• Sohaila Mosbeh

Observe & Sense

Class 03 - Intro to Physical Computing



To start off I had to think to myself, what kind of public space should the focus be on? Should it be something that's inclusive but still technically public? like universities and schools or a space that is open to everyone like union square or the subways. I decided to head out to both of these different kind of spaces and just observe how people move, what technology is available in that area and how all these elements come to play together.

The first stop, no pun intended, was the subway station. What better stop to watch people interact, then to see everyone in a hurry struggling with the ticket swapping and entering through the turn stile. It was something to behold from the staring into the tiny beeping ticket screen yelling  “you did it too fast, do it again!”  to the loud clanking of the turnstiles. Which got me thinking turnstiles are funny little, I wonder who came up with it. Upon googling that  it was invented by a man called Clarence Saunder in the early 20th century, fun fact he founded the Piggly Wiggly supermarkets and that was the first place to install them to control mass crowds.




Anyways back to present day New York subway stations, watching as people make their way through the rotating gates. I noticed quite a few similar behaviors happening, some push the turnstile with their hands. Others prefer avoid touching it at all costs and simply let the force of their body’s movement complete the turning action. I assume because it’s New York city underground system, never know what diseases might be lurking about. There were a few insanities where someone might jump over it, or any kids might pass under it. So even though it’s not the “swipe right on a floating screen” type of technological interaction, I still considered it highly interactive. The interaction here lies within the movement of the human body in relation to the space and there is something quite beautiful in that chaotic flow. The input here is the force of the subject and the output is the rotating steel beams to let that person in, and according to Bert’s own thoughts about interactivity our bodies "are sensitive already to everyday objects. By weight, feel, texture. It’s being taken for granted and over looked. It might be the key to unlocking how we can expand upon it more using tactile responses”


So how does the technology of today interact with our  body’s movement? does it force us to move in certain matter or is it the other way around? Can we push this interaction in silly and absurd ways? How does it serve us? these were all wondering questions that a little turnstile made me consider. 


Moving on to out second and last stop was The New School University. I recalled at their entrance they also had a turnstile, but an automated one. Just for curiosities sake I went in to see people’s behavior around automated version  and compare that to the subway one. to see if anything interesting stands out. In the automated version there seemed to be a lot of the looking down action when exiting the space, it hinted on a feeling of hesitation of will it open not along with the fear of accidentally running in to it. When existing the space there seemed to be some of hand waving at the sensors point to make it open, comparing that to the body language of the subway turnstile, people tend to walk through it more confidently.

Bret’s notion of using hands comes into play alot, using what we already have to interact with the already existing environment. In a way designing interactivity to the people’s flow and needs, having it as an extension of us rather than it being a creepy stranger staring back at us.



Lab: Experimenting with sensors


Starting with some lab practices and coding, happy to report everything went smoothly.



So I decided to experiment with an IR distance sensor. First I wired it up with one LED to practice writing out the code for it and make sure it was all functional.



After a successful upload I wanted to try with something a bit harder, just to see the ability of re adapting the codes I just learned from the labs. The goal is to create an accent toe kick lighting that turns on when it senses a presences close by, but if that person gets too close to the light it turns red as if to say no no you are too close. It was a very ambitious jump with a lot of bumps along the way, the first problem I face with the code was integrating the Neopixles light strip with the analog sensor. After much trial an error my Arduino software suddenly decided it can't read any usb ports. Restarting my computer over and over again nothing seemed to work, but for some reason it read my old Arduino Uno so I went forward with that board to finish up.






In summary I wouldn't say it was a complete success due to the incorrect matter I wrote the code. I was able to make the sensor some what respond along with some movements and changing colors coming closer to it, but there was alot of flickering problems along with the sensor not turning off at some points. In the end I think I failed quite a bit, I need to take a few steps back and restart again with practicing with different types of sensors. I hope that I can get to redo this project with a better understanding and enhance upon it more.












© 2018 by Sohaila Mosbeh.