Fish Tank

For this project the prompt was to create a ‘stupid pet trick’ where the user can interact with something like a pet. The first thing that came to mind for me was a fish tank, because I envisioned the various interactions that could happen with fish, who seem like a simple pet but are actually quite engaging especially for young children.

I was first thinking of using sound to ‘scare’ the fish and cause a motion with Servo’s. Ultimately, I did not end up using this idea exactly because I didn’t feel that the interaction was that pleasing for the user.

I instead decided to use large potentiometers to be able to send analog values to control the position of Servo’s moving around the tank. I created the fish using origami paper. and decorated the tank which I made out of acrylic with the laser cutter.

Overall this project was a great way to put together what I have learned by the midpoint of the semester. I now really enjoy understanding how analog inputs can be manipulated to create interactions in physical space. Before this semester, I always coded interactions that lived on the web.

The most challenging part of the project was figuring out the ways to map the values of the Servo’s to move how I wanted them to. Using multiple Servo’s was an additional challenge. I see potential to expand on this project and add more interactions such as tapping on the glass to trigger some kind of reaction in the tank.


//define the servos
Servo servo1;
Servo servo2;
Servo servo3;

//define potentiometers
int pot1 = A1;
int pot2 = A2;
int pot3 = A4;

//variable to read the values from the potentiometers
int valPot1;
int valPot2;
int valPot3;
int valPot4;

void setup() {
//attaches our servos on pins PWM 3-5-6-9 to the servos

void loop() {
//reads the value of potentiometers (value between 0 and 1023)

valPot1 = analogRead(pot1);
valPot1 = map (valPot1, 0, 1023, 0, 180); //scale it to use it with the servo (val between 0 and 180)
servo1.write(valPot1); //set the servo position according to the scaled
Serial.print("Pot 1: ");

valPot2 = analogRead(pot2);
valPot2 = map (valPot2, 0, 1023, 0, 180); //scale it to use it with the servo (val between 0 and 180)
servo2.write(valPot2); //set the servo position according to the scaled
Serial.print("Pot 2: ");
valPot3 = analogRead(pot3);
valPot3 = map (valPot3, 0, 1023, 0, 180); //scale it to use it with the servo (val between 0 and 180)
servo3.write(valPot3); //set the servo position according to the scaled
Serial.print("Pot 3: ");


The simplicity and pleasurability of this project was my favorite part, because you can generate stories and cool interactions without having too many, confusing parts.

Response to Roberto Casati: The Definiton of Design ?

The word design can conjure up different images for different people. The way we perceive design is fluid and can change based on time and place. A contemporary ideal of design, for example, can conjure up images of sleek, metallic, and defined shapes with minimalistic features.
I didn’t particularly agree with creating a comparison between designers, artists, and engineers as exclusive categories. I believe that all of these categories give and take from each other. Moreover, each individual may see themselves and their work in a different way. One engineer’s approach to creating an end product may not be the same as another engineer’s approach. I felt that Mr. Casati was trying too hard not to create a definition of design, and in doing so inadvertently boxed design into its own set of categories of what it is and what it is not.
I left the talk feeling confused as to what his message was, and not really sure what he meant by many of his ideas. I did like the example of the kettle that he gave – which did not at first appear to be a kettle. It made me question what we perceive as design – and whether knowing the functionality of a product influences whether it is design or not design. I believe that design is a very broad category, and when you consider functionality of whatever it is you are designing .. you as an individual can come to a conclusion of whether it is ‘good design’ or ‘bad design’ based on your own user experience.
It’s also interesting to consider how design varies across different fields. A technologist is going to think of design differently than an architect for example. “Principles” of design are just ideas that are widely accepted among a majority of people, and interestingly I believe that creating so called principles of design is quite limiting for the field. However, design is an interesting thing to consider because when you are a designer, you are thinking with the end in mind for the user or audience of your product. To change “design norms” is to change the mentality or views of a large group of individuals. However, these shifts have certainly occurred considering that the way we perceive design is constantly shifting.

Star Spangled Banner: In Lights!

I was so interested in seeing the creative ways in which people could use a simple Piezo buzzer to produce the melodies of songs. Not being a musically inclined person myself, I found the combination of notes fascinating and even more beautiful once I was able to map them to different light patterns.

I was inspired by the Star Spangled Banner melody that I found on GitHub, considering that I call the US my home, and recent political events have certainly changed the way I perceive my home and the way that people might perceive me in my home. I wanted to play with the tempo of the melody with different buttons that are pressed on the arduino circuit.

I used red white and blue LED lights that alternate to the different notes in the Star Spangled Banner, and it creates a nice effect to look at along with listening to the tune that many people can recognize.

Unfortunately, my failure in this project was making the code to change the tempo of the song work with the buttons. I’ve later realized that it may have been due to the way the piezo speaker works, and that maybe the entire melody needs to play before I am able to press a new button that changes the tempo. In any case, I will continue to investigate this problem and figure out how to make it work.

I originally wanted to make an instrument that you can blow on to produce different sound frequencies, but the Electret Mic proved to be beyond my capabilities with Arduino so far. My next goal will be to work with this!

Response: Making Interactive Art: Set the Stage, Then Shut Up and Listen // Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses)

    Making Interactive Art: Set the Stage, Then Shut Up and Listen

It is interesting to consider your intentions when you are creating any form of art or a product. You generally would like people to understand the context and purpose behind your piece. However, as art and products become interactive, our mode of operating should shift as well.

Interactive pieces inherently put the user or the audience at the forefront of the piece. It can almost be described as a dependent variable of the independent variable that the artist creates — the reaction our outcome is most important to determining the interpretation of a piece. Or even more so, the interpretation of an interactive art piece is extremely subjective.

This piece has made me think about the way I create my art and what factors to consider or leave to the user when I am designing and implementing my design. Additionally, art should be interactive to the artist as well in that it should vary and change based on how the users respond.

    Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses)

I was particularly nostalgic about the floor pads, remembering long nights of playing with my siblings and friends with the foldable floor matt and trying to consistently improve my skills.

At the time of course, I did not understand that this was a form of physical computing that I could be making years later in my Interactive Media class. Much interaction is about getting entertainment from the device that you are interacting with.

It’s interesting to see how physical computing has evolved and the role in our lives has changed as well. I think it was previously perceived as more of a novelty, and now physical computing has found its way into various aspects of our lives.

The remote hugs device was also quite interesting. Interactive devices are often a means of connecting to others in a way that might not have been possible or existed before. These themes have often emerged in class project or brainstorming for my own ideas.

React Roulette // Analog Sensors & LED’s

I was inspired to create React Roulette after accidentally reacting with an ‘angry face’ instead of the ‘love’ reaction on a friend’s photo. Check out a demo of the final product below!

While I was working on this assignment, I didn’t know yet what was going to be the unexpected element of my design. While exploring the lab, I came across the force-sensing resistors that reminded me of the touch and hold motion that you make when attempting to display the ‘reaction’ emoji’s on a Facebook post.

I printed out cutouts of each of the reaction emoji’s and pasted them on to a flat piece of cardboard. Along with each emoji, I soldered two pieces of wire to the ends of an LED light and added them to correspond with particular reactions.

I decided to create a play on how people interact with time to react to things that they see or hear — especially with regard to other people. Each time you press down on the sensor, it detects how much pressure you have put down on it. I coded the program so that lower pressure meant slower blinking lights and thus a more deliberate ‘roulette decision’. Higher pressure meant faster blinking and a more careless decision.

Here is the code below:

//ledPin's for corresponding reaction
//const int laugh = 8;
//const int angry = 9;
//const int cry = 10;
//const int like = 11;
//const int love = 12;
//const int shock = 13;

int ledState = LOW;
long previousMillis = 0;
int interval = 500;
const int sensor = A0;

int randomNumber;
int previousNo = 0;
int timePassed = 0;

int timeShowRandom = 3000;
int timeShowDecision = 3000;
//int timeBlink = 50;

void setup() {
// put your setup code here, to run once:
pinMode(8, OUTPUT);
pinMode (9, OUTPUT);
pinMode (10, OUTPUT);
pinMode (11, OUTPUT);
pinMode (12, OUTPUT);
pinMode (13, OUTPUT);



void getRandomNo() {
int rand = random(8,14);
if(rand == previousNo) {
} else {
randomNumber = rand;
previousNo = randomNumber;

void loop() {
// put your main code here, to run repeatedly:
int sensorValue = analogRead(sensor);
if(sensorValue > 0 && sensorValue < 100 && timePassed 0 && sensorValue 100 && sensorValue < 200 && timePassed 100 && sensorValue 200 && sensorValue < 300 && timePassed 200 && sensorValue 300) {
digitalWrite(randomNumber, HIGH);
digitalWrite(randomNumber, LOW);
timePassed = timePassed + 240;
} else if(sensorValue > 300 ) {
digitalWrite(random(8,14), HIGH);
timePassed = 0;
digitalWrite(8, LOW);
digitalWrite(9, LOW);
digitalWrite(10, LOW);
digitalWrite(11, LOW);
digitalWrite(12, LOW);
digitalWrite(13, LOW);


Reading Response: A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design by Bret Victor

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that our visions of the future are limited by the now. What do I mean by that? It’s difficult to predict what ‘will be’ the technology of the future, simply because most of it doesn’t exist yet. Sure, we can imagine and prototype. However, even these ideas in our heads are outdated. We develop these ideas based thoughts and knowledge that we have established. And each time, we will again be surprised by the cycle that ensues for a digital revolution.

The first impression that you get from the visually pleasing video with an equally meant-to-be pleasing soundtrack humming in the background is, wow, that’s the future. It seems impressive with all glass paper thin phones and interactive devices as far as the eye can see. But the author brings up a good point: Why are we limiting our sights on to this ideal of what the future looks like? And if this is the ideal, why is it meaningful?

Interaction nowadays generally conjures up images of the latest smartphones and computer technologies. I really enjoyed the author taking away that connotation, and shifting elsewhere: back to the basic mode of interaction with the rest of the world. Your hands.

More specifically, touch. Touch matters a lot for creating an interactive and futuristic experience. The author argues that this touch is not an ambitious or sufficient enough vision.

He further argues that, considering we live in a world that is three-dimensional, part of what makes our interactive experiences meaningful, from opening a jar to making a sandwich, is our ability to hold them, rotate them, and manipulating them in various different ways.

I like that he calls phones and the way we interact ‘Pictures Under Glass’. How is that as impressive as the world around us in any way, and why are we so fascinated by this?

In reading the response to his earlier rant, I’m also very curious about why we so adamantly defend our innovation culture. It’s quite clear to see that we have a long way to go, and our biological and natural world clearly surpasses our capacity and rate of innovation in terms of interaction.

The Design of Everyday Things Ch. 1 // Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better

    The Psychopathology of Everyday Things

“Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology.”

The author’s definition of design resonated well with me. Design can be a difficult concept to put into a constrained definition or explain in words. For me, it’s more of a feeling that I experience when I interact with a product or object. Later on while reading this chapter, I find that ‘experience’ and ‘interaction’ are key elements of the essence of design. And more importantly, me. I am a key element in what makes design good or bad.

Let me explain. The author breaks down design into various types, the most important to us being “Human-Centered Design.” The author takes the simple case of the door, a simple object that most of us have an interaction with everyday. Poor design in doors results “Because much of the design is done by engineers who are experts in technology but limited in their understanding of people.” The understanding of people. What makes us frustrated or excited when we use something?

It’s interesting how polarized the feelings are when it comes to design. Design is generally something that is quite passive. We don’t really notice design, until it is bad design, and in that case it is usually too late. That’s probably why the idea of user testing came about – engineers and designers need to understand pitfalls of an experience from a human. We can only recognize good design by knowing that it is not bad.

The user testing process allows to test for the two important characteristics of design identified by the author: discoverability and understanding. By watching someone interact with a new product that we create, we can answer two main questions. Have they discovered how to use it? And have they understood the product?

As I go on to design various projects, I will keep in mind the idea that “Design presents a fascinating interplay of technology and psychology, that the designers must understand both.”

    Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better

I often wondered about the science or psychology behind why we prefer things that are more aesthetically pleasing to us. Why does it matter that my iPhone looks sleek and stylish, isn’t it enough that it works?

The abstract of this paper grabbed my attention with the powerful distinction between positive and negative affect, and how people receive the experience of their products with each respectively. So why do attractive things ‘work better’ according to this paper?

According to this author, the answer lies in affect. “ … affect is always passing judgments, presenting us with immediate information about the world: here is potential danger, there is potential comfort. This is nice, that bad.”

The kind of affect we’re looking for as designers, is positive affect. This is because, compared to negative affect, positive affect causes us to “broaden the thought process”. This makes sense, answers for optimal design are not usually thought of as logical problems, instead appealing to the ethos of the user.

I enjoyed the physical metaphor of the teapots that the author provides in order to illustrate usability, design, and effectiveness and how each plays a different role at different times in our lives. It also shows that aesthetic design may not always be functional or usable. The ever enduring challenge is the one in which we attempt to strike the perfect balance for our products.

Reading Response: The Jump to University // The Art of Interactive Design (Ch 1)

The Jump to Universality was an interesting reading that got me to think more critically about some of the very basic systems we have in place today. There are many things we take as granted, but when we really reflect on them they are amazing ideas that somehow the whole of humanity has internalized and utilizes on a day to day basis for basic life tasks. Ideas such as the alphabet, and numerical systems are discussed in this article which certainly at first glance seem to be fairly trivial.

The big question that the text is answering is how we come to see an idea as universal, or how it even gets that way in the first place. The author makes an interesting note by citing historical examples that universality is never really the objective when someone is creating a system. It happens “accidentally”. The author gives the example of Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine. He certainly did not begin with the idea of computational universality in mind and certainly did not imagine the extent to which computational thought would influence society for generations to come.

The author also discusses Ada Lovelace (one of my favorite female scientists in history!) and her thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) along with Babbage. I think it is interesting to see the various views on Artificial Intelligence in different spheres (philosophy, science, technology). I suppose everything is thought to be impossible until it comes to fruition – so who knows where we’ll be in a few years.


Chapter 1 of The Art of Interactivity poses us with an important question – “What exactly is interactivity?” As I began reading, I could think of a myriad of examples of everyday things that are ‘interactive’ as such. I also noticed that many of the things that came to mind for me involved ‘technology’ (although this term can encompass a great number of things) or ‘computers’ as we know them today. So, my question became, what is not interactive?

The author answered the question by citing the example of a book. Examining interactivity from the lens of speaking, thinking, and listening, a book only really fulfills one of the requirements. It can speak to you – but books cannot think or listen in the ways other interactive technologies might (think Siri!)

Important definitions:

human factors engineering – increase the productivity of industrial workers, aesthetic factors play no role, efficiency is the sole concern.

user interface – optimizes communications between people and electronic devices.

interactivity design – addresses the entire interaction between user and computer, optimizes strengths in speaking and listening.

I found the discussion on the distinction between interactivity design and user interface design extremely relevant in today’s world. We often see the jobs UI Designer, or UX Designer, or even UI/UX Designers. But what does that really mean, what’s the difference, and is there a difference? Should someone have a job title that entails doing both or is it important to specialize? The author says,

“We can grasp the task of the interactivity designer by regarding the thinking content of software as its function, and the user interface as its form .. the user interface designer considers form only … but the interactivity designer considers both form and function in creating a unified design.”

Observation Assignment: Quick Tickets Kiosk at the VOX Cinema

This week, I was excited to head to Yas Mall with some friends of mine to see my first ever Bollywood Movie. We jumped on to the shuttle around dinner time, and walked over to the Vox Cinema area of the mall just past the food court.

The area is usually quite crowded, even during the weekdays. I noticed two things, the first on my left hand side was the traditional ticket lines along with the snack bar to get some over-priced popcorn, drinks, or whatever else you wanted to snack on during the movie. On the right, there was a row of kiosks with a big sign that said: “Quick Tickets”

From that you can infer that the expectation is to be able to skip the long lines and quickly get your tickets to go into the movie, without having to interact with one of the employees at the movie theatre.

I immediately noticed that the lines on the traditional ticketing service line were much longer, and I was easily tempted to head towards the self-service kiosks. When I glanced over at the people in front of me who were buying their tickets during the kiosk, the first thing I noticed was that they were all using their credit cards to pay instead of cash. I wanted to use cash and so I recognized that this would be an issue for me. I noticed someone else express their frustration after having gone through the process of selecting their movie and ticket to realize that they couldn’t use cash either.

The user experience and interface was relatively smooth and easy. It’s operated by a touch screen where you can scroll through colorful movie posters and show times to decide on which movie you want to see. People seemed to have no trouble with this, it was intuitive and expected from the kind of ‘large iPad’ type screen that is presented to you in the beginning.

One point of confusion that I noticed for several people was when it came time to select the seats that they wanted. I think that came from a poor choose of colors. When you need to choose a seat, you are presented with a seat map that has different color schemes for allocated, non-allocated, and VIP seating. The allocated seating was depicted in a dark grey color, and the non-allocated seating was depicted in a red color. Personally, I would have understood the reverse color scheme a bit more.

Finally, another point that I realized would be a deterrent for using these kiosks is if someone wanted to buy snacks. Obviously you cannot buy snacks at the kiosks, and you would therefore have to wait in line anyway to be able to purchase snacks for your movie.

All in all, I think people were reluctant to use the kiosks for a variety of reasons. Even though the idea of a quicker, self service machine is much more appealing than waiting in line, customers seemed to prefer the traditional route.

Response: There are No Electrons // Electrons for Earthlings

I enjoyed the approach to this book about understanding a complex topic with a more simplified approach. Electricity has been studied for a long time, and the theories and ideas have changed and will continue to change since it is a complex and abstract phenomenon that required advanced technology and knowledge beyond what we currently have.
My favorite analogy was the voltage analogy in the Little Greenie Theory described as the Greenies need to party, or the E for Enthusiasm. It is a good way to imagine and remember what the definition of voltage is. I think it was particularly good to explain the analogy, then explain the theory in terms of ‘Electron Theory’ jargon because I was then able to understand it and make a creative mental association with what voltage is. I had a similar experience with the explanation of current as traffic.
The book also allowed me to think more critically about the models and images often used to represent topics in science. Models are a way of understanding an occurrence or natural phenomenon, and there is no reason that we shouldn’t come up with other models, such as ‘The Little Greenie Theory’ to help us visualize complex concepts. As long as we keep in mind that this is not actually the way things work, and make the distinctions between reality and the model, it is a great way to learn and work with electricity.
In fact, it may be more effective to have a model such as ‘The Greenie Theory’ in order to keep in mind that a theory is just that, a theory, and until we have concrete proof of what is correct and what is not correct, we should take other models with a grain of salt. A prime example of a mistake that has been made because a theory was taken to be truth too soon is the direction in which current flows. Although we now know that current flows from negative charge to positive charge, it was once believed that the current flows from positive to negative. A lot of written documentation has it this way, and for the sake of convenience, the incorrect flow is actually labeled as conventional current although we know it not to be accurate.
Needless to say, as I work with electricity and learn more about how to manipulate it for my projects I will certainly be imagining Little Greenies in my circuits.