Kenji Yanobe's Sweet Harmonizer 2


Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 13

interactive neurotic King's head assembly The picture on the left is a 'Kismet'-style greeterBot being used at King's College in London. The article in Nature

I still want to make my Kisov robot, which would be capable of walking unaided to Cambridge and punching Kismet in the face.

I bought one of those multi-color IR sensors that is supposed to be able to not only detect light, but detect specific wavelengths. Danged if I can figure out how it works. It has four glass plates on the front and two sets of three wires in the back. I can't find any specs anywhere. Gov. Color Detector The wires are sort of like those of a stepper motor, where each set of three has one wire that seems to control the other two, but this is a sensor, not an output. I don't know, I can't get any kind of reading out of it. I bought two, and they're exactly the same, so I don't think I got a dud.

I don't have an Uncle Sam, but I do have an Uncle Tom.

I got to see a segway up close over the weekend, although I wasn't permitted to ride it. The technology is pretty amazing and the interface is surprisingly simple: lean forward to accelerate, lean back to decelerate. One button turns it on or off, and one handle controls steering. That's it.
Supposedly some NYPD were riding Segways while monitoring the Thanksgiving parade. They allow the policeman's eyes to be about a foot above everyone else's, and the quirky look of the machines make the police more approachable than when they just sit in cars. That's what a guy told me, anyway. About half of everything I know is because 'a guy I know said...'
All the same, after all that hype back in 2001, Kamen's gang has only sold about 6,000. For the average person, they're pretty useless. I live on the 4th floor and I get irritable just lugging my bike up the stairs, or myself even.

Last week I ordered a whole mess o' motors and they came yesterday, yipee! (I mean, ahem, whooptee-doo. Gotta maintain my aloof, cynical persona - wouldn't want you to think I was actually earnest about anything)
The little 1.5v ones work fine, on next to no voltage or current, and they run as silently as mice in fluffy slippers.
I got a free pen with my order, whooptee-doo (I mean, yipee!)

I encourage everyone to visit the Liberty Science Center. It's a 6-minute ferry ride from Manhattan (or about a half-hour if you go by Path and NJT light rail). So many of the exhibits are the sorts of things we build in class, it occured to me that 'Museum Exhibit Designer' may be a future career for some of us. The Hoberman Sphere is cool. We should have discussed it in our Spatial Design class.

The pager motors arrived as well. They're fast! They still have the eccentrics on the axles, so they have that wayward motion... no not wayward. Misdirected? No. Lacking guidance?
I want to describe the motors' way of spinning, but it sounds like I'm talking about some slattern.
Anyway, their spin is awkward and I'm not sure I can use them.

There's a new music store on 14th street, between 5th and 6th, called Manhattan Guitars or something like that. The service is pretty bad, but it's many times more huger than any music store I've ever seen inside or outside of New York. So if you need a $5 midi cable and don't feel like schlepping up to 48th street (where most of Manhatan's music stores are located) it's worth checking out.

Humidity Sensor I bought a humidity sensor, too. For real. It's small, about 1.3 * 10-4 football fields by 6.9 * 10-5 football fields, or about 2.7µVolkswagen Beetles.
I get about 200 kilohms resistance when dry (just sitting on the desk) and I can get it down to about 60KΩ using my 'special technique' of 'making things damp'. It involves instigating the tool's hysteresis. It's true.
It even came with a data sheet which seems rare nowadays, not like in my day, a month or so ago. Back then everything came with a data sheet. Even beer.
I had an idea to make a wind chime that made music based on weather conditions other than just wind, so I could use this for that.

MPJA has pager motors for 49¢ and IR photo transistors for 5¢

Two pressure-sensors, also with data sheet. These output varying voltage rather than resistance. That's kind of interesting. It has voltage in, voltage out, ground, and signal. I'm not sure why it needs voltage out and ground, unless ground is optional.
I can't get any variance of voltage out of it, no matter how hard I squeeze. It could be because I don't know what I'm doing, but that's usually the conclusion I draw only after all others have been exhausted. I usually stick with "because they're stupid, that's why" until I'm proven wrong.

Heard Bob 'Ethernet' Metcalfe's talk tonight. He started out somewhat patronizing, I thought, calling us 'artsy' in a pejoritive way. I think he was surprised to hear so many questions that referenced VoIP, IPv6, etc.

Regarding 'Metcalfe's Law', don't you think Alexander Bell came to the same conclusion well over 100 years ago?

And in general I agree with his quasi-libertarian attitudes against legislation in favor of bottom-up processes and allowing the market to set standards, but look at the rapid deployment and success of NTT DoCoMo's iMode system while the US is still trying to decide whether WAP is still relevant. Back in the early days of the railroad boom, different companies had different gauges of track - a perfect illustration of the problem of competing standards. The solution wasn't to let the market decide though, because it doesn't matter how wide the bleedin' tracks are, as long as they're all the same. Sometimes, one top-down mandate saves years of 'organic' 'evolution'.

And lastly, I don't want any stinking videophone! What, am I going to have to put pants on every time the phone rings?

The photo transistors work really well. They're like the photo resistors, but these are transistors, where the base is the photo-sensitive NPN-doped silicon. They seem quite sensitive, but have a lot of range, just like that slattern. is a good site, courtesy M. Ferrule

Last on the list is a stepper motor driver and some 555 timer chips. I thought I might do some oscillation/music stuff with the timers, but they'll probably just sit around until next semester.

Now that I'm done with inventory, I need to get started. Here is a diagram I may use on Friday. I think it explains what I'll be making pretty clearly.

In the past week there have been two fires at the intersection below my apartment. Both were trash fires at around 3:00am, so I'm guessing someone flicked his cigarette in the garbage. (is it still sexist to use gendered pronouns to refer to unknown people when the comment is critical?) Luckily, there's a fire station literally around the corner. I called 911 to report it, and the lady on the other end sounded bored. That was the second time I've ever called 911. The first time was when I saw someone get shot through his car window on the West Side Highway. I think it was an undercover policeman who did the shooting, so I guess it's okay - I guess. The reason I think it was NYPD ("New York's Finest") is that the shooter guy (caucasian) had two associates who jumped out of the van at the same time, a white woman and a black man - and I don't know of any criminal organizations that operate with that kind of racial and gender diversity.

So, there's still charred garbage all over the street - the FDNY ("New York's Bravest") puts out the fires but they don't clean up, and neither does the DSNY ("New York's Strongest") - it's the responsibility of the building owner. But, the building next door, which now has it's front door all charred as well, nearly burnt through, is a quasi-abandoned building that's been empty ever since it was closed down in the 70s when it was a 'social club' used by some of the more important Italian-Americans in the neighborhood. Some people are convinced there are bodies buried in the cellar. All I know for sure is that there are loads of rats and one Doberman living in there.

So, I go out this afternoon and there's a guy in a straitjacket doused with what looks like blood, posing in front of the charred door while his girlfriend takes pictures. That's why New York is cool.

diagramExample Here's the diagram I'll use for the work this week.

You know who's a great guy? I mean, a real prince among men - a champion, not a charlatan; less a mountebank and more a master; neither scalawag, scamp, nor scoundrel, neither rapscallion, rascal, nor reprobate - someone who could never be a miscreant or knave, but always a paladin, an ideal, an idol, an ace.

Do you? Without consulting your thesaurus?

Me neither, but this one guy, Alexander Safir, at NSCC and UW in Seattle is pretty cool.

Actually, 'thesaurus' is not Latin for 'The Dinosaur', as most Canadians believe. In fact, 'thesaurus' is Sanskrit for 'All your base are belong to us', which over the millenia has been contracted into its current pronunciation.

Yesterday, I had the very first martini that I actually enjoyed. There are supposedly 30 new vodka brands put out on the market each year now in the liquor industry's version of the dot-com boom. One brand, ciroc, is technically a highly-distilled/filtered French brandy, but it makes a fine martini.

I moved the TV into the bedroom, when I had people staying over, but haven't moved it back, which is stupid because now I turn it on when I'm tired of working. The other night there was a movie on, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" which is one of the lamer titles I've seen. It would have been cooler if it had been called, "Fender" or "Beyond the Attic Stairs" or "Star Wars". The movie was slightly less stupid than I had anticipated, although I came to realize how terrible some child actors are. But the gadgetry was cool. Anything that has that kind of Rube Goldberg-style stuff is A-OK. Rick Moranis is no Wallace, but at least he's gone beyond his Strange Brew days. I think I saw Doug McKenzie in an ad for UPS.
It looked like it would have been a fun movie to work on, with all the effects. I meant "HISTK" (that's how it's called in fan-fic circles), but Strange Brew would have been fun too. It's funny to see the 'special' effects in some movies, where the secret weapon or whatever is clearly just an LED glued to a resistor or something.

I like CHI. And Chai's pretty good, too. χ I don't feel one way or the other about. I don't like the idea of chi, but if it were real I guess I would like it. And CSI: My Bathroom, well, that's better left unmentioned. Oops, too late.

SIGCHI has calls for papers every month or so. The Advanced Visual Interfaces conference in Gallipoli, Italy (did you see that movie, with Mel Gibson?) HAS A DEADLIne (sorry, didn't mean to shout, stupid caps lock) of December 18.
And the Engagability and Design Conference in Birmingham (I assume not Alabama) date already passed. They're covering Affective Computing, Digital Media, E-Learning, Games, HCI (the alternate, unpronouncable equivalent of CHI), Mobile Devices, Ubiquitous Computing, and Public Access Kiosks. Should be cool. Email John Knight for more info.
Also, there's info on a Student Design Contest being held in Vienna next year. (Jan 12, 2004 deadline)

"Engagability" looks like "I'm a gag a hillbilly!" Well, sort of.

SIGCHI says that punching your monitor is a valid for of human-computer interaction.

I was talking with Ana about classes next semester, and whether she would take any more courses that involved programming. She seemed a little envious that I haven't had the difficulties with coding that she had, but I just explained that when you care about it, it's no longer work, it's fun. When you don't care about it, it's no longer fun and it becomes work.

Here's the final version of the diagram.
You will be held to this document: you can't use anything in the final that's not in this document; and if its in the document, it must be in the final. It doesn't have to be fancy, but its got to be complete.

I've left out obvious stuff such as on/off switch, wheels, and all the complicated electronics needed to make it actually work.

The word "indescribable" is a paradox, in that it describes something as having no description, which is a description...

And "engarboil" is a real word.

A few months ago Google AdSense was the best thing to happen to Web advertising. It's making me about $3/day on my site, but when I see them on other sites now they seem like the online equivalent of ab-buster ads on TV.

From "I4U has news about a new transportation concept, called The Hallucigenia 01, which is a working 1/5 scale vehicle prototype, designed by Japanese design firm Leading Edge Design. PC Watch (Japanese) has photos and movies. Its 8 wheels are independent robotic arms controlled by their own satellite CPUs, interconnected to the main CPU by an internal LAN."

My slashdot karma is 'excellent' which means I get asked to moderate or meta-moderate just about every day. So you see, with great privilage comes great responsibility.

If you are reading this from Slashdot I want you to do something: Find a coat or a pair of pants you haven't worn in a few months, and put $5 in the pocket, then put the coat or pants back in the closet. Then, when you get it out again in a few months, you'll have $5!

Those 49¢ motors I bought are shitty. They have no bearings, so just holding them at a skewed angle is enough to cause the axle to rub against the casing and force it to stop spinning.

What would happen if you took the door off of a microwave oven then turned it on? It's a good thing I don't have one otherwise I would try it.

I once had a pair of sneakers that I wore in the snow and they got soaked. If I had been at home I might have put them in the oven, where the gas pilot light keeps the interior of the oven at a dry 100° or so. But I was at work so I put the shoes in the microwave and set it for maybe 15 seconds. The rubber got all warped and the insoles got these weird wrinkles and bumps. They weren't very comfortable.

After discussing the robot idea with Jean-Marc, he suggested the idea depicted on the right, to have a fluid, circular creature that has the ability to deform itself when presented with a small aperature, a sphincter, if you will.
So, another idea is to modify the segments so that there is no head, and the last segment is attached to the first. Each segment would have its own photo-transistors and there would be some emergent behavior as the segments end up unconsciously working together to crowd through a small space.

In junior high school (now called 'Middle School'. Why is that? Is it not politically correct to say 'juniior'?) each year right before winter break, the math class would be shown 'Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land'. I never wanted to play pool more than I did just after seeing that.

Matt Slaybaugh
ms171 at