Friday, April 6, 2012

Step Four - The Open Call Entry

Here are the details for the project as described in the application for the PlayForm Mobile Exhibition: [more details on where and when the exhibition will take place will follow in one of the next blog updates.]
"Imagine that when you enter the location for the exhibition you see a dozen chubby white pillows scattered on the floor. Different sentences are printed in big black letters on them. Sentences like: “Enjoy the Moment” and “Enjoy Life”. The installation can be experienced from a distance - the “original” do-not-touch(!) way to experience art. But! If you look closer you will notice that the pillows are equipped with a “handle” containing a display with digits and a “GO!” button. Each pillow contains sensors that registers whenever it hits something or someone. Signs at the installation will show people that it is ok to touch and use the pillows and hopefully a massive social pillow fight will break out. Everyone can join in if they want to, have fun and share a good time together. You can fight two against each other, fight all your friends ninja-style or fight people you don’t even know. The choice is yours. At the exhibition a big rope circle can mark the “Battlefield” - an arena where you can fight whoever is in there - mostly to avoid people from bumping into other installations if the exhibition space is tight. 

Potentially and ideally the project will bring people that would not normally interfere with each other together, let them have fun and share an experience - in real life - and thereby potentially make a difference for them. I hope that people will have fun, talk and share a good experience either by playing or just grabbing a pillow to sit on for a chill talk.

Materials For the project I will need to purchase: about a dozen big chubby IKEA pillows, 100% cotton pillow cases, print for the pillows, rope for the battlefield marking, a roll up display (a tall stand to hold a 60x200 banner) print for the roll up banner, various electronic components such as wires, sensors, displays, resistors and batteries."

Discussing Solutions
Finding out what kind of electronic components to use for the project is more than just a question of: "What will work?" It is a maze of different factors like:
- direct availability - is it available now?
- amount availability - is the required amount available now?
- supplier - who can get it or where can it be acquired from?
- shipping - how fast can it get here?
- costs - how much does it cost, shipping included?
- skills - will my own skills be sufficient or do I need professional support to make it work?
- practicalities - will the different parts work together
- contacts and network - who can I reach for support and assistance?

After sending the application I met with my supervisor and technical supporter to discuss the techical execution and discussed the use of:
- Camera Tracking
- Customizing and constructing switches for the side of the pillow using conductive fabric or other conductive material. 
- Sensor Networks
- DUL radio
- Accelerometers 
- Tilt Sensors
- Microphones - when you hit the pillow a oscillation will show if monitored
- Wii Remotes
- Displays on the pillows or united display via projector
- EL-wires - instead of using a display then use light in the pillow case to show the score
- Bluetooth Transmitters 

All the different possible solutions had technical limitations and/or other constraints: some parts were completely unavailable from the Danish suppliers, only available in a limited amount or too expensive when everything were put together. I could then chose to have cheaper components shipped from China but that would potentially take weeks and get caught in customs which would leave me waiting for components that might not even arrive on time. Even if the components did arrive on time the soldering  would be very complex and it was questionable if it would even work - and if it got to work then making it durable and making 12 within a month and fixing all the other things related to the project singlehandedly would be too much to hope for.
So by the end of the discussion I decided that instead of constructing the sensors from scratch using Wii Remotes would be the solution. The Wii system is reliable, thoroughly tested as consumer product and easily available and affordable. They contain an accelerometer, bluetooth and x,y,z coordinates that can be made use of in the project - e.g. to add sound effects to the pillows. At the moment only 7 devices (slaves) can be connected through Bluetooth at the same time so I will need to find out how to get past this to get 12 pillows (slaves) connected (through a Dongle) to the same receiver (a Mac computer).

Other Changes
The display and GO! button:
Having a display on each pillow would be preferred but the cost of the components, availability and reliability are unfavorable. Further more the pillow will have to held in a certain way and if this were to be neglected the display could potentially hurt opponents. To solve this it could be placed under a padded flap inside the pillow  but all three conditions will interfere with the user experience and therefor the display was abandoned. Using EL-wires embedded in the pillow case (shaped as digital numbers) would be a fascinating solution and solve the problem of having a solid display mounted in each pillow but the same constraint of availability, cost and then fragility arose.  
Instead of having a display on each pillow the individual hit count will be displayed on a collective score board.

Score Board:
The function of the Wii remotes will be programmed in MAXmsp. The score board can then be programmed in various ways. Either:
- Flash Actionscript 3
- Jitter for Processing
- Processing
- Quartz Composer
I will focus on Processing and make a retro inspired score board. Possibly with fluffy pillows turning in each corner.

Wii Remotes 
So which operating system should the project be run on? There are pros and cons to take into consideration. A Mac might not react to the Wii remote as preferred due to preset functions placed  for user-friendliness therefor using Windows computer might be best. But when connecting the Wii remote to a Windows computer the Wii would disappear completely at timeout and then need to be reinstalled - something you do not want to mess with during an exhibition. To establish a stabile connection you needed to pair the Wii with a PIN code but then issues with translating HEX to ascii code arose. Then some plugins were needed but unfortunately a lot had been removed from the internet. Then Linux might work better than Windows for this and so on and so forth. By the end of the day I am most comfortable using my Mac and when a plugin was found that could establish a stabile connection to the computer the choice was easy. Mac! 

So... let's get busy. The pillows must be completed by 1st May and ready to join the exhibition.

Here is the list of things that needs to be completed:

Score Board
- the programming of it
- - making the top score ascend on the scoreboard
- - getting hit count data from MAX msp to control the score board
- making the turning pillows (Maya 3D workshop assignment from uni)
Controlling the pillows
- solving MAX msp
- - get a precise hit count
- - get a precise reset
- - connecting more than one Wii remote
- - connecting more than 7 Wii remotes
- - connecting the projector
The Pillow Design
- find text the pillow case print
- buy pillows and pillow cases
- buy padding for foam core for the wii remote to reduce impact
- test impact and adjust foam core
- print on the pillow cases
- put the Phi sign on the pillow case
- update blog continuously
- take photos of progress, materials and prototypes
- read theory continuously
- write on the report continuously
- finish webpage
- make roll up-display banners in Illustrator
- - include signature sign
- - website adr
- - information about "you play at your own risk"
- - information about how to play (where to see the score and how to reset it)
- take photo for roll-up display banner of pillow fighters
- get hold of a projector
- get hold of a Mac

/Anne Sofie

Happy easter

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