Alternating Current Visualizer A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a co-worker and trying to understand a few aspects of the power distribution system in place in our theater. I understood that most power transmission lines carry three phases of alternating current, and that typical household power contains only a single phase of 120V at 60 Hertz, but I didn’t understand how we managed to make usable 240V out of two phases of 120V.
For our second Visual Language class, we looked at signage and wayfinding systems – systems which constitute such an essential and ubiquitous part of our designed world that their effectiveness in conveying information can be considered a public interest. As pedestrians we use and depend upon these visual markers dozens of times within a single commute for directions. And as drivers we look to them to convey essential right-of-way information and rules of the road within seconds.
For week two of Physical Computing, we are doing a lab on basic electronics: soldering and switches. I wanted to find a way to use a mini joystick from the electronics store in this lab. The joystick has three possible movements: forwards / backwards right / left pushbutton click My first task was to discover exactly how each of these movements translated into an electronic signal.
For week two, I had big ambitions, and somewhat less exciting results. My ambitions were twofold: to create an interactive animation that allowed someone to use the mouse to blow up a balloon, then have it float away when released, and (at someone’s very kind suggestion) to have a mouse click make a progressively larger ball, which, on a mouse release, would drop down at a rate in accordance with its size.
What is physical interaction? In Chris Crawford’s “The Art of Interaction Design,” we are presented with a concise definition for interaction: “_a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak.” _This definition is general to all types of interaction and does not mention the means by which this interaction happens. ”Listen, think, and speak,” in this case can refer to any sort of interaction, not just verbal.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a series of reference manuals in my uncle’s (electronics /computer) workshop that had been published by IBM. These manuals (for BASIC, DOS and the like) were housed in small cloth-bound binders which were themselves housed in cloth-bound hard dust-cases. On these outer cases was printed the IBM logo and various bits of information about the version of BASIC, DOS, etc. that it supported:
Computation as a tool is most exciting to me in its ability to facilitate real-world experiences – to build some level of intelligence or reactivity into passive objects. By adding a layer of software between cameras, microphones, and other sensors, and lights, motors, and speakers, we can imbue these unthinking inputs and outputs with the ability to understand and react to their surroundings. This can feel very close to magic!