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Posts related to the Physical Computing course at ITP

RGB Color Mixer Final Documentation

RGB Color Mix

Show prep

A photo posted by AJ LeVine (@aj701) on

Bluetooth controllers go!

A video posted by AJ LeVine (@aj701) on

P.Com Final Documentation

2x Arduino Micro
2x Adafruit Bluefruit
1 sheet of laser cut translucent acrylic 1/8”
1 sheet transparent acryllic 1/8”
2 bamboo boxes
1 sheet of brown suede
6 FSRs

RGB MIX is a video game played using a specialized controller to help people understand digital color mixing. Different from print, digital screens use reflective colors to mix and create all color we see in the digital realm, this game is designed to help people come to understand how colors react with each other and how designers use RGB color pallets while creating work. The finished project consists of two bluetooth controllers that can interact with either a tablet, or computer version of the game.

Technically the project ended differently than our original proposal. After trouble shooting various bluetooth methods we settled on using an Arduino Micro with the Adafruit Bluefruit adapter. There were some things to troubleshoot with this combo, most notably having to adjust the code on the Arduino, by replacing all instances of “Serial” with “Serial1” in the Arduino code we were able to get it to communicate via bluetooth while using handshake serial communication, though there were still some kinks while getting it to successfully work. One issue that was found is that the micro controller will only send a signal (a call) to the computer the first time contact is initiated, if the first instance of communication is closed the Arduino must be power cycled for it to send another call, this bug was difficult to discover, but now that it’s known we are able to keep it in a working state.

To see examples of the Arduino code click here, for the serial communication code in the processing sketch click here.

While building the new controllers we sealed the FSRs between two layers of plastic with acrylic cement, this guaranteed a stable seal. To cover the FSRs we are currently using suede, but may switch to thinner suede or felt in the future to provide more feel. After experimenting with multiple different kinds of rubberization user testing told us they dampened the firs too much and did not provide accurate feedback while playing the game.

In the game code we played with different algorithms, the biggest change we made was adjusting sensitivity on the fly as people play, by dampening the sensitivity of the pressure sensors as the user came closer to the target value we were able to make it slightly easier for users to hold specific values, making a very hard game a little easier.


RGB Color Mixer V.2 Update

** Update – After user testing we will not be using rubberization, we may leave the FSR sensors raw, or use leather to cover them. We will also be moving from the Lightblue Bean to an Arduino Micro and the Bluefruit be Adafruit bluetooth 2.0 adapter.
As my partner Gladys works on the javascript conversion of the software I have been working on the physical parts of the system. The new system will have two separate bluetooth controllers housed in bamboo boxes with laser etched translucent white acrylic tops. I have also been experimenting with different kinds of rubber to give users more control over the color values in the game, the play testing will be crucial in helping make a decision on this.

Bamboo Controller

Semi Finished Bluetooth Prototype


Sanding down the laser cut acrylic.

rubber sample

Testing different rubber treatments on version one.


P.Com Midterm and Final Project Proposal

For our P.Com midterm my partner, Gladys Chan and I created an RGB Color Mixing game. The game consisted of a specialy made controller comprising of 3 Force Sensing Resistor pads for each player. Each pad corresponded to an RGB value and the goal of the game was to mix colors an attempt to match a target color displayed on the screen.
Revision 1-

Color fsr testing

A video posted by AJ LeVine (@aj701) on

Revision 2 –

Rgb color mix game prototype A video posted by AJ LeVine (@aj701) on

In revision two the goal is to refine the UX. There were many complications in revision one we wish to improve. by redoing the mapping algorithms that control the FSR sensors we will make it easier for uses to hold values, we will also me instituting rubberization techniques into the physical component to further ease the ability to hold values. The UX will have a minor overhaul, creating clear goals for both players. We hope to have this running in the web browser and eventually have it running on an iOS tablet. Therefor we must convert the controllerto bluetooth LE.

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Thoughts on Interactive Design in Physical and Digital Realms

A classic design that has remained nearly unchanged for over half a century.

Leica MP: A classic example of physical interactive design that has remained nearly unchanged for 60+ years.


Physical interaction has been moving in a troubling direction, as Bret Victor states in his rant, we are currently being led to believe “pictures under glass” (referring to modern touch interfaces) are the future of physical interactivity. I prefer to see touch technology in this capacity as more of a stepping stone than a permanent answer to our interactive needs, but it’s spreading beyond the realm of smartphones and tablets and finding it’s way into all kinds of products in our lives, superfluously replacing tactile buttons, switches, and dials in everything from espresso machines to cameras.

The Leica camera above serves in my mind as the perfect example of well designed physical interaction in a mechanically complex product. The camera has the ability to become an extension of ones body, providing physical feedback when manipulated in the form of a solid “click” when a setting is changed by the user on the body. This physical feedback upon manipulation provides the user with more than just a visual form of communication with the device allowing for distraction free composition via the viewfinder while letting ones hands do the work. Leica has kept true to this design since the launch of the Leica M3 camera in 1954, changes in it’s digital cameras have been quite minor (the elimination of the film rewind/advance levers for instance). While other camera companies struggled attempting to design around the digital revolution, taking far too long to realize the value in a mechanically refined and simple design, Leica is an example of a company that did not let it’s original design waiver and has found success because of this.

Interaction in the digital realm is slightly more complex, in Crawford’s book “The Art of Interactive Design” he describes interaction as a form of communication, something that requires three steps – listening, thinking, and speaking. This is required by both parties to have interaction, anything less becomes more of a reaction than an interaction. Crawford goes on to state that we shouldn’t measure interaction as a boolean property – it is not something that is either on or off like a switch as there are different levels of interactivity. Taking this into account and applying it to the digital realm there are very few non interactive tasks when using digital technology, we are constantly either speaking/listening to our devices. When inputting information into a digital device, whether it be a touch or keystroke we are “speaking” to the device, once said input is complete the device “listens” to our input and begins processing or “thinking” about the information we have given it. When complete the device offers us a reply (talking back to us), this happens countless times throughout our day as we interact with the digital devices around us. That said all digital devices have an element of interactivity, some higher than others. That is until you tell your computer to launch netflix and begin watching a movie – this top-down form of communication offers zero levels of interactivity with its user.


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