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.


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.



Final adjustments

Today it was time to assemble the parts. and build the prototype. During the testing phase we noticed that the sensor is very sensitive, it does not take much to trigger it. The other issue we were aware of…that the sensor only reads one direction, namely when a person is approaching the sensor frontally.

And finally, the sound part…

I love Arduino, it was a shame that I had to keep it simple, due to time and resource constraints. Plus, I was the only one in the duo with Arduino experience, so I refrained from overcomplicating .

It was very fun to do the sound part with the piezo buzzer – I had to use some of my limited piano skills. But still I managed to code for the tune “Heart and Soul”. The reason I chose this tune for the positive experience is that I have very sweet and tender associations with it – me trying to keep up with my husband when playing this tune on the piano – very challenging but fun! Another association is with the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks at FAO Schwarz – I love the movie and the store, and that big piano on the floor is iconic!

I searched on Internet for inspiration and guidance on the best way to code it – I made my own version, it was not merely copy/paste.

The result was….well…okay…the piezo buzzer I have was a joke…very weak and it didn’t even work with resistor, so I had to remove the resistor from the circuit.

And the sound is not that smooth either…it reminds me of those ring tones from the 1990s. But still I was proud of being able to “translate” this tone into Arduino language.

Well, now it is too late for further polishing, and we did not have much time to tackle these issues – this module was very short and the divergence phase went on “forever”, it felt like that at least.

Here is a code snippet of the sweet tune used on the positive experience.


Coding in Arduino

And here is what the “final prototype” looks like


Our prototype


Working on the concept

Ok the beginning of this day was terrible – my partner did not want to work with the game anymore, and we were informed that we could not work with shock, because it is considered dangerous… Ok then! Back to scratch… and the divergence process continues – we try to come up with a new concept – we got valuable help from the teacher and he gives us some suggestions on how to make ideas come and flow. Awesome, we can go back on track then. She comes up with a concept called hug giver – with a heat pad in your shirt representing a hug. But what about the negative experience?

Then she just vanishes! Everybody working in pairs, and I was left on my own, without knowing what was going on… So I started talking to the teacher that I wished I was working on my own instead…but he said some wise words and tried to help me with the concept. Then she came back, and we discussed the concept further and I told her what the teacher suggested us to do.

So now, when we have a clearer idea on what we were going to work with, we were ready for some convergence to take place – what is the best way to execute our concept, what are our best possibilities? When I explained what we needed to make the concept work – money and time, in form of a modified Peltier device. Besides, the idea with hug for me sounded somewhat silly and pointless. So we have decided to make a similar and more fun version of it with sound as output, using a piezo buzzer: Creepy dude approaching you gets alarm sound, someone you like approaching you gets romantic, sweet tune.   And the input would be the distance measured by the ultrasonic range detector. So we decided to work with this concept, and started coding and hooking up our Arduino in the same day.  Was I happy with this choice? Not even close! I found it over-simplistic and “lazy”, two of the words I hate the most.


Sketching the concept