Show and tell

Today we had our presentation on the fourth and final course module, and we have seen very interesting concepts.

When it comes to our work, people seemed to like it , they found it interesting – it was a big plus that no wires could be seen, so they thought it was very well assembled. Their feedbacks made us feel proud, after so much struggle with building the prototype and connecting with Ableton. Our teacher also liked the fact that we used the photocell sensors in two different spots  in the brush, because they could collect unequal data. Furthermore, he commented on the design tightness – the hairbrush felt tight not only in terms of immediateness – you use the brush and get an output – but also in terms of closeness, i.e. the closer it gets to the hair, the more intense  the sound gets; and modality , i.e. the sound will change depending on how you brush your hair.

This finding was actually very interesting for us because we used the same type of sensors and still we got differential results – before implementing them, we did not think about an important variable – angle. As the angle varies along and across the brush, you will get uneven distribution of light.

Summarising, we received a very good feedback and all the struggle we had to conceptualise and execute the design was worth it.

When it comes to other groups, there were also some interesting design concepts. My favourite one was developed by Marcus and Emil – a paintbrush that sounds differently depending on how you stroke – they played with bass and treble. Something remarkable about this group is that their design was based on research – before they started sketching the design, they read a lot about how paintbrush can be used.

The research part we have sort of skipped, and now in hindsight, we could have gone deeper with our design. I suppose it was the time constraint that made us go straight to brainstorming and sketching.

Many of the other groups used light sensors as well, in different ways – which made me ponder – how incredible and versatile a light sensor can be, and yet so simple!

Concerning our own presentation, i.e. the show ‘n’ tell session, I was rather satisfied – we managed to describe what we have done, why and how, and explained the concept  in terms of ambiguity, tightness and openness. We have also brought up technical issues.

This module was very challenging – we were newbies when it comes to Ableton, we struggled a lot with playing with sound, and sketching something that works – technical and aesthetically and that is interesting at the same time – how to make something trivial , unremarkable into something more exciting?

But in the end of the day, every minute of frustration  was worth- we learnt a lot, not only how to use Ableton and avoid short circuits, but also how a ideating, conceptualisation, sketching process works. Additionally we succeeded in turning something dull, boring into something interesting.



Make it work

Today there was not that much left to do – it was basically tinkering, and making the design look better, and work more effectively. Our initial plan was to use the breadboard inside the brush, but Lars pointed out its weaknesses – we should loose the breadboard, because the way it was connected could easily lead to short circuit. Besides it takes too much space. So we did as he suggested – we soldered all the parts – the photocell sensor to the resistor, and to jumper wires, and insulated the exposed wires with heat-shrink tubing. We made two sets of photocell sensors – and these sets were also connected to each other – the positive part from one, with the negative part from the other. Why that? Why positive from one with negative from the other? Because we wanted to invert the behaviour of one of the sensors, so the best thing would do it on the circuit.


After soldering, the hairbrush looked much better, and we did not have any more problems with short circuit, malfunctioning sensors. We also glued a frame made of carton package around the brush in order to make it look nicer and more stable.


Finished brush

After that we started sketching with different sounds, filters and variables, trying to figure out what would work better. We did not have many options to choose from when it comes to audio files. So we chose the less scary one, and edited /cropped it in order to sound better. One of the sensors – the one in the middle – was linked to res, which implies its sole function was to trigger the sound. The other sensor, to the side, was connected to frequency and responsible for the different outputs we would get depending on how we brush our hair.

Here is the finished product:

When we were done with all the sketching, we started to discuss interaction attributes  – ambiguity, tightness and openness. We felt that our hairbrush was ambiguous enough in terms of information because the sounds that came from the brush was unpredictable and when brushing or moving the brush in different directions you would get different outputs. Of course we could have explored the other two types of ambiguity – context and relationship – but we wanted to leave some room for clearness in the interaction with the hairbrush, in the meaning that we knew there would be some kind of sound when it was moved, but we did not know WHAT sound it would come over time, since it depends on how you brush your hair and even on your hair colour, since the sensors showed to be very sensitive to clothing colour and hair.

When it comes to tightness, it was the first attribute we succeeded with – the hairbrush reacted directly when it was approaching our hair – The closer the brush would get to the hair, the more intense the sound would get – so we can say that tightness is not reduced to immediateness aspect, it is also connected to the closeness aspect – as if the hairbrush was the extension of your hand. When it comes to the openness aspect, there is a lot of room for discussion – in theory our hairbrush is open – it can be used anyhow, anytime, anywhere, by everybody. But if we put the brush in a context, we begin to see its limitations in terms of openness  – is it okay to brush your hair during a business meeting? If you follow the prevailing social norms, you would not even consider this possibility. Can you use this hairbrush as a weapon? There are no physical constraints to that, but what about moral, behavioural ones? And hairbrushes were not intended to be used as a weapon, from a design point of view.

When it comes to bodily experience, the way the hairbrush sounded could send you a signal telling you when to brush your hair more slowly, carefully, and that would affect your behaviour. If you do as you are “supposed to” , then you will get a calmer sound as a feedback, which might also lead to a relaxed state of mind.




Today we spent many hours trying to figure out the best design for our concept – the “magic hairbrush”. We had two Arduino sets with respective components (sensors, jumper wires and resistor) and two hairbrushes. One had the Arduino circuit on the  brush’s back, and the other inside the brush.

The importance of sketching is to find the best solution, see which design works more efficiently.

In our case we went for digital sketching, because it is necessary for us to get as close to a working prototype as possible, since interaction is a central part, something hard to achieve with lo-fi sketching.

After a whole day of sketching, trials and errors, we have decided to go for the design 2 (the photo on the right), because it is more compact and less exposed wires in case we make it work.

We were unsure about where the sensors would be located in order to make any sense. We were advised to put both sensors in the front, among the bristles – one in the middle and the other more to the side. The point of doing this is to compare the amount of light each selected spot gets – the light distribution is heterogeneous along the brush , due to different angles and how you brush your hair – one part can be covered while other receives light (inclination).

We have also considered using accelerometer instead of a second photocell sensor, but the time is short.



Today we had lecture about sketching, not necessarily through drawing but even through bodystorming. We are supposed to sketch our design first, so we know what elements are important and interesting to be used in the design.

Today we hooked up two photocell sensors to Arduino, and through Ableton we were able to play two different sound files, depending on which sensor receives light/shade.

We were not absolutely sure about our concept, it did not seem to be much room for ideation since the design is around a hairbrush. But the teacher has shown to us that yes, there is room for ideation – the focus is on the design’s behavior, not on the material itself, important here is how it is used, and what happens. Now we feel better about our concept because we know we are on the right path.

Here is us testing the photocell sensors with Ableton.

Ableton meets Arduino

Hi there!

Today we started the day with theory, about interaction qualities such as tightness, openness and ambiguity, based on Henrik Larsens dissertation. We also had an exercise in groups of four and the assignment was to compare two designs in terms of the aforementioned qualities.

After that we started working with Ableton and Arduino under Lars instructions. We got to test a project set uploaded on Itslearning. We used a potentiometer as analogue sensor – it is a knob from one to three, and you can assign this knob a parameter connected to a sound file – frequency, track volume, track spanning etc.  My partner and I focused on track volume but we even tested other parameters.

Check it out

We were also advised to switch from flex sensor to photosensors , that is, a type of resistor that reacts to light. So the idea is if you approach the brush to your hair it will get dark and you will get an output. If you stop brushing your hair, it will get lighter and you receive another output.

Tomorrow we will try to hook up photosensors and see if we can create something cool with Ableton.

We want to achieve a high tightness – an action will lead to immediate feedback. It would be nice as well to create ambiguity in terms of information – the design will change its behaviour after a period of time, for instance.



Introduction to the topic

Today we started by having a dynamic lecture with exercises about bodily movements and interaction. We as a group of three were asked to analyse an interaction ( putting clothes to dry on the wire) and its movement characteristics such as rhythm, temporal aspects, whether it involves the whole body or only some parts of it and sense of one’s body (how it feels).

After that, we received the brief to next project, which is about everyday movements coupled with simple modulated sounds.

We should focus on the interaction and behaviour of the design, rather on the sounds.

Furthermore, we are supposed to use two sensors plus two output sound files in our design.

After the brief explanation we made an exercise in pairs (our assigned ones). The task was to pick two sets of interactions involving bodily movements and stick to one set and write down its characteristics.

We brainstormed first and came up with many examples :

  • shake a feeding bottle
  • take notes
  • get up from bed/chair
  • lift a child
  • get dressed
  • teach a child to walk
  • brush hair
  • brush teeth
  • walk
  • turn on the lights
  • write on the computer
  • check the phone

The two sets we found more interesting were brushing hair and taking notes (yeah it feels a little bit meta). The final choice we made was hair brushing, because taking notes implies very limited movements. Besides, brushing your hair allows openness in the meaning that you can brush your hair anywhere, anytime, anyhow (with some limitation). The movement characteristics of brushing hair are the following:

  1. repetitive
  2. limited movement
  3. rhythmic
  4. (usually)slow & light movements
  5. one-directional

For explanation check our video!

After that we presented our concept to Lars and Henrik, and discussed about what sensors to use. We are leaning towards flex sensors that detect different flex movements, such as from your wrist.

We are going for a more flexible, bendable brush , so we can put the sensors on it.