Atmanna (Wish): Final Project Documentation

Inspiration
Atmanna or Wish came to be inspired by my interest in creating an art piece that mimics a motion in nature. I really wanted to work on an art piece instead of a game or other application because this class has given me an interest in satisfying motions that produce aesthetically pleasing visuals. The first piece that I worked on that attempted to create the compositional beauty of nature was the generative art of leaves in Processing.
At first I wanted to create an art piece that allowed the user to also make a wish and have a speech to text conversion mechanism and have their wish appear on screen. Ultimately the concept got changed along the way, but read more to find out.
Concepts of Movement
I created several different ideas in order to think about how to mimic the movements of a dandelion in Processing. I wanted to utilize my knowledge of object oriented programming as well as particle systems to create a beautiful effect. Here are some of the ideas that I came up with:
Concept 1 –
This was the first idea I had in mind, creating the dandelion with random shape particles. This idea was well suited to movements with the mouse and I really liked it, but I felt it was too abstract to be immediately recognized as a dandelion – and the motion wasn’t exactly what I had in mind in terms of the real movement of dandelions.
Concept 2 –
This concept came when I was trying to play instead with lines and nodes like Dan Shiffman’s fractal tree videos. I played a lot with motion in this concept but ultimately I didn’t like the look and feel of the lines and nodes for a dandelion.
Final Concept –
I finally decided to use vector graphics created in illustrator because I had more control over what I wanted the piece to look like, and created different frames of animation for a dandelion within illustrator and imported the different images into an array of images within processing to loop through them.
The particles in my particle system were composed of an image of a dandelion seed that I also imported into processing into the ‘Seed’ class and I played with different movements. I decided to make the seeds flow upwards because it made the most sense spatially on the screen for me. Again, referencing Dan Shiffman’s nature of code book really helped with this phase to be able to add and play with different physical forces to create the desired effect.
I knew I wanted to use the physical action of blowing, but without the use of a wind sensor I had to think of an alternative method. I decided to use a Sparkfun Sound detector that we had available in the lab and was able to read different sound inputs. The act of blowing on a microphone produces certain levels of sound that I was able to explore using the Serial plotter in the Arduino IDE. I used these serial values to trigger motions for the particle system in the Processing sketch.
User Testing
When I did my user testing, I did not yet have a physical dandelion that people could blow on. Some people liked this because it did not take away from the on screen experience and aesthetics that were happening. Others wished that they did have it.
At the time of the user testing, the animation also was not as clear or smooth as I would have liked it to be and people noticed that as well. I also thought about what story was being presented to the user as they interacted with this piece and I didn’t have a set narrative that was being told. I thought about what was being said and how to use that but ultimate idea for me was to allow the user to be able to make their wish and keep the act as simple as possible as it is organically in real life. See the user testing post for more of the notes and improvements that I wanted to work on.
I ultimately did have a physical dandelion for people to blow on, but it was difficult for me to decide on the medium that it should be made with. I used straws for the green stem that made the wiring easier to work with, and cotton balls for the top of the dandelion. It was difficult to embed the microphone in a way that would still allow it to work, but made sense for the user to blow on and interact with.
During the Show
 
I think my project stood out as being one of the ‘calmer’ projects – there was a lot of light and big screens and sound around so it was a different experience for people to pause and reflect and take a moment to make a wish. People ultimately really enjoyed the experience, and I especially liked that I had many people stop by because it was such a simple concept that didn’t take too much time to engage with but still created the impact that I wanted it to.
One thing I wish I had done was incorporated an element of sound or background music – but it was loud in the room anyway so it wouldn’t have created the exact ambiance that I wanted to achieve. One of my favorite comments was that this was a good business model for an ‘alternative stress ball’ to keep on your desk and use to take a moment to breathe and reflect.
I realized a bit too late that the set up for exactly where the dandelion and screen were position was not perfect. Sometimes as the user was blowing they missed what was happening on the screen. I think it might have been better or more immersive if I had created the ability to pick up the dandelion, and/or projected the art instead of having it on my laptop screen. All in all I really enjoyed presenting my work and have people play with it. Some people even came by several times to make more than one wish!
Limitations + Future Improvements
 
  • I didn’t use the right medium to create the physical dandelion – the cotton was really fragile and the straws were not particularly stable as people were blowing on the dandelion itself.
  • During the show I realized the loud room had some sound interference that the microphone detected and triggered the animation without meaning to. Even though I did user testing, I think each space is unique and I possibly need to add some calibration function – thanks to Aaron for showing me the sound smoothing function that saved me!
  • I would actually like to figure out an elegant solution for speech to text in Processing
  • I’m thinking of 3D printing or using some mesh material to create the dandelion instead of cotton balls.