotion” by Chisong Ryu, Changhee Kim and Jiyoun Kim. it’s an Emoticon Mask basically – it’s documented well at http://blog.naver.com/inter_mask. (sorry it’s in Korean)

I think this project really reflects today’s culture of emotional communication. It was a 5, 6 week assignment during first semester, 2007.

The second project I want to introduce is a more technically elaborated project called, “HearT-shirt” by Hyunsoo Hong & Jinyoung Lee- created during the fall semester in 2007. Here is also a nice documentation (sorry it’s in Korean again)

They integrated tiny surface mounting LEDs into plastic pearl buttons to attach on the T-shirts, which made me speechless as I could imagine all the work that went to solder hair thin legs. Hyunsoo later made DMDuino (Arduino clone for DMD students – limited edition) with Jinhwan Kim. (Those were hand soldered.)

Anyway, here is the photo. It uses Xbee Wireless communication to detect if they are located within 50 meter range . When they do, their shirts light up in a heart shape! The couple can find each other surprisingly when they are near with each other if they went to public places without planning to meet. It’s a fun concept. This was a 9 weeks assignment.

So here is another guerilla exhibition of Physical Computing Workshop group made of Juniors and Seniors at Digital Media Design Dept. Now, they got the name. It’s called, “Team Electrical Effect” This Flowall intallation was made possible by 21 students. They built 24 flowers that rotates by music and reflects projected visuals to the wall. They have used DMDuino that was made by last years’ graduates, Hyunsoo Hong & Jinhwan Kim – based on Arduino board along with other electrical parts & motors.

Below is their abstract that was posted at class blog;

Whenever electrical current of 1mA flows, an art project becomes unique in the world. – Electrical Effect.

Hmm… what exactly this meaning?

Anyway, it’s obviously further developed conceptual installation from Leo’s Stupid Pet Trick project during Interaction Design Studio class. (Well, it’s obviously far from stupid!)

Well, enjoy it. Below is what a student captured my awkward interaction with the installation during my break. (Mom & Dad, why didn’t you teach me how to play piano?) Feel free to laugh at video of me trying to pretend to play a piano.

I heard there will be the final one at the end of semester – which is next week!

I’ve been thinking about showcasing some of my students’ work at my blog… as we are running multiple community blogs as they are documenting their design process for requirement.

This afternoon, I’ve gotten a delightful email from a student of mine which starting as, “how’s your weekend? ….” He is graduating this semester and he is running a weekly physical computing workshop among students at Digital Media Design department. I’m aware that they also started a weekly discussion meetings. Good kids. All they needed was a little motivation. 🙂

Anyway, I was delightfully happy to see the first result. After introducing arduino workshop last semester (thanks, David & Tom for your support!) students got really excited for different possibilities. Now, from sophomores to seniors are gathering on their own to create something at their physical computing workshop. For design school where students mostly depended on their visual art abilities, this is a significant change and for interaction designers who design for 5 senses, it’s a good direction to go.

Their first group project is called, “Happier Tears” A simple group portrait. <see above movie> It was hung in 4th floor hallway of our building without any approval ahead of time – a guerrilla exhibition. Go students! I told to Leo(leader of this group) that he can throw a guerrilla exhibition in front of my office. 🙂

* Note about “Happier Tears” – I think, this title is based on Happy Tears” by Roy Lichtenstein which has become a scandalously famous art piece in Korea by Roy Lichtenstein because of recent incident regarding Samsung Group’s Executive’s wife’s purchase of “Happy Tears” which raised a suspicion of money laundering. Read this article if you are not sure what this is about.

It started with my brother sending me this link

I laughed looking at the photo of a wearable design of pants that had keyboard attached into one’s lap. I’m a geek and I design wearable technology art projects but, it was just a way too geeky for me even. However, I thought it was an interesting concept so I’ve forwarded it to a friend who was in search for a good wireless keyboard that can be sit on his lap comfortably. Of course, I haven’t had a time to read the text. The next thing I found out was this line that was pointed out by someone, “.. and for you gamers, there is a joystick controller located just behind the front zipper. ” I was like, “ewww…. then, oh my god…!”

This was just beginning.

If you look at this blog link, “20-pickup-lines-for-people-wearing-keyboard-pants/” you will know what I mean. These geeks with dirty minds — dirty pickup lines, i would say… but some of them are somewhat clever – funny in a geeky way. Some of the pickup lines in comments made me giggle. My favorite one was, “I’d like to be a douche bag and point out that “U” and “I” are already next to each other on a QUERTY keyboard.” At least, there is a less chance of being slapped on his face.

It was certainly entertaining to read but, there was a mental note for any wearable computing designers. Do not place buttons or keys to press near where they shouldn’t be. This is why studying social behavior and usability is essential, I suppose.

Stir It On! – Interactive Fashion Technology Art

Stir It On! is a story about my experience of swimming at the bioluminescent bay at night. Imagine waves of dark ocean water under starry sky and millions of tiny organisms illuminate when they are stirred up. This is also my comments on social experience in Seoul public space. (ah, that’s another blog entry there.)

more about the project here >>

SIO(Stir It On!) prototype version 1.0 (inactive, back)Stir It On! active

My first prototype version 1.0 of Stir It On! had its debuit on the runaway at Social Fabrics, Dallas, TX. Am I happy about the result? I feel neutral about it. I’m glad that I had this exhibition so that I could force myself to really complete first prototype and at the same time, I’ve encountered many more problems with my design of this prototype which I haven’t thought out during sketching interaction design process.  Immediately my mind was already so full of different ideas of how to tackle these newly found challenges…also different ideas of design and surface treatment of the skirt… and more.  I’m ready to go back to my sketch pad again to fix the prototype 1.0 and make it into 1.1. It never ends, huh?  Actually, this thing has just begun.

I have met some interesting groups from different part of the world who showcased their wearable projects. It’s always interesting to watch how other artists approach wearable projects. (That is another blog entry again… I suppose. I’ve been slacking in my blogs…I know!)

I had this idea since my short trip to Viequez Island, Puerto Rico in Oct 2006. I’ve been sketching my Stir It On! skirt ideas for almost over a year. I started to play with arduino board and touch sensors during summer of 2007 and I got into the production stage at the beginning of Nov 2007. I started to collect different materials that I could possibly use in creating this piece. I planned to work on it extensively but, it wasn’t going to happen after my accident and I couldn’t get hold of my sewing machine until few days before my departure. I have done some LEDs & beeds stitching on the 2nd layer of surface on the textile pattern I cut for the skirt by the time I arrived to LA.

It was quite a challenge to finish a wearable project at a temporary location (kitchen at my brother’s apt in Hermosa Beach, CA) not to mention that I was doing it all by myself. I have no collaborator this time around. Making a skirt itself is a tedious procedure, especially Stir-It-On! which requires many different layers of fabric and hand sewing beeds & 65 LEDs with conductive treads and fabric. On top of that, working with the circuit board, wiring, soldering, programming and testing where I kept finding missing electronic parts. By the time, my skirt was shaping, I knew where 5 different RadioShack are located near Hermosa Beach and a very good you-name-it-you-find-it electronic shop, thanks to Tom’s friend, Casey’s reference.

When I arrived in CA 2 weeks before the show, I knew I had to discipline myself to focus on this project. Believe or not, I haven’t even walked at the beach for 2 weeks of my stay at Hermosa Beach. I looked at it from a block away as I get my daily cappuccino & bagel… I woke up at 8:30 am everyday to start a day and worked until 1, 2, or 3 am if that was necessary. I didn’t drink more than a glass of wine if I went out & I limited my social activities, which is hard for me as you would know if you knew me… 3 days before the deadline, I had to look for a 10 MHz crystal and one day before, the only needle in my sewing machine broke in half – which never happened before. I had to get a taxi and get needles from the sewing machine store since I didn’t have a car during day. I felt like I was having an obstacle after an obstacle constantly after my accident of getting second degree burns on my legs.  Therefore, I started to worry tremendously every little things for close future & I felt like nothing would go right. Then some point, I’ve realized that I’ve got to stop worrying about things that hasn’t happened or out of my control. That’s when I made a peace with myself.  I was slowly finding back my usual optimism.

The night before the show in Dallas, the frame of my only pair of eye glasses broke…(I’m wearing them at the very moment which is taped for time being.) Also, 6V batter DC power was acting somewhat inconsistently compared to USB power source. However, I didn’t panic or got stressed. I was rather calm. I just did as much as possible. Tested a bit & soldered a wire that was broken at the backstage. The prototype version 1.0 was partially working and that is better than not working. That is a start for me. I have a lot of work to do to get this piece to be where it supposed to be. I’m excited again.

I was detinitely tired and stressed but, I was glad that I’ve made it. On the returning flight to LA, I was watching light blue shades of soft clouds and light streams of traffics on the road that looked like blood streams in microscope… I felt excited to feel the beauty of nature right next to the man made structures. I was content again. For me, creating fashion technology art is about the process, not necessarily about the final product. I find it important how I experience in creating it as much as how the wearer experiences by wearing it.  It’s all about process and I should enjoy the experience fullest whether it’s hard work or play.

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