Meet toy 5, a cable-controlled truck. Ken and I decided to mux it with toy 6, a baby that gurgles while it crawls on its four little legs.
Despite promising to let me do the hacking and problem solving, Ken took it all into his hands after Dave kindly (and mindlessly) drew what he thought we should do. I only got to do a bit of thinking and some soldering (really fine soldering I must say). But, well.
We managed to get the baby crawl forward, and backward, when we command it to do so with the truck’s cable-control.
And Ken found that there’s a sensor in the baby’s head. What it actually senses is still a mystery, though.
Mother’s milk, maybe?
Thanks to Hackerspace Melbourne for tools and brains, and Ken Lin for having fun with me.
Archive for the ‘toyhacking’
The Butterfly Generator (2012) is produced in cooperation with ZKM | Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, artist-in-residence program of the exhibition The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989 and Osage Art Foundation, Hong Kong.
Many thanks to Lysander Leung and Dickens Leung (for the VB program and networking) and Thomas Zhang (for the electronic design and general project assistance).
In the morning of new year’s day I pondered, horizontally and from my bed, on how I liked my bedroom window. How it has given me joy, and made me wake up happy. Then I thought I should do a window myself.
Construction of a Window, in which I will make a window on a solid outer wall of preferably a museum, but only after commissioning several painters to paint what they imagine to be the view the finished window will give us in the end.
I’m wondering whether this project has something to do with Angles and Shadows and a little bit of physical computing. I’m also thinking of it in light of my previous works with visual references to bureaucratic material.
In the meanwhile, I’m surveying the logistics of it. It seems to be able to be done in a few hours, so perhaps it is possible to make a whole window in an exhibition opening. It seems to be simple enough, provided the wall is not a bearing wall, to do it myself. It seems that I will have to get a building permission, and I have yet no idea how, how much and how long. Other than that it seems to be not so costly to do. Perhaps it is even possible to work with my audience again. And it would be nice to do another Do It Yourself video out of it.
I ran the idea through Daniel, and his response was “I always think of windows as borders as distancing as walls because you are now aware of what is over there but can remain separate, and this time through choice.” Good. It might work well.
There are more details to be thought about. Maybe there’s a machine that helps people demolish the necessary part of the wall and so that machine can also be controllable through the internet. The paintings are like people talking about culture from a distance. Physical distance, like what theorists do, and temporal distance, like interpretation of history. The wall is simply a wall. The window is a willingness to see, or sometimes it’s a pretense to see, but not seeing anyway. Window as a construct. Only to provide view. When it’s dark inside, we are not visible from the outside. Light will come in, and that’s beneficial. but you are separated anyway. Which brings me to another question: will the window be closed (with glass) or openable, or what?
This needs more thoughts.
I hope I’ll be able to do this project soon. Gimme gimme gimme a museum wall.
“Powerswitch,” reminds me of the Singaporean children’s part in The Adventures of Flo and Kat (2003-2005) project.
I have been pondering on it for a while. My hesitation of course had something to do with procrastination and chickening out. Somewhere along those lines. A few days ago, however, I have decided that it is nonsense that my reason for not having cut any wires until now is because I don’t have a soldering iron. Quatch, as the Germans would say. I could just stick the naked parts of the cable together with tape.
Another reason for my procrastination and chickening out was that I’m not sure whether the powerswitch will take exactly the same amount of voltage from the battery. This is a potential Quatch as well. I like that the Germans start their Nouns in Capitals.
Therefore, I was left with only one other reason, which might be legitimate: I just don’t know enough about where to connect two of the cables going out of the powerswitch.
This is what toy 1’s powerswitch connections look like:
|I can understand that the orange cable goes out from the switch to the positive pole of the battery compartment, and the black one goes out from the negative pole of the battery compartment to the end of the circuit board.|
|If I would put it in toy 2, the orange cable going out of the powerswitch in toy 1 will have to connect to the red cable of toy 2 which connects to the positive pole of the battery compartment of toy 2. Where should the black one coming out of toy 2’s negative pole of battery compartment go, though?|
|I took a closer look at toy 2, and realised that the big green thing I thought was the PCB was actually just a placeholder for the buttons. So silly of me not to realise earlier. The circuit board is actually just the small brown board with visible resistors. All the buttons are connected to this brown board with cables. I pulled the brown board out of its green plastic holders.|
|The black cable turns out to be connected to some end of the circuit board. Just like in toy 1. The next problem, however, is that there is a red cable and a white cable coming out from toy 1’s power switch, and they each connect to each end of the circuit board. Shoot me, Lawd. How can I figure this out?|
|These facts might be useful: each of the two white cables from the speakers are connected to each end of the circuit board. Whenever any button on toy 2 is pressed, the speaker would be activated. There’s another thing that gets activated whenever any button is pressed as well: a small light that’s connected to the brown and orange cables which other ends are connected to the board. It seems like the orange cable, one of the white cables from the speaker, and the red cable connected to the positive pole of the battery compartment are all soldered to one, though. I might have sketched this wrongly.|
Last Monday I checked out O’Sullivan and Igoe’s Physical Computing from the library and started reading it earlier today. It’s putting my scattered mind into place. Now I know that toy 1 has digital I/O (input/output) and serial events, toy 2 has digital I/O and parallel events, and toy 3 has analog I/O and serial events.
Projects with digital I/O and serial events, like toy 1, are “easy.” Projects with digital I/O and parallel events like toy 2 are “time consuming, but not too hard.” Projects with analog I/O and serial events, in my case toy 3, are a “bit more difficult”. “The most challenging” projects, according to the book, are ones that have analog I/O and parallel events.
I want to eventually get to projects that have analog I/O and parallel events. That would be a perfect exercise. But first things first.
|Before I bought any of my toys, during one of my WiFi trips to Macca’s I considered contributing to the giga-franchise as I have used a considerable amount of its free internet connection. I bought what they called the “Happy Meal,” and as part of the ritual had to choose a toy right after I paid. I chose one. Last night I thought of opening this toy as well, but was discouraged by it’s weird-looking screw. It looks like it needs a triangle-shaped screwdriver.|
|So I gave up on Macca’s toy, and went on to toy 3.|
|Toy 3, as I have described, is quite exciting because its seemingly digital sensor actually activates a physical motor.|
|Unfortunately the little reading/writing light is broken now. It was working when I tried it the first time, then it simply stopped working. It might be just a bulb problem. I hope it is.|
|It was exciting to find out that the machine actually uses both sides of its shell. Apparently the lock mechanism doesn’t only depend on that purple plastic bar, but also a purple latch on the back shell.|
|When I press the purple button, the woman’s voice is triggered. What she says, however, depends on some sort of memory. The voice comes out through that speaker, and at the same time something triggers the green light on. The mic is simultaneously activated.|
|The mic then “listens” to a soundwave, and apparently would send the soundwave to the board to be matched. The board triggers the woman’s voice again, depending on some sort of memory. At the same time, depending on the result of the matching process, the purple bar will be triggered to move.|
The small copper-coloured beam with the black plastic head seems to be triggered by something to help the purple bar move to open the lock.
Up until now, however, everything is merely seeming to be so and so. Boring. I should kick myself in the butt to go on, coward. Electrify Christmas!
When I arrived at Savers Brunswick last Sunday, I was quite disappointed to see that the infrared toy that I have been eyeing and thinking about was not there anymore. Have I been thinking too much? Should I have just bought it right away when I saw it? I decided to accept the mystery. I also decided I should just be happy. What made me happy was this: just half an hour before that disappointment, I managed to find a very cool toy at Savers Footscray, and I decided to just buy it immediately!
Radica’s Girl Tech Password Journal® 2 seems to have been disappointing many, many little girls, and temporarily entertaining only several other little girls, in various parts of our little blue earth. Released in 2000, and that’s a nice nine years ago, mind you, some girls actually had to wait for a few years until they could get it as a christmas present, only to realise that what was advertised as voice recognition seemed to be either too simply or at times too complicatedly recognising mere soundwaves.
Before I read all the customer reviews online, however, I was shrieking with joy in my studio when I first managed to figure out what this toy does. First, it asked for the time. “Hour, please,” it said. Lucky I understood that somehow the “select” button has something to do with it. It then asked for the date, and the month. And then: birthday! Of course I came up with a fake birthday, and so right after my fake midnight, when I opened it on my fake birthday, it said “password accepted, welcome back. Happy birthday!” Shriek! Joy!
Another thing that made me happy was to find out that the lock mechanism is ran by a motor that is duly activated after the device decides that the password matches. Plus sound effects! Goodness gracious, I can definitely use this heck of a machine. Even when most other little girls around the world have agreed to dump it in the garbage.
Toy three, here I come.
|I still don’t have a soldering iron yet. Thinking of buying a soldering station, but the price makes me think again. I kept thinking I might be able to get something cheaper in Indonesia. I am thinking and thinking. And not only about soldering irons. I also thought about toy 2.|
|So I opened toy 2 to see how it works.|
|Toy 2 has more cables than toy 1, as I have suspected from the more complex function it does.|
|The button contacts, however, are different from the rubber ones that toy 1 houses. They’re made of metal strips.|
Looking at it a bit closer, I was intrigued. How does this work? Each of the single buttons could actually trigger a sound – why a somewhat interconnected web of metal strips inside?
So I thought I should look at the cabling to see what the metal strips do.
|This white cable goes from the button at this end, which is the frog button …|
|… straight through to the other end of the PCB …|
… to the button at the other end of the toy. That’s a green wheel button.
The frog button is green as well!
Did I miss anything here? Both buttons are green. Would a 3 year old notice that right away? Does this fact imply a function I didn’t notice in the toy? A secret feature of some sort, available only for those intelligent enough (as a 3 year old) to see the visual connection?
My suspicion was proven wrong. There is no connection whatsoever between the two green buttons, or between them and something else that’s green, namely the PCB.
But why does that white cable go from one end to the other end?
One day last September I participated in a one-day toyhacking workshop held by tinker.it and onedotzero. Yes, electronics – almost 24 years after a failed attempt to build a radio from scratch in grade 7. I was a bit reluctant when the workshop started, but the facilitators practically got our feet soaking wet within the first 2 seconds, and in response to it I amazingly got more and more courageous. I also found out that my soldering skill was not that bad, although the only time I have used it after that failed radio attempt in grade 7 was in the second year of architecture school when I made a model of a geodesic dome with a diameter of about 40 centimeters. That geodesic dome model was made of space frame structures which were made of about 2 centimeters struts, however, so I guess soldering hundreds of little struts into triangular space frames in the sole purpose of putting them together in an architecturally beautiful composition was quite good a training.
In the tinker.it workshop, I and two other people in my group made a wacky rabbit that ran away from us anytime we waved in front of it. We made that little wacky guy out of a rabbit soft toy shell, a movement sensor (stuck in place of the rabbit’s nose) and the wheels part of a remote-controlled car. I didn’t remember exactly why I signed in for that workshop – it was simply an obvious excitement I guess. Putting it in the bigger picture, however, I realised that the excitement stemmed from my interest in interactivity. I wanted to explore interactivity further, thus this toyhacking business in between Terra Incognita, et cetera and Nous ne notons pas les fleurs. Manual interactivity, electronic interactivity. Not to mention my dissatisfaction with Your fingerprints are mine, a few years back. Oh, and of course thanks to a little bit of Lure.
The workshop provided substantial courage and a good spark of enthusiasm, but I thought I should try to train myself systematically as well. So two days ago I went to Savers and bought two very basic toys to start figuring out what this is all about.
|This one is just really simple. Each of the colourful buttons correspond to a sound. Press it and you’ll hear a sound. There’s also a power switch.|
|And then there’s the second toy – with a more complex function. Imagine being a three year old and playing this and having those synapses connect, clack, clack, clack, in your brain, without being aware of it. Ah! Now the duck’s singing along, whoa now the chick is – ooh and now the dog! No power switch, though.|
|So what should I do with them? I thought I would just set up a simple mission, firstly, to take the power switch from toy 1, and put it in toy 2. The first thing I did was to open toy 1.|
|Ah, that safety thing – the battery compartment is fastened with a screw. The cover of the battery compartment of toy 2 actually says “caution: batteries to be installed by adults only.”|
|By the way, what is it about trains and animals that inspired these toymakers?|
|Comfy rubber pads, tidy PCB, and of course, the power switch. The orange cable is connected to one end of the battery compartment. The red and white are each connected to each end of the PCB.|
|Alas, I don’t have a soldering iron yet. And so, to be continued.|