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MAKE continues its in depth coverage of interactive technology projects with the “ITP Winter Show 2008″ a two day exhibition of interactive sight, sound, and physical objects by the student artists of ITP @ NYU.

Each year I try and spot the trends of what the students are heading towards, a few years ago it was processing and Arduino… then it was the Nokia 95 and the Wiimote — now it’s power aware, wood and the iPhone. Look for more iPhone apps developed by places like ITP and also look for a “return” to using wood in high-tech projects, power sensing will be big too in ambient ways. We’ll see how it all pans out in 2009 but that’s what the radar picked up. Arudino is of course part of many of the projects, it’s pervasive at this point, as it should be. Here are all my photos & video

And drum roll :::::::::: Each year I pick a few projects I really like and call them “best of show” – the thing is, they’re all great, ITP gets better each show – and it’s always hard to just pick a few, but since that’s what everyone always asks me, here are my top 4.5 favorite projects from the ITP Winter Show 2008. You can check out all the specific projects here. Marc and I will have many other projects we’ll post up about but this will give you a good taste (literally) of what was is at the show.


DJ Porcelain and the Plates / ITP page.
Students: Thomas John Gerhardt
Instructors: Steiner, Hans-Christoph

DJ Porcelain and the Plates is a new form of DJ’ing where you use spinning plates on sticks instead of records on a turntable to mix a track. DJ Porcelain and the Plates is a NIME (new instrument for musical expression) that consists of six sticks and 16+ plates. To make music, the composer spins plates on a combination of the sticks and modifies the speed of the plate to change a prerecorded loop’s playback speed. Each stick represents a channel of sound, and each plate represents a sound track. The computer knows which plate is spinning, how fast it is spinning, what stick it is on, and plays back the corresponding sound loops at the specified speed; thus enabling the musician to compose/mix a six channel track on the fly.



Pianocktail / ITP page.
What if you could drink a song? What would the Black and Tan Fantasy taste like? The pianocktail is a piano that mixes drinks based on the combination of keys played. Each key corresponds to a different spirit or liquor and cocktails are produced appropriate to the mood of the song played. Now music can be drank in addition to being heard. The pianocktail exists in a world of contradictions and exceptions where music and liquor are in harmony with mood and nothing is as it seems.

The pianocktail is an absurd creation, an object imagined by Boris Vian in his novel “L’ecume des Jours”. How does the invention work? As it is described in the book:
Students: Florica Vlad & Oscar G. Torres
Instructors: Steiner, Hans-Christoph

“For each note there’s a corresponding drink – either a wine, spirit, liqueur or fruit juice. The loud pedal puts in egg flip and the soft pedal adds ice. For soda you play a cadenza in F sharp. The quantities depend on how long a note is held – you get the sixteenth of a measure for a hemidemisemiquaver; a whole measure for a black note; and four measures for a semibreve. When you play a slow tune, then tone comes into control to prevent the amounts growing too large and the drink getting too big for a cocktail – but the alcoholic content remains unchanged. And, depending on the length of the tune, you can, if you like, vary the measures used, reducing them, say, to a hundredth in order to get a drink taking advantage of all the harmonics, by means of an adjustment on the side.”

The fabrication of the pianocktail will be a seamless automated creation with switches underneath each key. 88 sensors will be used to detect the music being played. Specific combinations of keys will trigger a release of alcohol, juice or garnish into a glass. In theory, the right combinations of keys can produce a specific cocktail. The mixing is possible by using a series of shift registers and an Arduino microcontroller for the logic, electric motors and electronic valve control.



The ReedBox / ITP page
Students: John Kuiphoff
Instructors: Igoe, Tom & Shiffman, Daniel

The ReedBox is a device that allows users to interact with a computer using magnets.

The ReedBox is constructed using an array of reed switches each paired with an LED indicator. Users control the device by placing magnets on the surface of the box. This unique method of interaction lends itself to a myriad of applications.

There are currently five applications developed for this device:

  • ReedMusic: A chime-like tone generator
  • ReedParticles: A physics-based particle manipulator
  • ReedImage: An interactive photo gallery based on a chosen color combination
  • ReedDrums: A drum sequencer
  • ReedGame: A simple video game

Living shade / ITP page and Window vision / ITP page (I’m grouping these since they have a similar theme)…
Living shade students: Adam Lassy, Adi Marom Emeri Audra Yarnoff
Living share instructor: Hartman, Kate

Our lives are surrounded by pixels: on our i-phone, laptop, TV…..everywhere: so why not add the power of *pixelization* to the light entering from our apartment windows.

We created a kinetic shade that adjusts the amount of light entering a room in response to the changing outdoor brightness. The shade is constructed from an array of foldable units, shaped like pixels that can open and close in different sequences. As the folding units/pixels transform, they create a “living” shade that “breathes” the light through it.

The kinetic shade is constructed from rows of the folding units fixed to a firm aluminum frame. The units of each row are folded by the force of a servo motor. Each Servo is attached to a metal rod, which transfers the rotary motion into a linear motion.
The Servo’s are activated by photocells in the back of the screen (facing outdoors).

The shade acts as an interactive dimmer. The lighter it gets outside the units open/close in a higher speed or different patterns. In the current prototype, the kinetic pattern between the different units was programmed as a continuous wave. However, the units could be programmed into different modes such as a continuous loop, different shapes, or random openings.
In the future we plan to further enhance the interactivity of the shade by setting it to respond to the users’ presence, by means of different sensors.

Window Vision
Window Vision is a reactive installation that highlights changes in the surrounding environment by shifting its components in response to light and dark.
Window vision students: Angela Joy Chen
Window vision instructor: Hartman, Kate

Given the importance in how we understand the world through the intersection of science and art, Window Vision is a piece that emphasizes the neurological impulses that enable our eyes to perceive the things around us. It also draws upon the idea of a window as the architectural medium through which the inhabitant can still interact with the outside environment.

The article “Bandwidth of Consciousness” article informs us that our eyes take in thousands of bits of information per second yet our consciousness registers so little. Much of this is enabled through the structural properties of your retina which is the part of your eye that responds to light. Within the retina there are two photoreceptor cell types: rods and cones. These cellular structures react at different varying light levels to help you both perceive objects in the dark and to see color.

For my piece, I am striving to create something that contains objects both on a modular level that work together similarly to a cellular structure but also speaks of the neurological manner in which our eyes are constantly adjusting to differing levels of light and dark, and the way in which our eyes are constantly trying to “focus”.

Using photocells and some basic mechanics controlled by a stepper motor, I will have two systems of modular pieces: one that will take over during moments of day/light and another at night/dark.


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Power Aware / ITP page
Students: Martin Ceperley
Instructors: Hartman, Kate

A power strip that generates awareness of the user’s energy consumption through dynamic colored lighting as well as logging the energy data to a web application through Wi-

In our digital lives every new gadget and tool comes with a new power plug that is capable of silently and quietly drawing our electricity 24 hours-a-day. This has serious environmental consequences for our society and financial consequences for the consumer who is paying for this wasted electricity. How is a person to know which power adapters are efficient and which are so-called power vampires? Or how much energy playing a Playstation 3 consumes versus a Wii?

With the powerAware power strip, this live energy consumption data can be visualized through the speed and color of a set of full-color LED lights that illuminate bundles of fiber optic cable arranged in a house-plant like form. The user can see these patterns in the corner of their eye every day, leading to an increased awareness of the energy they consume, hopefully leading to less energy used overall and more energy-efficient habits, like turning off or unplugging appliances when leaving the house.

In additional to the passive energy feedback through lighting, the user is able to analyze their usage online, as powerAware is continuously logging this energy data via WiFi at fixed intervals to a web database. This allows for live graphs of energy usage, as well as analysis of this data, like showing the peak hours of the day energy is consumed. A social-networking component could be added as well, letting users share their consumption via a Facebook app, giving social rewards to users who have kept their energy usage down or showed a significant decrease day-to-day or week-to-week.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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